Detropia and Regress

Detropia is a riveting documentary that explores the consequences of a city that once served as a core, but has fallen into the periphery. The documentary does not make its arguments with a documentarian’s voice, but through interviews with people living in Detroit, images of a city in decay, and statistics. One such statistic states that Detroit was the fastest growing city in the world in 1930 (the core), but as of 2010, is the fastest shrinking city in the U.S (the periphery). The film gets its title from the a sign over a store that says “Utopia”—someone spray painted an “I” between the faded letters of “Auto Parts”—presenting a fantastic image of decay, vandalism, and disillusionment.

Detroit’s iconic industry—the automobile—is also the image of America. Our transportation structure, economy, and almost entire way of life are geared towards cars. Detroit served as the core of American values—in Detropia, a bus with GM’s slogan passes by, the words: “Buy American.” At the same time, GM is moving their production to China. Detroit has become the periphery, as it falls to the lowest population level since Henry Ford established his company there in the beginning of the 20th century. Tommy Stephen, Detriot nightclub owner, states aptly, “Capitalism is a great system, but it exploits the weak. It always does.”

I think much of the film is connected with Naomi Klein’s talk on climate change, particularly regarding the need to reevaluate our ideas of progress. The American automobile industry is integral to Detroit’s economy. One scene in Detropia showed a hybrid/electric vehicle car show in Detroit. The spokesperson for Volt told Tommy Stephen that the Volt can travel 25-50 miles on a completely electric energy source. This indicates a regression in electric vehicle technology, as GM made its first electric vehicle, EV1, in 1996 with a lead acid battery that could travel 60 miles on a single charge. (As chronicled by the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?)

This regression in technology is not only explained by dominant oil interests, but the resistance to change. One important element of western progress is that the earth will never run out of resources. The plan of oil companies such as BP or Exxon is to mine the earth for oil until there is no more—however, the resulting carbon emissions would threaten the survival of our (and other) species.

In reference to GM’s electric vehicle, priced at $12,000 more than the Chinese equivalent: Tommy Stephen states, “We’re not dealing with reality.” So the question is, “When will we?”

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *