Map: Children’s Traffic Fatalities in Detroit 2004 – 2014



In rethinking the Detroit Geographic Expedition and Institute’s (DGEI) maps on “where black children get run over” and “citywide patterns of child traffic deaths and injuries” it became apparent to me that the pattern was partially due to the distribution of children in Detroit (map). For example Southwest has a higher density of children and also more traffic fatalities of children. However, there are some anomalies, such as the higher numbers on North-South streets in the Lower Eastside, on John R. North of Highland Park, and on Conner near the City Airport.

Detroit is known its high infant mortality rate, high rates of gun violence, and poor education system that all contribute to a harsh environment for children. How do we better protect the children in our neighborhoods from cars?

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Map of the Week: People Killed in Cars Excel Map


This is an excellent map that was made all in Excel. This one shows weather related car deaths by regions (not sure what geographic unit) in the US. I’ve noticed a few projects now that really utilize the low cost Excel program for graphic design and mapping. The visualizations featured on FastCoDesign really caught my eye.

Full article and more infographic here.

why there is no doctor: harsh realities in zonkizizwe (part 2) (11)

(photo: Zonke Testing Day banner on the back of a van used to transport people to the clinics)

While working in Zonke, a fact that shocked me was that an HIV-positive person can only access ARV treatment [for free, otherwise it is very expensive] if their CD4 count is below 200. This is official South African government policy and numerous studies have shown that accessing treatment earlier has greater long-term health benefits as ARVs are meant to be taken life-long. A World Health Organization (WHO) study in 2008 outlined four clinical stages of HIV progression. The WHO recommends that when a patient hits stage three with a CD4 count below 350, life-long ARV treatment should be started. Starting patients earlier negates complications later. However, in South Africa once the CD4 count goes above 200 again, treatment is stopped, which allows for greater complications and the need for new strains of ARVs. This year a push to increase the CD4 count threshold for treatment was rejected by the National Health Council on the grounds of affordability (85).

Prof Robin Wood, director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town, is among the clinicians who have been calling for the South African government to raise the standard of treatment set out in its guidelines. However, he pointed out that better guidelines would be meaningless without improving the quality of care and access to services (86).

Professor Wood brings everything back to perspective. Anyone can call for greater access and more treatment, but if there is no distribution system for health services and care then what is the point. It would be like having a big supply of pizzas and no delivery drivers. This is the problem in many former “homelands,” townships, and informal settlements. There are inadequate or non-existent delivery systems for health services and treatment and so in areas where the HIV/AIDS crisis is most critical, there is no system to address the problem.

Today was the 2nd half of Prevention in the HIV/AIDS course. The kids are incredibly receptive with questions, comments, and the desire to learn more. We will be covering Treatment and resources this Friday. Celumusa did a great job of translating and really getting the course lessons through to the kids. Later in the evening she talked with us – her passion and drive to get people tested and aware and knowledgeable is amazing and so admirable with all she has been through. She is so excited about a Zonke testing day, the HIV/AIDS class, working with the staff and community to make more people talk and not be afraid to talk. Today she told the kids that she was HIV positive and they all did not believe her at all – they asked her to cross her heart that she was not lying. I could tell from the first class that the kids were learning much more than they had before beyond what HIV and AIDS stands for (87).

Much of the work at the center and the work that needs to happen in Zonke is HIV testing. Once tested you can learn how to take care of yourself, your children, and your community. When I asked Celumusa why people don’t test she said that people don’t know that they can live with HIV. So many people are involved in risky behaviors, she said, they have family members die from HIV/AIDS, but don’t test themselves. She also noted that pregnant mothers are tested and are given tablets, but not told their status. Testing is critical and we began working on this by planning a Zonke Testing Day for July 31st.

As I began organizing for the Testing Day, I came into contact with more of the health services available in Zonke. There are a number of traditional doctors and surgeries in Zonke. I can only imagine that this is because there is such a lack of other health services. Celumusa and others have bad perceptions of traditional medicine: evil, it kills people, and the traditional healers are crazy people. I was still having no luck finding any doctors, until I finally caught a traditional doctor in his office. He ran a clinic that was more Western than others and was supposedly trained by the government in traditional healing, but his office was empty every time I visited – no patients (88). Why are there no doctors?

