I would not only support calling up, I would join the militia

January 10, 2008

While I may not like it’s political coverage re: 2008 presidential elections, there are indeed many pieces that I love on Salon and know I could only read on Salon. One of them came out this week, a piece in what I hope will be an ongoing series by Michigan writer Edward McClelland. He got my attention with this piece last year about Michigan’s economic blight, which had my favorite line of the whole year: “Michigan did not become great because of the auto industry. The auto industry became great because of a Michigander, Henry Ford.” Hell yeah.

But, as McClelland has pointed out, my state has fallen on some hard times:

“Sun Belters, there’s a man in Detroit with the answer to your water problems. “They can have all the water they want,” says Hugh McDiarmid Jr. of the Michigan Environmental Council. “All they have to do is move here.” There’s plenty of room. Some Detroit neighborhoods are so bereft of houses that pheasants hide in the vacant lots. And the cost of living is unbeatable. Earlier this year, an auctioneer was trying to unload a bungalow for $18,000. When no one would bid, he reminded his audience, “You get the land under the house, too.””

Anyway, this week’s piece about how the water shortage in the Sun Belt could be remedied by residents of those states moving along w/ their businesses to the population-challenged Great Lakes states was similarly interesting, and although I’m not really sure I want to share my beloved hand state with some of the folks I’ve run into down here, I think it’s a pretty good idea.

I particularly like this notion:

“water is a major cultural amenity, says John Austin, director of the Great Lakes Economic Initiative. Most Great Lakes cities sit on magnificent waterfronts. Tear down the old factories blighting the view — as Waukegan, Ill., is now trying to do — and you can create downtowns full of expensive lofts and coffee shops with open-mike nights. “People like to live and work in places that are proximate to water,” Austin says. “Traverse City, Mich., is so physically beautiful that people who can work anywhere — people with graphic design businesses, media businesses — have chosen to live there. That’s a huge piece of the economic picture. “

I can vouch for the Traverse City part–there isn’t a season that looks ugly on that place, and they start plowing almost before it snows.

Lakefront cities full of lofts is definitely a better idea than tapping the Great Lakes for a pipeline that could support the burgeoning southern metropolises that now find themselves facing drought and water shortage. This whole idea angers me more than even last year’s proposed cut of the property tax in trade for a much higher sales tax. I didn’t want to subsidize other people’s ill-advised mortgages that drove up the prices on houses that I already couldn’t afford to buy w/ my life in this state, and I don’t want to see the Great Lakes drained to support the lazy (sorry, if the main reason you left the north was b/c of the cold weather, you probably have a lazy bone–I count myself in this category too), reality-denying types who seem to think it is an American right to live wherever they want to in large houses, regardless of the environmental constraints. It may be a right that Americans are accustomed to having, but it may be an unsustainable one just like many of our privileges. It would be much better to reckon with that now and start planning to redistribute some population rather than sucking all the water out of the places it naturally is to support places that it naturally isn’t becoming more crowded.

So, word to the wise if you talk to me about water: “Michiganders see themselves as guardians of the Lakes, and have raised holy hell about issues as minor as exporting bottled water from local springs.” If any poorly planned, chronically overpopulated, or desert states come sniffing for some spare H20 from the Great Lakes, see my subject line. No, you cannot plead ignorance to reality and then deplete someone else’s resources on your own behalf.


3 Responses to “I would not only support calling up, I would join the militia”

  1. Fragolina Says:

    I really think the only thing keeping Traverse City from becoming a destination for the young and hip lovers of H20 is its name. Honestly, it kind of sounds like a fake town in a soap-opera-cum-western. Like where Miss Kitty might have a saloon.

  2. SJ Says:

    Hmmm… would shortening it to TC help? It’s still better than some of the alternate names:




    It probably needs something Native American, like most good Michigan names. I should find out how to say By the Big Pretty Water and Lots of Wineries in Potawatomi or something.

  3. I fully support not only your protection of your resources, but also your invitation to have people from the Sun Belt move up there. It’ll leave more room for me in the warm part of the country. And yeah, it’s partly about the lazy–though cutting grass in the not-summer is nearly as strenuous as shoveling snow in the winter–but for me it’s largely about the fact that I like to feel my toes 12 months a year.

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