The Next Detroit?

Since the US auto industry began exporting most of its jobs to southern right-to-work (anti-union) states, to China, to Mexico and to South Korea, the City of Detroit and nearby Flint have experienced dramatic losses in jobs and population. Large portions of both cities are ghost towns. Many of those who are left simply can’t afford to move. As a result, Detroit is in serious financial trouble.

In fact, politicians have used Detroit as a talking point to sell their program of austerity for the poor. “If you don’t act now, you’ll soon be in the same situation as Detroit.”┬áIt’s impossible to overstate how disingenuous that argument really is. When difficulties arise, the wealthy will always abandon ship first, leaving behind everyone else to deal with the problems they helped to create. Moreover, losses like those in Detroit can happen anywhere.

For example, looking ahead, you can predict that cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas may meet the same fate. Not because of a loss of industry. (The largest employer in Arizona is Walmart.) But because of the commodity most important for human existence – water.

Much of Arizona depends on the flow of water from rivers. There are numerous dams throughout the state to retain and divert water to cities. But due to overuse, the rivers are drying up. The Colorado River no longer reaches the Sea of Cortez. The water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead have dropped. Other rivers throughout the region are overused for irrigation and recreation.

Yet many communities and counties in Arizona refuse to take measures to conserve water. (The Phoenix metro area has more than 250 regulation golf courses and green lawns are valued throughout the area.) Instead, they come up with lamebrain ideas such as building a pipeline to pump water from the Great Lakes!

Imagine what will happen if even the most conservative of predictions for climate change come true. Much of the Southwest, including Phoenix is already as hot as Hades. If temperatures increase and water decreases as predicted, people will abandon the area in droves. Those unable to move, like many of those who remain in Detroit, will have to deal with the consequences that others caused.