Blog: Rebecca Salminen Witt

Detroit Green City? Now comes Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of The Greening of Detroit, to cover the fresh ideas and opportunities that support green infrastructure in Michigan's largest neck of the woods.

Post 1: People and Possibilities

People and possibilities.  In a couple of words, these are Detroit's biggest assets.  I've been a part of the city for the past 23 years, first as a student and a young lawyer, and for the last fifteen years as the leader of The Greening of Detroit.  There has never been a time when Detroit has had more people interested in what's going on here.  Sure, we've attracted more than our share of negative press, but people are interested.  That means that while they read the bad stories about us, they keep coming back to look for the good ones, too.

Journalists and film makers show up on The Greening's doorstep all of the time… they want to show the world another view of what is happening here, and they want to help the world share in the process of imagining what could happen next.  It's not a coincidence that they end up here; there is simply nowhere else in the world with as many possibilities as we have right now. 

So what will we make of ourselves?  The Greening of Detroit's work takes us, literally, into far greener pastures.  A lot of thought is going in to how we might re-think our city with these green spaces as a centerpiece.  A year ago, Community Development Advocates of Detroit rolled out its Strategic Framework, which outlines 15 different land-use scenarios that could coexist within the city of Detroit.  Six months later, Mayor Bing kicked off his Detroit Works project, garnering truckloads of additional input from Detroiters who care about their neighborhoods.  These efforts follow several other neighborhood-based planning efforts spearheaded by the likes of the Skillman Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative.  Central to all of these efforts is recognition that the sheer amount of vacant space in Detroit (estimates range from 30 to 40 square miles) means that green space will most certainly play an important role in Detroit's future. 

Our green space has the potential to transform Detroit into a city like no other.  Picture a city that is transformed from a food desert into a city that feeds all of its people with food grown within its borders.  We have the space for that.  Picture a city with a landscape that works to clean its water and its air, without the expense of giant waste treatment plants.  We have the space for that, too.  Picture a city with well supported, fully occupied neighborhoods linked together by greenways and trails that encourage activity and connectivity.  We have the space.  Picture a city where green space is available to artists and entrepreneurs who use it to make something new.  There is plenty of space for that.  The possibilities are endless and we have the people to make it happen.

Over the next few posts I'll introduce you to some of the possibilities that The Greening of Detroit is exploring and the people who are working to make it all happen.  We'll take a look at new growth forests as a prescription for clean water and pure air.  We'll look at urban agriculture as a luscious answer to Detroit's food desert.  Finally, we'll check out some innovative business ideas and the growing green workforce already out in front of our seedling of a green economy.   A lot of great ideas are coming out of Detroit; you won't believe what's possible!