In Phoenix, you don’t ask: What could go wrong? You ask: What couldn’t?
March 15, 2013 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Phoenix pulls back the curtain on the future of inland empires. If you want a taste of the brutal new climate to come, the place to look is where that climate is already harsh, and growing more so — the aptly named Valley of the Sun.
William deBuys on climate change and Phoenix concluding one or several decades from now, people will bet on a surer thing: they’ll take the road out of town.
posted by adamvasco (60 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've thought about cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix- where growth seems to be crazy - with water sucking suburban tracks being stamped out like an assembly line. But eventually there has to be a point where there is simply not enough water to go around. And then what? The poor and old who cannot afford to move - what will happen to them?

People complain about the rain up here in Vancouver at times, but I am thankful for it most of the time. But I genuinely worry about those people in the US south.
posted by helmutdog at 6:30 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


William deBuys on climate change and Phoenix concluding one or several decades from now, people will bet on a surer thing: they’ll take the road out of town.

Well then, let's set up a vigorous border system now, before they start migrating north.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:32 PM on March 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


Well that was an upbeat read. Now if you'll excuse me I have a sudden urge to go outside and hug the rain and black clouds.
posted by mannequito at 6:38 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well then, let's set up a vigorous border system now, before they start migrating north.

Yeah, hahaha, except I wonder what Canada/U.S. relations will look like in thirty years when global warming gives Canada millions of acres of brand-newly-arable land and the bottom third of the U.S., who coincidentally has the largest military in the world, turns into the Sahara.
posted by mhoye at 6:40 PM on March 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


So it's not gotten better since 2001 then?
posted by Artw at 6:54 PM on March 15, 2013


Canada will build a giant pipeline to send it to the US?
posted by benzenedream at 6:56 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've long believed that the water war over the Colorado River is going to turn into a shooting war, and not too long from now. People talk about "drought", but I read a while back in National Geographic that scientists now mostly think that we're in a historically WET period for the region, and that the historical norm is more like half of what they've been getting for the past half-century or so. And that's without taking global warming into effect at all.

That's going to shut Vegas and Phoenix right down, and LA and Mexico are going to get into the act as well. What really needs to happen, of course, is to shut down the ludicrously wasteful agricultural usage, but that's politically impossible -- and if you try, well, there's where the guns are coming out.
posted by Fnarf at 7:03 PM on March 15, 2013


in thirty years when global warming gives Canada millions of acres of brand-newly-arable land

FWIW, Canada might end up with less arable land instead of more. For land to be arable, it needs (semi) dependable weather (so you can plant the right thing at the right time for the averaged harvest to cover the averaged expenses, etc). Climate change isn't shifting "farming zones" north, it is making land less arable - both north and south - by adding turmoil to regional seasonal and annual weather patterns. Betting on the rains and rivers doing the same thing over the next few years as what they did the last few years is becoming an increasingly harder bet to win, and in many areas may turn into a losing bet.

Canada is well situated to find a silver lining in a warming world, but it may be the case that thawing permafrost can offer financial tar-baby as much as new farmland.
(Meanwhile, the amount of arable land to the south will also be diminishing.)
posted by anonymisc at 7:10 PM on March 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


I've always thought that the Rust Belt would make a big comeback when Phoenix ran out of water.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 7:10 PM on March 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, that was heavy. I grew up in the "devil" of southern California (to use the author's words), and yeah, we were never encouraged to conserve. Green lawn after green lawn in the coastal scrub habitat of San Diego. Truly a ridiculous lifestyle. I'm not convinced it'll be a shooting war; those with the means will up and move to a more liveable climate, and those without with be left to suffer. The Imperial Valley agribusinesses have a lot of clout, but LA and SD have more.

Anyway, the soundtrack to this article should be Skinny Puppy.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:13 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, Canada might end up with less arable land instead of more. For land to be arable, it needs (semi) dependable weather (so you can plant the right thing at the right time for the averaged harvest to cover the averaged expenses, etc). Climate change isn't shifting "farming zones" north, it is making land less arable - both north and south - by adding turmoil to regional seasonal and annual weather patterns. Betting on the rains and rivers doing the same thing over the next few years as what they did the last few years is becoming an increasingly harder bet to win, and in many areas may turn into a losing bet.

