Conclusion: Future Prospects
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237 Conclusion Conclusion Future Prospects Finishing my circling of the Great Lakes generated a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, but I also felt something of a letdown. Where to now? My immediate impulse was to start over again. Because, really, what else would provide a comparable experience ? After some consideration, I decided that I should give it some time before I repeat the journey. Twenty years from now, when I turn eighty, seems about right. By then, as a retiree and Social Security recipient, I should have the luxury of time to do all the lakes in one fell swoop, rather than breaking them up over a series of summers. Of course, much can happen between now and then that could interrupt such a plan, such as, for example, physical infirmity or death. Barring that, if I survive and am physically intact enough to repeat this venture, I can’t help but wonder what the region that I encounter will be like. The geological foundations of the Great Lakes region will have shifted, if at all, only minutely, as wind and weather slowly wear away at soft sedimentary rock, with virtually no impact on the ancient exposed outcroppings of the Canadian shield. The earth’s crust at the far eastern end of Ontario will continue its slow rebound to the elevation that it had reached before the advent of the last ice age, and will have risen two or three inches, ever so slightly pushing the lake’s water westward into Hamilton Harbour. The Niagara Escarpment will still stretch from Lake Ontario’s shoreline up through the Bruce Peninsula, although a few inches may be shaved off, nudging it eastward, at Niagara Falls. Unlike the West Coast, which can lurch several inches along a fault line in a few short seconds, with potentially tragic consequences, the Lake Ontario 238 underlying structures of the Great Lakes region are quite stable, at least from a human perspective. There’s a certain comfort in that. At the human level, change is likely to occur. What about the cities in this region? Will they continue to wither, or will their prospects improve? Chicago will, of course, still be Chicago, an economically and racially divided city, hopefully with diminished violence, but with the wealthy still working in the Loop’s skyscrapers and living along the North Shore and in leafy suburbs that ban bicycle traffic. The manufacturing centers in the south, from Gary through East Chicago, will be unlikely to return to their former glory. The middle classes and poor will be scattered through various parts of the city, struggling to hold onto what they have, trying to keep a toehold in an increasingly globalized and digitalized postindustrial economy. Chicago is a city whose connections to the larger national and international economies are so large and diverse that, while it will probably experience ups and downs, it is unlikely to experience an extended period of complete collapse. As for Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and other long-­ suffering industrial hubs? In 2013, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to invest one billion dollars in the Buffalo–­ Niagara Falls region. A large chunk of the investment involved subsidizing a solar panel production facility for investor Elon Musk’s firm Solar City. But the Buffalo Billion, as it was called, became mired in charges of political favoritism for providing sweetheart contracts to Cuomo campaign contributors. And Solar City looked increasingly to be a shaky investment. Still, the wide-­ ranging nature of the one-­ billion-­ dollar program did benefit some sectors, especially health care and the University at Buffalo, and it evidenced a renewed interest in a part of the state long neglected by Albany.1 Given this, perhaps on my next ride through the area, I will see more wind turbines on Lake Erie, along with banks of solar arrays. I’ll have pedaled through a revitalized downtown, stopping at a farmers market, where growers will display produce from urban gardening, and will stop for lunch at one of the new restaurants started by a members of the city’s increasingly diverse population. Conclusion Lake Ontario 239 Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013. With the city on the verge of complete default, Governor Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, giving him responsibility for finding revenue sources and negotiating with creditors. At one point, Orr floated a plan to sell off the art collection in the Detroit Institute of Arts as a way to raise funds. The...


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