From bankruptcy to ecology. A tale of Detroit’s revival.


I am riding a bike through the empty, five-lane streets of this fallen city. It is difficult to say where the sidewalks are, because they are overgrown with weeds waist high. I am circling around, riding against the traffic, while the stoplights are long out. A true dream of an anarchist cyclist.

Arthur is waving to me vigorously from the other side of the pavement. An old man with a grey beard and a devilish smile, he is basking in the sun in front of his store. – I left the city in the 90s, when it was no longer possible to live here. No job and you could get beaten up on every corner – he says with a sudden serious face – it used to be a terrible place back then, burnt and ruined. You wouldn’t like it here. – Arthur came back to Detroit after the city declared bankruptcy, seeing hope for the its revival. Now he collects old pavement from crumbling buildings and transforms it into stylish decorative elements. – I gather old memories from the city to give them a second life. I sell them to tourists and new residents as symbols of the collapse that took place in here. I tell them Look, look what’s happened here.

It is not modern technologies but citizens like Arthur that are at the heart of an ecological revolution. Sustainable city development can come from surprising places, like the human experiences of desperation, poverty and a lack of access to food. Nature in its permanence it the only certain aspect of our life, that can nourish us and boost a rebirth once everything else has failed.

The original article was published here in MAGAZYN PISMO on 7 Jan 2020.