Absolutely true. A few years back during a record breakingly wet summer, a lot of crops in my area rotted on the vine. I don't think there are many silver linings in a world that's going through such drastic changes.
posted by codacorolla at 7:15 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was heavy. I grew up in the "devil" of southern California (to use the author's words), and yeah, we were never encouraged to conserve. Green lawn after green lawn in the coastal scrub habitat of San Diego.

I don't know about LA, but SD has been pushing conservation measures, and flirting with mandatory conservation, for years now. There's also plans to put in a desalinization plant up the coast a bit. That, and mandatory water-saving fixtures required to get a building permit for anything, might extend our existence here and help back off on the Colorado a bit. Also, it's not super common yet, but I can sort of sense a growing disdain for standard lawns. You see a lot more xeriscaping and fieldturf around these days.
posted by LionIndex at 7:27 PM on March 15, 2013


Problem solved!
posted by zeoslap at 7:59 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's (New Times) some reaction (AZ Republic) from the local press (New Times again).

I feel this way as my second link there, from the AZ Republic: "A guy guest-writing for a Los Angeles publication wrote this? Really?"

Artw, I didn't live in Phoenix ten years ago (and barely even two years ago), but I can definitely say after reading The Stranger's description of Phoenix that it sounds like their typical hysterical bullshit, and I'm shocked this wasn't written by the overwrought Charles Mudede:
If Yann sat on the front step of the 600-unit apartment complex where he lived (in a not particularly bad part of town), he would be offered crystal meth every 10 minutes. If he left the lights on after 10:00 p.m., meth buyers would ring his bell. Apparently, this is ordinary life in Phoenix, which stands at the forefront of America's fastest-growing drug habit. Every day a meth lab is busted or burns in the metropolitan area, so often that the TV news doesn't report such incidents unless a child is trapped in the blaze or suffocates from the toxic fumes of the speed-making process (which itself happens every few days).
I don't know, maybe it really was like ten years ago—being a fan of Laurie Notaro, I know she's made Phoenix sound kind of like that—but I feel like it's just The Stranger's typical hyperbole; I haven't heard anything about meth labs since I've lived here and we live in a not-so-nice neighborhood and you know what's awesome? Unlike in Seattle, I've never been harassed by guys on the street everytime I've left the house, I don't watch drug deals happen outside my door (corner of Belmont and Howell, where hipsters go to drink and dealers go to sell) and I've never had to call the cops when a homeless guy decided to follow me around for the day and threaten to rape me. No girl has ever gotten murdered right down the street from me by a mentally ill guy who was living in the halfway house behind my overpriced studio apartment like in Seattle.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that while Phoenix has a ton of issues, and my partner and I are planning on moving away within a year—maybe even back to Seattle, though clearly I have some issues with that town— I just think people should refrain from throwing stones. I could say as many nasty things about Seattle than I could about Phoenix, and I've never been to LA but I'm sure I could trot out the same old criticisms—cars, pollution, earthquakes, bad public transit—but why not save that energy and focus on the city you call home instead? (The "you" in that sentence is William Debuys and Grant Cogswell ten years ago writing for The Stranger.)
posted by thesocietyfor at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I broke my rule against "never read comments on The Stranger" and saw that the first one is this: "Wow, all very true. I don't see real estate prices recovering in Phoenix for at least 5-6 years." and I have to smirk that now we're doing better than everywhere else in the nation...though yeah, I guess it took longer than 5-6 years.
posted by thesocietyfor at 8:03 PM on March 15, 2013


The hugely ironic thing is that in AZ, the Groundwater Management Act of 1980 forced all new development in the cities to get certificates proving 100 year water availability before they can even begin construction.

They may have a short term interest in the methodology for determining such being flawed, however.
posted by esoterica at 8:04 PM on March 15, 2013


I hate Las Vegas with a fiery passion...but, when I was last in the Southwest (I go there a lot to hike in the desert), I was surprised to learn that Las Vegas has good water conservation rules.

Phoenix, on the other hand, has no water conservation rules.

As far as the Great Plains are concerned, "...during medieval times, drought was the dominant feature of the Great Plains rather than the exception, as at present." This was at a time when the Ancestral Puebloans abandoned many of their larger settlements which indicates that the Southwest is in for big troubles if the droughts return.

But what bears considering, is the fact that geopolitical stability depends in part on US wheat being shipped overseas - which could exacerbate water wars.
posted by BillW at 8:12 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a blowhard article.

