May 30, 2014

B&W image of Morgan Run as seen through the trees.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The last few posts have been about rather unpleasant issues.  They are important issues, but nonetheless, ones that folks often do not like reading about and/or discussing.  It truth, it is difficult to maintain a continual focus on so many of the world’s problems.

B&W images of a mini-waterfall at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And so as with most things, it is important to find ways to maintain some sense of balance.

B&W image of a tree trunk and some leaves against a rock background.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

For example, taking a walk at Morgan Run after another rain and seeing the sunlight emerge, listening to the water run, and exploring the textures of the various rocks, trees, and plants provides a welcome contrast to city blight.  One that is cleansing for the soul.

Becoming enveloped in the stillness of Morgan Run it is easy to forget Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore and not to mention Syria, South Sudan, and Ukraine.  And when in Detroit, for example, and seeing block after block of decaying buildings, it is easy to become cynical and question the beauty that can exist in the world.  Yes, balance is important because without that, one situation can easily become a means for denial of the other.

Take care.



139,000 (and counting)

May 25, 2014

Marie Apts. building, entryway and masthead view, in its abandoned state.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As a follow-up to the previous post, this is the Marie Apartments building and it is but one of those estimated 80,000 abandoned structures within Detroit.

Marie Apts. building, front view, in its abandoned state.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In the few hours we were working outside of the church next door, two separate  contractors stopped at the building to complete an assessment.

Marie Apts. building, alley view, in its abandoned state.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The one I talked with briefly works for a company doing demolition of abandoned buildings.  He indicated that last summer the company for whom he works demoed something in the neighborhood of 200 buildings.  This report from NPR discusses the difference between demolition and “deconstruction”, a process in which wood from the abandoned houses is salvaged and recycled.  The second process takes more time and is more expensive-both of which appear to be at odds with the needs of the city.  It is interesting how the losses of so many becomes work opportunities for others.

Detroit is not alone in blight.  This 2011 article reported that New Orleans had (at the time) an “…estimated 43,000 abandoned buildings-the worst such statistic of any U.S. city other than Detroit.”  While the Detroit story discussed the material aspect of blight, this story focuses on these left-behind buildings serving as a resource for those experiencing homelessness.

Finally, Baltimore has an estimated 16,000 abandoned buildings, according to this report.  This story focuses on one activist’s attempts to hold the owners of the buildings accountable for the condition of their structures.

Detroit, New Orleans, and Baltimore have all experienced significant declines in population.  The vacants, which is the term used in Baltimore for the abandoned buildings, are the legacy.

The articles linked above cover 3 different cities from 3 different sides of one big problem.

Take care.

Bible quote in the burned out Bible Community Mission rubble.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Fire, specifically arson, occupies a particular place in Detroit’s history as discussed in this article.

Burned out Bible Community Mission building in Detroit, Michigan.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The article is not quite a year old, Detroit is in bankruptcy, and the fires continue to burn.

Some broken quotes from the burned out Bible Community Mission in Detroit, Michigan.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As per the article, Detroit “averages approximately 14 arsons per day” and “with more than 80,000 abandoned buildings spread across 139 square miles, Detroit is a fertile ground for arsonists.”  The article provides the statistics as well as details regarding the cultural legacy of Detroit and fire and the more recent economic and social incentives to burn properties.

Emile Durkheim uses the term “anomie” to describe a sense of alienation-a condition in which people feel so disenfranchised, marginalized, and disconnected, that the normal rules of society no longer apply. What difference does it make if setting fires in this manner is against the law?  Alternately, Karl Marx’s Conflict Theory tells us that one of the resources for which groups will struggle is power.  In a city where individuals may have an overpowering sense of powerlessness, the ability to create a fire and destroy a building can make one feel quite powerful as after all, learning to harness fire for human purposes was arguably one of the major milestones of civilization.  Using fire as it is now in Detroit almost certainly represents a regression.

It is also vitally important to not forget the firefighters’ perspective.  Detroit has attempted to offset its debt by cutting pensions, positions, firehouses, and equipment.  In short, all that is needed to mount a credible response to this situation.  Yet these individuals answer the call and attempt to stem the tide of those waves of fire.

Who will rebuild the church?

Take care.

Spiral staircase in the Detroit Institure of Art.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While in Detroit, we had the opportunity to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, which “…is proud to claim one of the largest, most significant art collections in the nation.” (DIA)  Please do click the link to read and get a glimpse of the varied collections housed there.  The DIA is in a central role due to the many legal, social, economic, and political issues concerning Detroit’s bankruptcy, as reported here and here.   For those interested in Sociology, these articles provide discussions of culture as well as applications of Symbolic Interactionism, Functionalism, and Conflict Theory.

Speaking of Symbolic Interactionism and Functionalism, this particular staircase can serve as a metaphor for the city:  Detroit has been in a downward spiral for quite some time now and, depending on the outcome, this individual staircase may serve as a few steps up and out of the abyss. The issue of selling art to mitigate the economic situation of Detroit and the implications of how the city resolves this particular problem are quite serious as it speaks directly to the role that culture, especially art, plays in modern society, as the New York Times article points out.  Therefore for some, the sale of these collections may very well represent a further descent into the abyss.