Across the road from his office was a private clinic run by a group of Indian doctors. I also had a difficult time finding them, as did many Zonke residents. I was able to visit the private clinic only when Celumusa had to schedule an appointment for her baby. The private clinic had become her last option that she was sure to see a doctor. This says a lot for the health care system in Zonke (and other overcrowded settlements and townships left over from apartheid era) that the poor will pay to see a private doctor because the government health services are unreliable. Celumusa said they always give injections at the private clinic. Yet again I wonder about the quality of care. The clinics give painkiller tablets and the private clinics give injections (antibiotics?). If care is inadequate and access to ARV medication is beyond the ability of most, then the extended scenes of cemeteries become less shocking.

In the past 2 weeks, 3 people have passed because of HIV and AIDS that we have been directly informed of because the Buthelezi family has been close to the deceased – a father, an aunt, and a neighbor. Living in an HIV positive community is so different when you can fully understand the impact of just one life (89).

It was as if I had seen the walking dead. The prospect of death is so intertwined with life in Zonkizizwe that the author who wrote that South Africans attend more funerals than weddings was supported by my experiences this summer. The hardest hitting example was with the passing of the father of one of the families at the center. Three of the children attended the center. The oldest was 17 years old and was taking care of her frail father as he withered away, making sure her younger brother and sister were going to school, and attending school herself. This small family had already lost their mother to HIV/AIDS. The burden of disease was not met by the health care system or any the government response. The burden of disease rests completely on those who are affected and they do not have the resources to help themselves.

A critical aspect of combating the effects of HIV/AIDS in South Africa is education. As one of my goals over summer I developed an HIV/AIDS curriculum, based off of the Peace Corps Lifeskills curriculum, that the youth could share with the friends and families as peer educators. The spreading of knowledge is a powerful first step in giving people the resources they need to prevent HIV/AIDS. It is especially important when there exists no other means to access this information. The Zonkizizwe schools are under-funded and teachers are under-trained. This translates to the lack of a teacher for the Lifeskills curriculum and therefore the lack of knowledge on sexual health and HIV/AIDS. VVOCF is beginning to fulfill a service where the government is horribly failing.

All of our kids were tested, plus about 20 others. In all over 60 people tested. […] The community and guardian support was incredible. There were a few positives that we expected from already young mothers […] and unexpected bad news surprise […] Many good surprises came out of the day as we learned of many negative cases that were expected to confirm our worst nightmares (90).

Year – Number of HIV Tests (*from clinic 2)
2006 – 128
2007 – 246
2008 – 412

The success of solutions driven by citizens was best evidenced by the culmination of the HIV/AIDS peer education courses, health classes, and the death of a father in an area wide testing day. I had taken the lead in organizing the testing day with the clinics, MSU study abroad volunteers, and various local organizations. Because of the stigma attached and sensitivity of the issue I was a bit nervous when the day came. July 31st 2008, the first Zonke Testing Day was a day of success fueled by the youth at the center. And while the numbers of people testing have made steady increases, the reality remains that the majority of those who need treatment after testing will not have access. Many in the generation just older than these youth mocked or scoffed at the testing day, but our kids were set on it.

We really are building a new generation of freedom fighters – not afraid of stigma, talking about sex, ready to be tested, and not about to turn a blind to HIV/AIDS. These young people stood today with a powerful support base of each other evidenced by yesterday’s action and the larger community is taking notice. The youth continue to give me hope and pride in being allowed to take part in such a community action (91).

The realities of Zonkizizwe paint a vivid picture of the effects of apartheid on health care for the majority of the South African population. The health system operating in Zonke is the ground zero of the failures of post-apartheid government policy to address the far-reaching impact of HIV/AIDS.

85. “South Africa: Funding shortfall threatens treatment programme.” IRIN/PlusNews. 2 April 2009.
86. Ibid.
87. Hill, Alex B. Journal Entry. 30 June 2008.
88. Ibid, 17 July 2008.
89. Ibid, 6 June 2008.
90. Ibid, 31 July 2008.
91. Ibid.

