In Detroit, Barbers And Landscapers Unite To Clean Up The City

Winner of the Knight Cities Challenge will pair local Detroit barbers with landscape contractors to transform overgrown vacant lots into unique public spaces.

Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

Detroit might be floundering, but it’s not down for the count. Last week the winners of the Knight Cities Challenge, an annual city planning competition, were announced, and the Motor City is uniquely poised to benefit. Out of over 7,000 applications, sent in by activists, artists, architects, city officials, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and everything in between, 32 winners were chosen, and funds totaling over $5 million were supplied to individuals and organizations hoping to improve their communities. One of our favorite projects is The Buzz, which will pair local Detroit barbers with landscape contractors to transform overgrown vacant lots. The groups will then attend design workshops that’ll teach mowing and pattern-making techniques.


The organization behind The Buzz, urban planning initiative Detroit Future City (DFC), was granted $84,055 by The Knight Foundation to spearhead the project. Detroit, according to The Buzz’s creators, “has an arsenal of talented barbers and hair stylists,” as well as a surplus of vacant land that needs mowing and maintaining. Through a series of facilitated creativity meet ups, barbers and landscape contractors will work together to “discover new aesthetics of mowing and pattern making techniques” and create a larger concept program for vacant lot management. As a press release for the Knight Foundation pointed out, “How might a taper hawk translate to a vacant lot? Working in pairs through a multi-part workshop series, ‘The Buzz’ will bring two unique sets of talents together to develop fresh solutions to vacant lot maintenance.” Three short (180 second) video pieces will be created, and the final results will be displayed through a “vacant lot mowing pageant” in September of 2015. Documentation of the project’s process, participants, and “final mowing instructables” will be available at in the future.

One of Detroit's many abandoned buildings

Currently, Detroit has as many as 70,000 abandoned buildings and 90,000 vacant lots, and growing: the city, through its Land Bank and Blight authorities, tears down about 200 structures a week. The project lead, Erin Kelly, a program manager at DFC, describes what the group hopes to achieve with this unusual project:

“At a local and national level, the greatest impact of The Buzz will be to involve folks in the dialogue about the potential of vacant land in Detroit. Through facilitated design workshops, we will test a new way to lift up local knowledge and style, and translate what we learn together into on the ground results. We hope that through The Buzz, new terminology emerges, and that Detroiters can begin to describe our local landscapes (and their need for maintenance) through the conventions of hair and hairstyles. By integrating talented professionals who are not usually brought together, we will at minimum have fun refining a model for facilitating these cross-pollinations, and at maximum blend the potential for expression through barbery with the practical limitations of landscaping equipment.”

“The core engagement work of The Buzz will unfold through the multipart workshop series, with three separate groups of participants recruited to complete the series. The workshops are structured to facilitate an appreciative exchange between participants. During the first workshop, participants will showcase their own expertise. In the second workshop, participants will switch media, with, for example, barbers interpreting vacant lots through hairstyles. The third and fourth sessions are team-based charrettes, with final concepts from each team revealed during the last workshop of the series. A vacant lot pageant will be held in September to celebrate the best designs from each group and the talent and contributions of all participants.”

While “The Buzz” is certainly..err..buzzworthy, the larger philosophy behind the Knight Cities Challenge—that “ordinary people have the ideas and power to change their communities, rather than just depending on City Hall to do so”—is the real story behind the initiative. As a rep for Knight Cities told us, “It’s a really revolutionary idea to put $5 million behind—most foundations fund established institutions and organizations, not average Joes.”

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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The Planet

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

via Found Animals Foundation / Flickr

Service dogs are true blessings that provide a wide array of services for their owners based on their disability.

They can provide preventative alerts for people with epilepsy and dysautonomia. They can do small household tasks like turning lights on and off or providing stability for their owners while standing or walking.

For those with PTSD they can provide emotional support to help them in triggering situations.

However, there are many people out there who fraudulently claim their pets are service or emotional support animals. These trained animals can cause disturbances in businesses or on public transportation.

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