February 2012 - Vol. 57

The Greening of Detroit 

by Dan Propson

The greening of Detroit has already happened. Where once there were houses, there are fields. Where once there were communities, there are weeds. Where once there were families, there are tall, tall trees.

Nature is winning in Detroit, repopulating a diminished city with new growth, with animals, plants, and trees — with everything that a city is not. It is often quite pleasant, but not exactly what we think about when we think about urban renewal.

Yes, there are many empty lots filled with trash, but more of them are filled with grass and wildflowers. The force of nature has become a stronger power against blight than any legislation ever could be.

And yet the empty houses remain. And the empty stretches of land, however pleasant, are considered an indication of the failure of Detroit, the hopelessness of housing values, the lack of vibrancy in this once and future city.

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

“The beast of the field shall honor me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” – Isaiah 43

This is my question: Is God doing a new thing here in Detroit, something unprecedented? Are we supposed to be a new kind of city, a city built from the ashes? Are we being reduced to a wilderness, because only in the wilderness can we truly respond to His word?

These are crazy questions, I know. But it takes somebody crazy to believe in Detroit right now, and I’m just crazy enough to do it.

See also > Seeds of Hope for a New Generation in Detroit

Dan Propson has been actively involed in Detroit Community Outreach since the summer of 2000 when he first joined the DSO summer program. He moved to Detroit shortly after the summer program. He married Priscilla in 2005, and is raising his four children here in the city. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at Wayne State University in Detroit.
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