Coming next: Conclusion

not in our time: burn the magic blankets and smash the band wagons

To posit that poverty, even just simply extreme poverty, will end or has the possibility to end in our time borders on naïveté. There are many within the development sphere that would jump on Jeffery Sachs’ bandwagon only to find that there are no bands scheduled to play. Like a marching band without instruments, Sachs’ claims seek to present structural solutions to problems without addressing structural root causes. One cannot expect too much from those who want to present good ideas, but do not challenge the status quo or the pockets of power that drive the “development” agendas. If there is to be real social change that benefits people in development then power structures must be addressed. Philip McMichael focuses on the role of power within the development field. Making sure to note the master and subject relationship between those of the ‘modern’ world and those who have not grown in the same vein as that power strapped modernity. A key aspect forgotten in many development discussions is history, including the very history of development. Many enter a community or country and attempt to present a diagnosis before even researching how and why the country, deemed ‘developing,’ has arrived at the poor conditions viewed as the worst possible indicators for ‘development.’


We are living in a society that is wrestling with the idea that everything once held in high regard has actually been a set of extremely violent and detrimental practices to both our fellow human beings and our earthly habitat. As a result we talk of post-development, post-modernity, post-materialism, alternatives to globalization, and anything that rejects actions of the past. Calls like these are nothing new and have been expressed and published for the past 30 odd years by various experts and activists. It seems we are only now beginning to collectively grasp the importance of these post-world analyses. However from all these post-analyses it is easy to arrive at scathing conclusions of past failures. What is not as easy is to move forward from the wrongs of the past into the present and future with a firm understanding of what needs to change. Many within the development field fall victim to this analysis leaving the real issues unaddressed and the violent structure intact.
Addressing Inadequacies Effectively

Jeffery Sachs stepped to the limelight of the development world with his once seemingly far-reaching and radical assertions that we, the wealthy world, could easily do so much more to help those in grave situations. He was undoubtedly correct, but few took the time to really look at how he was saying (or not saying) we should implement this help. In Chapter One of his book, The End of Poverty, Jeffery Sachs writes,

Today we can evoke the same logic [the ability of advances in technology to underpin continued economic growth] to declare that extreme poverty can be ended not in the time of our grandchildren, but in our time. The wealth of the rich world, the power of today’s vast storehouse of knowledge, and the declining fraction of the world that needs help to escape from poverty all make the end of poverty a realistic possibility by the end of 2025. (3)

Here Sachs’ greatest mistake is laid bare. He does well to note that the wealth of today’s rich world is needed to make a difference in reversing the trends of poverty. However, he nearly exclusively focuses on the wealth of today’s rich world and not on the innovation and ability of those being ‘developed’ to know best about their situation. He misses the greatest uplifting accomplishment of human nature; empowerment. Yes, the ‘developed’ and Western world has harmed much of the ‘developing’ world in its pursuit of power and wealth. However, the key is not then to dictate the uses of that stolen wealth, but to redistribute it to those who are effectively addressing the issues that they face.

Sachs is an economist and not a historian. He nearly completely misses the make and break issue of development – colonialism and its effects. His structured solutions that tote the nation-state do not take into account a colonial past or its present implications that hold back development. Sachs as an economist is also from the “centralized” economics camp. He studied under shock therapy and structural adjustment programs (SAPs) for failing economies and seems to have never left behind the idea that people in poverty cannot help themselves and require experts or professionals to get them out.

Contradictions are a constant in Sachs’ work, the biggest one being his call for decentralization (278). His new big plan is the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), which looks like a very promising model except for the fact that it focuses on getting experts into villages to ‘develop’ and modernize them as opposed to allowing the village community to develop itself with support from the West. He calls for decentralization, but constantly follows the regular flows of development experts in advancing the role of the state in controlling development, as opposed to the people. The MVP has a great potential to be a working model for decentralized development spurred by individual communities in autonomous villages working for sustainable living, but those at the village level must then be empowered as such.

Relying on the market to help people is also a great failure of many current development economists, especially Sachs. If the market worked as it was supposed to, then wealth would redistribute itself through the structure to those without. This does not happen, there are cracks between the fingers of the invisible hand, and no markets are truly ‘free.’ Again Sachs fails to address power structures that drive markets and economies. The modernist approach with an individual at the helm driving his or her own advancement in society completely destroys the idea that people have a linked and interdependent existence. While Sachs critiques the magic bullet approach, he instead presents a magic blanket to cover the world of development issues without regard to power structures, colonial histories, or failures of the market (309). Sachs comes from the ‘development as modernization’ approach and he cannot seem to kick the habit.