Yes, Phoenix has an awful urban heat island that is especially bad in the poorest parts of town (not coincidentally, the wealthiest parts of the city have the most "desert" landscaping and the most trees).

But where this article lost me was its ridiculous hype about our "horrible" storms, as if they are some massive threat every year. Give me a break.

That being said, yes, Phoenix has issues.

The biggest problem with Phoenix is actually very simple. It's that we have too many people who have moved here but that don't treat this city like home. These people don't care about their surroundings, they just want theirs.

We have way too many people who moved here from Orange County and Riverside because they "needed somewhere cheaper," and they really want to go back once they "have the money." We have too many 40 and 50 year olds from the Midwest and the Rust Belt who came here for golf courses and wide streets.

They just want their Chili's and Applebee's and Walmart and big freeways. They don't push Phoenix to plan more carefully, or institute even better power and water systems... they just want their space for their big pickup trucks and their shitty chain restaurants.

(If anyone from Phoenix reads this, the suburb that best exemplifies all these problems is Surprise, in my opinion.)

Once the immigration surge dies down, the city will improve. I do agree with the author- Phoenix has some work to do... but it will only happen once people who live here actually call this place home.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:15 PM on March 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


(On a side note,

Yeah, hahaha, except I wonder what Canada/U.S. relations will look like in thirty years when global warming gives Canada millions of acres of brand-newly-arable land and the bottom third of the U.S., who coincidentally has the largest military in the world, turns into the Sahara.

On top of the problems with greater weather variability and increased incidence of extreme weather events mentioned upthread, there's also the problem that soil quality decreases as you go north. )
posted by eviemath at 8:24 PM on March 15, 2013


"Valley on the SURFACE of the sun, amirite?"

Stolen from some comic, the identity of which Google could not enlighten me.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:28 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want a nice visual representation of why we have such a bad urban heat island here in Phoenix, especially in crappy McMansion suburbs and poor neighborhoods, here's some Street View.

Poor neighborhood south of downtown. Note the crazy lack of shade trees. Lots of bare dirt lots and concrete... this neighborhood is as bad as it gets in terms of urban heat island.

Old money neighborhood north of downtown. Notice the huge difference here: see how many shade trees are keeping homes cooler? (This is one of Phoenix's most popular jogging paths as well, because it's so green.)

McMansion suburb built for people who moved here from LA. Actually has more in common in terms of landscaping with the poorer areas. Lots of lazy cheap rock landscaping, super wide asphalt streets (this is a narrow street by Phoenix suburb standards, by the way... only four lanes... pshaw). Also, not many shade trees... and no natural desert landscaping.

Typical suburban street corner. Here's a challenge: can you find a pedestrian? A prize for the first person who can move around and actually locate one. I couldn't in a few minutes of clicking around from this spot. Also, note the massive parking lots, tons of concrete, lots of stucco, and cheap landscaping rocks which suck in heat and give it off slowly at night (as opposed to natural desert landscaping).

Much wealthier suburb. This area is regularly about 10 degrees cooler than downtown Phoenix. It's at a bit of a higher elevation, yes, but it has no urban heat island effect because there's so little concrete and so much natural desert landscaping.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:48 PM on March 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


(If anyone from Phoenix reads this, the suburb that best exemplifies all these problems is Surprise, in my opinion.)

Ah, this explains why my Humvee-loving relatives moved there.
posted by benzenedream at 8:54 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine moved briefly to Mesa, for a game company that ended up self-destructing spectacularly. While he was there, I drove to visit him from LA (I lived in North Hollywood at the time). My previous experience with Arizona had been Flagstaff; I quickly realized that Mesa was definitely not Flagstaff. I remember walking to Starbucks during the afternoon-- it was a fairly cool winter day (well, cool by Phoenix standards)-- but I was literally the only person walking around. The streets were extremely wide too, and the landscaping was absurd, given the environment.

I couldn't wait to get back to LA, after a week there. Ugh.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:10 PM on March 15, 2013


I really didn't like my time living in Phoenix. People there are causally mean to one another, like, at the grocery store. It's the kind of place where if you signal a lane change on the freeway, someone will maneuver to close up the gap you were going to use.

