Arsenal of Survival – Remaking Detroit for the 21st Century

 Global warming due to human reliance on fossil fuels is the defining issue of our time.  The escalating danger posed by the consequent climate change and extreme weather patterns around the world by way of droughts, floods, hurricanes, etc., requires an “all-hands-on-deck“ response – globally – if we are to slow it down and ultimately reverse it.  The U.S. contributes a full quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, of which the petroleum-based auto industry is responsible for an estimated 20%.  If we in the Midwest and Detroit in particular are to reduce our “carbon footprint,” we must take the lead in creating a new, renewable energy and transportation paradigm – not tomorrow, or in the distant future – but now, asap.  We can start by demanding that closed auto plants be immediately reopened and retooled, and our laid-off industrial workforce be re-employed, to produce components for renewable energy such as wind turbines and solar panels, as well as more efficient transportation including more electric and hybrid cars and buses, and light and high speed rail.  This way we can reduce “greenhouse gases” while simultaneously combating the hyper-unemployment laying waste to our regional economy and livelihoods.

There are many “green jobs” advocates who do not grasp the great urgency of this project.  We are talking rapid conversion in a manner similar to what took place at the onset of WW 2 right here in Detroit, when the auto companies were ordered by the Federal Government to cease automobile production and begin immediately producing weapons for the forces in Europe combating the expansionism of the axis powers.  The conversion was accomplished in 8-months, earning the city the accolade, “Arsenal of Democracy.”

Developing the political force to bring this about requires uniting all who can be united, beginning with environmental justice and union activists from the auto, steel and other industrial sectors, along with the massive ranks of the unemployed, to create a new “Arsenal of Survival.”  Our immediate focus should be to demand that the rail cars for the planned Woodward Light Rail, and the proposed high-speed rail line linking Detroit to Chicago, be built right here to establish Detroit as the transportation center for the 21st century.

 We are not operating in a vacuum.  The Military-Industrial Complex has its own designs in this region – to further militarize our productive capacity and thereby make us increasingly dependent on never-ending military conflicts for our livelihoods.  The peace and progressive faith-based communities rejects this and are eager to join with the environmental and union movements as advocates of “retooling for peace.”   “Transportation as a democratic right” is also looming as a critical issue, as we approach the global depletion of accessible oil.  25% of Detroiters already don’t have cars, a figure that will surely rise.  The social movements advocating more democratic forms of transportation – including urban-, student- and transit-activists, will also want to join this effort.

Work is already underway to reach out to these forces with a mobilization for a May Day Rally in 2012 at the Michigan Train Depot in Southwest Detroit – icon of a once-successful public transportation system.  May 1st is International Workers Day, a fitting time to declare that U.S. workers and allies have joined the developing global struggle against climate change.   Southwest Detroit is also the site of recent immigrant rights rallies, which will become even more critical as climate change triggers many more migrations globally.   The close proximity of the immigrant rights rally at Clark Park and the proposed May 1st event allows for a natural link.  Autoworker Caravan, Peace Action of Michigan, the Detroit Area Network for Peace and Justice, and Southeast Michigan Jobs With Justice have already committed to organizing towards this goal, with events beginning this fall.  To join, and for more information, please contact Frank Hammer at or 313-863-3219

DETROIT, MI - August, 2010 (FHAMMER photo)


Frank Hammer, Detroit

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