Death by Consumption

Anyone with a basic understanding of the world can easily tell you that the way we currently live is extremely unsustainable and violent if the human race and world as we know it are to continue with future generations. Our practices destroy environments, force the extinction of animal species, destroy the lifestyles of those without, and kill people. We are essentially killing ourselves with the power hungry system we have established across the globe. When it was a wealthy minority that propagated the globalized stratification that we now see, it has become a collective “we” with a responsibility to change. In Chapter One of his book, Development and Social Change, Philip McMichael writes:

We are at a critical threshold: Whether consumer-based development remains a minority activity or becomes a majority activity among the earth’s inhabitants, either way is unacceptable for social (divided planet) or environmental (unsustainable planet) reasons or both, Development as we know it is in question. (1)

McMichael’s statement that, “We are at a critical threshold,” is not a new one. This sentiment has been echoed with the same calls for action for the past 30 years as many watched the earth deteriorate and society fracture across lines of income.

To overcome this threshold McMichael goes into the racist policies of colonization and talks about the benefits of decolonization in relation to development. The most important idea to cover here is the notion of modernity and the rise of neo-colonial practices funded by foreign aid. Are developing peoples modern? Can they be modern? How can those developing be considered modern if they never had a hand in developing what it now means to be modern? This is a very post-modern perspective, but I think a very valid one. If ‘developing’ societies want to effectively develop into sustainable communities that account for both the needs of people and their environment then they will need to reject every notion of being modern. Just because a Rwandan can use a computer doesn’t mean that s/he is modern mostly because s/he is not accepted as such in the global system. ‘Developing’ countries and communities need to also look at the implications of becoming modern: environmental degradation, liberalized and open economy that does not benefit everyone, exploitation of labor, the desire for things un-needed, and the fracturing of society in relation to wants, gender, and class.

The global world has come to commodify everything, including your much needed breakfast in the morning, possibly very soon your life could be legally bought and sold on the market. If everyone became modern and consumed at the rate that the wealthy do now – we will join the ranks of species made extinct by the human race. Those who have the highest power and wealth in society need to recognize and reduce their desire, while those without power and wealth need their basic needs provided.

McMichael’s writings focus on the impact of development projects and policies on people, and as such also the habitats of those people. Where most developers look beyond people straight to the nation-state and the increases in GDP, McMichael offers real life examples of development at work and models for sustainable development. McMichael doesn’t attempt to present any grand plans or solutions but instead focuses on case studies of groups and communities resisting global development and attempting to spur their own development (231).

Dichotomy: Will Modernity or Tradition Save the Day?

The potential solutions are many and the ideas just keep coming, but what really works and what is just a stack of papers, a nicely written book, or a pile of garbage. If we focus solely on the ideologies of Sachs and McMichael, I think it is possible to marry the two ideas for solutions to creating models for sustainable development and moving towards a more equal and mutually beneficial society.

Sachs will have to make some concessions if the marriage is to last beyond the honeymoon however. When Sachs calls for decentralization (278), he has to really mean it. His MVP model needs to embody this idea that small-scale groupings of people can create their own solutions for development. As McMichael writes, models of self-organizing development need to be adopted as opposed to the dominant centralizing version (239). In the same vein of decentralizing needs to be the idea of localization. McMichael writes of Wolfgang Sachs’ idea of ‘cosmopolitian localism’ where diversity is embraced at the local levels. A great example of ‘cosmopolitian activism’ is the advent of cooperatives that infuse democratic values and respect for local ecology.

In a case study in Ghana, McMichael outlines this idea better (248). Local farmers switched from growing a national crop of cassava to growing corn for the local markets. This was in a sense a slight rejection of the state economy and global economy to ensure a sustainable local community. The goal of many developing countries related to the environment is to create alternatives to the capital and energy intensive agro-industry and sustain local ecologies by building alternative models to top-down bureaucratic systems (249).


The solution will not be a large-scale plan that is facilitated by the West or modeled by modern advances. The solution will be in decentralized, small-scale, local villages and communities working collectively together to preserve their ecological habitats and meet everyone’s basic needs. The state will become irrelevant, the global economy will be allowed to collapse, and people will seek to be closer to one another in their shared natural commons.