Setting aside the seriousness of that dilemma, is this anecdote.  We were surrounded by these beautiful, exemplary works and I saw this staircase. As I ran (well, hurried.  Maybe ran.) to photograph it, over my shoulder I heard my colleague exclaim “All this art and it is the staircase that excited you!”

Thank you Toni, for I am indebted to you as this is another place I would not have seen without you.

Go to the DIA to see the art and support the city.  The staircase is not bad either.

Take care.


May 16, 2014

Downed tree after heavy rains flooded Morgan Run.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Here on the East Coast, we had another bout of flash flooding due to the large amount of rain that fell from yesterday, through last night, and into this morning.  It was just a couple of weeks ago that the Mid-Atlantic region received approximately 5 inches of rain in one day, which resulted in local flooding.

Beached log on concrete pier at Morgan Run following heavy rain.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today it was between 3 and 5 inches of rain that fell.

Morgan Run flood after heavy rain.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The 3 photographs above are from Morgan Run, a normally placid stream.  By the time these photographs were made, it had already receded to within its banks.  Meanwhile, over 3,000 miles away, wildfires are burning in San Diego County, California.

Cracked ground in the Badlands

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Significantly, the National Climate Assessment was recently released.  This is a report generated by the Federal Advisory Committee in association with the National Academy of Sciences and summarizes the current and future impact of climate change for the United States.  The report also contains recommendations for coping with these effects.  It is worth reviewing the report for information about specific regions-the current weather events experienced on both coasts are spot-on for what the report indicates.

Another document well-worth spending some time with is the World Economic Forum’s Insight Report: Global Risks 2014.  This report is important as it discusses a broader spectrum of global issues and their interconnectedness.  Scrolling to page 9 of the report provides a table listing the top 10 “Global Risks of Highest Concern for 2014”-four of which (numbers 3, 5, 6, & 8) are directly related to climate change.

What is important about this document is that it stresses the fact that all 10 of these issues have an impact on each other and therefore produce a systemic, synergistic effect.  Globally, not just locally.  In an area where is there is drought, there will be food shortages, which in turn puts pressure on a government to deliver assistance to starving people.  If the government is unable, or unwilling, to intervene, then other countries and non-governmental organizations have decisions to make in terms of whether or not to provide assistance.  This is but one example and the Insight Report contains text to describe, and graphs to illustrate, these types of relationships.  As with the National Climate Assessment, recommendations for intervention are provided as it does no use to highlight problems without discussing potential solutions.  This is an important read.

Front page of Sunpaper advising about sea level change.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It is a bit unnerving to think that what is currently being experienced locally and globally in all of the areas addressed in both reports is not yet the “extreme” of what they could yet become.  The takeaway point is that these conditions currently exist and we are well on the way to making longer-term predictions become the reality-we just need to continue living the way we are without incorporating changes recommended in these, and many, many other, reports.

Take care.

Spring 2014

May 13, 2014

Various trees in Shepherdstown during Spring bloom.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Spring appears to have arrived (and may have already left as it is supposed to be near 90 today, but lets stay positive) and the flora were welcoming the warmth and sun.

Church steeple surrounded by trees blooming in Spring.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.


Sunlit bush with garage door in background.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.


Cannon Hill Place with magnolia tree in bloom.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

When in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, we awoke Wednesday morning to about three inches of snow.

Detroit Free Press newspaper announcing deal agreement.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While talking with some of the residents later that morning, the only consolation they seemed to take from that surprise was that it was enough snow to put them in the record books-2014 was the largest amount of snow in Detroit’s recorded history.  This is especially poignant since we were working in a program providing services to those experiencing homelessness.

Take care.

46 Million

May 7, 2014

Abandoned child's backpack and lego set in dirt.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

According to the Census Bureau, there are 46 million Americans living in poverty today.  Please read and/or listen to this report from National Public Radio, which includes several stories about the impact poverty has on children.  This report does not specifically cite the Census Bureau 2013 data indicating that 23.7% of United States children aged 18 and younger lived below the poverty line in 2012.

The NPR report does, however, discuss the consequences for children growing up in poverty and mentions the Head Start program.  The past Federal budget sequestration cut 57,000 children from Head Start programs, according to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.  In 2014, Congress passed, and the President signed, The Consolidated Appropriations Act, which helped restore that funding.

David K. Shipler discusses the interaction of personal responsibility and public systemic issues that result in poverty and his book is worth a read.  It is important to remember that children do not choose their parents.

There is a side story at that NPR link reminding us that President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty 50 years ago, and indeed, poverty does look somewhat different today.  However, the longer term impacts remain; especially when poverty and services to children becomes politicized.

The backpack and building block set pictured above were dug out of the muck in an alley beside an abandoned apartment building in Detroit.  It is symbolic of the fact that children often suffer the most and invoked a profound sense of sadness.

Take care.