When I read this:
Rebecca Solnit has written eloquently of the way a sudden catastrophe -- an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado -- can dissolve social divisions and cause a community to cohere, bringing out the best in its citizenry. Drought and heat waves are different. You don’t know that they have taken hold until you are already in them, and you never know when they will end. The unpleasantness eats away at you. It corrodes your state of mind. You have lots of time to meditate on the deficiencies of your neighbors, which loom larger the longer the crisis goes on.
I felt I suddenly had a bit of an explanation for my experience in Phoenix. It's the heat. Especially in the city. It's just hot all the time in the summer; living right in the city and using one of those laser surface thermometer things, the buildings and pavement and concrete and paving stones and stuff would easily be over 90F at 2 or 3 am.

That kind of heat for months on end.. it does affect people. I was never so happy to move away from someplace as from Phoenix. And that was a decade ago. I can't imagine the increased heat and the dust storms have helped fuze everyone together into a caring community. Not at all.
posted by hippybear at 9:11 PM on March 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's funny, when I moved to Phoenix I was so happy because people weren't casually mean to each other like they were in Seattle. Now I'm starting to hate everyone here, too, because being judged by Scottsdale robot women are just as bad as being judged by hipsters. Ugh! But I think people are kind of bitchy everywhere, I've lived in a handful of cities and travelled far and wide and in every place I've eventually just been exasperated and chalked it up to really believing that most people just don't bother trying to be pleasant to one another. And people are awful at driving basically everywhere.

suburbanbeatnik: if you visited your friend in Mesa and you're judging Phoenix by it...are you fucking kidding me? Mesa is a different city than Phoenix and there are indeed places in and near Phoenix that you may have enjoyed like Flagstaff. Yeah, people don't walk around in the summer. But I live downtown and there's a lot of people walking and biking around most of the year, same as in Tempe. Don't come into this thread just to shit all over Phoenix because you visited a city outside of it once, Jesus Christ.

I don't even love it here, I've been actively advocating that we move sooner rather than later, but it's like someone shit-talking your family; they have their flaws but you have to live with them. As I said before, why don't you focus on the problems with where you live if the only thing you have to contribute as someone who doesn't live here how much you dislike Phoenix?

I live here because the person I love was living here when we met and she showed me some really awesome things in Arizona and I decided I've give it a year or two and see if I liked it. I never could have imagined living here—I had a friend who lived in Flagstaff and I visited her when I was in college, and when we briefly visited Phoenix I was unimpressed, too—but there are many wonderful and worthwhile things in Phoenix and even more great things all around Arizona that I'm glad I lived here. (I mean, my partner took me to the Grand Canyon my first visit here and just the drive up there alone was enough to convince me that I could deal with living in a red state for awhile).
posted by thesocietyfor at 9:31 PM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


thesocietyfor: Downtown really is a different beast, isn't it. Yeah, I couldn't live in Glendale or Surprise or out in Buckeye or Mesa, but living down here is a different story. Lots of activity, lots of great stuff to get out and do, and at least a half dozen great places to eat within a five minute walk of my house. (Everything I need is a mile away or less, from groceries, to the doctor, to my dentist.)

Sure, much of Phoenix is the same old dreadful suburb, but much of the city isn't, too.
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:39 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dude. Thesocietyfor, my intention wasn't to piss you off or to threadshit. It seemed like an interesting discussion so I mentioned something from my life which I thought was relevant. The pics that OldManMcKay showed reminded me of walking around Mesa.

I'm used to people bitching about LA even though they only visited some small part of it once years ago. I don't really care if they do, either. Different strokes for different folks and all that.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:40 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another positive thing about Phoenix, we may spend a lot of time in our cars but God, the art on the side of the freeways is sometimes just stunning, and the landscaping with native plants on the side of the roads is beautiful too, and the street signs are huge and really well marked and we're on a grid system so even someone hopeless with directions like me can get the lay of the land really quickly, oh and right now I can drive around and come home with a trunk full of free citrus fruit.

Oh yeah, and the Yayoi Kusama permanent installation at the Phoenix Art Museum is worth my yearly membership alone, Pro's Ranch Market is the the most fun I've ever had in a supermarket (eat your heart out Uwajimaya), and Frank Lloyd Wright called the Phoenix area home.
posted by thesocietyfor at 9:41 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Folks, seriously drop it. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 10:00 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was actually just talking to a friend's father about water prices at his retirement golf complex just north of Scottsdale, and he cheerfully told me that it was actually just as affordable as it was in Michigan, thanks to the old water pacts. Which I guess explains why every condo has a swimming pool, and also why we're all fucked. It's just insane to not have a water conservation plan when you're living in the desert.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:39 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as I consider the possibility of buying a house here in Tucson. Will the city even be here at the end of a thirty-year mortgage?