Works Cited:
McMichael, Philip
2004 Development and Social Change. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.

Sachs, Jeffery
2005 The End of Poverty. New York: Penguin Press.

and the beat goes on. . .

i am about to tell you a story
of lives forgotten and an absence of glory
for i have seen the faces
of people who will never live again

and this is a mark of indelible pain
coursing forever through my viens
so i continue to tell their story and ask for help
because there is a great lacking
for solutions to write a new ending
to the story pending

because there they lie,
broken and dying
on the doorstep of humanity they are lying
waiting for someone to hear their cries
before another so needlessly dies
starving and forgotten
they know not what will become of their fate
in this terrible world of power, corruption, money and hate

on that bright sunny day
somewhere in the month of may,
i came across a drum
and that has made this vision come
as the story i am about to tell
is percussed from that drum’s resounding yell

i learned the rhythms
i learned the beats
and as i learned my sorrows increased
how can people be left to die
without a care
without emotion lost
without a helping hand
and without a hope?

this conflict is one from which we cannot fly
the beat goes on
and so many can no longer try,
to gain that basic right
in this world, that is society’s eternal fight.

and there they lie,
broken and dying
on the doorstep of humanity they are lying
waiting for someone to hear their cries
before another so needlessly dies
starving and forgotten
they know not what will become of their fate
in this terrible world of power, corruption, money and hate

power to the people
this movement flows like treacle
rise up against the institution
increased are the privileges of the western popullution
empower the oppressed and marginalized
why can we not make this effort prioritized?

progress is gained by change
and this idea alone.
this encompasses issues of a vast range
and our actions need to hone.
the beat goes on
and so many can no longer feel the pulse
the beat goes on
and so many are consumed by apathy
the beat goes on
and so many are no longer here,
this is what i fear.

stop. and hope.
when we work together we will be able to cope
joining our efforts we can change the world.
combining our passions we can shape that world.
believeing our dreams we can grow this world.
and the beat goes on
do you really care?
the beat goes on
share your story,
the beat goes on
bring your drum
and the beat goes on. . .

Alex B. Hill
written down on 28 February 2007, composed over the past year

why africa?

Africa is a land of mystery and wonder; a land of the ancient kingdoms and beginnings of civilization; of untamed, giant beasts; of fascinating peoples and cultures; a beautiful sunset in a picture; a special on the national geographic channel; of exotic and wild scenes, a battlefield of innocents; tyrants, and neo-colonizers; a vast expanse of poverty, disease, and hunger. Africa is a continent of grand beauty and awe, but also a continent of excruciating pain and strife; a land of needless death and equally of vibrant life. Some say that Africa is in a “third” world. Personally I’d like to know where the second and is located, because I know of only one world of which we are all members; an interconnected and interdependent world where we all have the ability to change a fellow global citizen’s life from across the ocean. Here is where you can learn of the celebration of the many aspects of the African continent and also learn how to take action to end the greatest agony of its people.

Africa is a discarded newspaper article in the Times of life, we read the horrors, glad to be so distant, and move on to the newest and latest fashions of the hour. We see the faces of the dead and dying, we read their sad stories and somehow the pain which they feel, and which we could also so easily be feeling, that same pain can bring us, collective society, to act on the pain that is the same and brings us no gain. Broken and dying, on the doorstep of society they are lying, waiting for someone to hear their cries before another so needlessly dies. Starving and forgotten, they know not what will come of their fate, in this our world of power, corruption, money, and hate.

Africa is where the first human beings walked, the second largest continent, home to one in ten of the world’s people, with five of the ten fastest growing economies – The west in particular has a long and shackled history with Africa, and just as its past is strongly linked so too is it’s future. The West has assisted in creating the multi-faceted crisis of the African continent. From the first Portuguese soldiers, to the CIA aiding the assassination of Lumumba and propping up of Mobutu, to turning blind to Rwanda, and now in this day and age people still ask why africa?

Stop and take a look at that discarded article. Read and become informed, feel and be moved, because there are no borders when people care. This is a world created, whether by the forces of nature or by god, with no lines drawn in the sand. A world where the only thing that holds us down or holds us back is ourselves, we are the problem, the solution, and the sustainable future for this, our world. Be sure to for stories and opportunities to take action!