Part of me is convinced that the town will be reduced to sand-swept ruins, fit only for well-armed leather-clad post-apocalyptic nomads. We'll be out of water, temperatures will be in the 120s, and the real estate market will be well and truly humped.

But then I think about pulling up stakes and moving elsewhere. Where would I go? Where on the planet will be safe if (when) the cost of global warming soars that high? The midwest is going to be ravaged by tornadoes and heat waves; the coasts are going to be storm-buffeted. The lush green of the Pacific Northwest could be flooded, or parched into tinder. And so on.

If it gets that bad, there will be nowhere safe.

At least down here, we're used to heat.

I'll just cross my fingers and hope that we solve the energy storage problem, the desalinization problem, and the global warming crisis in general. Otherwise, it seems we're all pretty screwed.
posted by MrVisible at 10:47 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


People... casually mean in PHX? That totally hasn't been my experience... and I roll all over this crazy town. Obviously, PHX -- and I'm talking about the greater metro area here -- is insane. All those accusations... probably true.

You know what, though? Living here is kind of rad... while you losers face down endless gray days and temperatures well below freezing, I've been running around in an amazing park without a shirt. Tomorrow, I'll drive 20 mins and do a 18 mile / 4,000' run all over a different mountain preserve. If you like to play outside, this place is a paradise. All summer, we swim... or head into the mountains up north.

I love the unforced casualness of a long hot summer in The Valley... comfort is king. Sandals, shorts and a t-shirt are welcome everywhere... people are generally pretty chilled out, even if everyone does seem to own a gun.

... and who knows? Sure, eventually this town might cease to be a reasonable place to live. At that point, I'll move. For now, though, I'll make sure I know where I can park my car in the shade when it starts to warm back up....
posted by ph00dz at 11:08 PM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know what, though? Living here is kind of rad... while you losers face down endless gray days and temperatures well below freezing, I've been running around in an amazing park without a shirt.

We'll see how you feel when your current summers are your future winters.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:23 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know what, though? Living here is kind of rad... while you losers face down endless gray days and temperatures well below freezing

I like having all four seasons. I'll take my January over your July, no question.

I know I jumped all over you, suburbanbeatnik, but seriously it was threadshitting as far as I can tell

It absolutely was not. The comment wasn't even that negative.
posted by spaltavian at 11:52 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's drop it, I overreacted. Sorry. I realize it's not a personal attack on me that some people don't like Phoenix.
posted by thesocietyfor at 12:05 AM on March 16, 2013


My one time experience with Arizona was in 1975. I had been dropped off in Scottsdale and
was walking to a friends house, in the 20 minutes it took me to make that walk I was stopped and
questioned by the police twice. They wanted to know why I was walking.
posted by quazichimp at 12:37 AM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Arizona (even though the cities are radically different) is a place most people love or hate. And for some reason the people who hate it really want to tell you all about it. Like me and Los Angeles.

The biggest problem with Phoenix is actually very simple. It's that we have too many people who have moved here but that don't treat this city like home. These people don't care about their surroundings, they just want theirs.

So it is Los Angeles then?
posted by bongo_x at 3:08 AM on March 16, 2013


bongo_x: Far worse than Los Angeles in that regard. So many people move to LA because they love the idea of LA. They want to move there to be by the coast- to be in an active place, or they see it as a city of opportunity. For all you could say that is bad about LA, it's still one of the world's greatest cities, and it's at the center of global culture.

People usually don't move to Phoenix because they love Phoenix- they move here because it's cheap and unbelievably easy to live here. It's easy to get around... so long as you have a car. It's an easy city to learn, with a massive grid system unlike any other city in the country (you could drive in straight lines all the way from one end of the metro area to the other, driving for an hour and a half and never moving the steering wheel). Big, wide streets. Dependable traffic that is nothing compared to other metro areas this size. Always parking available wherever you're going. Every corner has a drug store and supermarket and gas station, and everything you buy at the supermarket costs a dollar or two less than in LA.

The effect is that people love the Phoenix suburb lifestyle, but not the city itself. LA has more of a city sense of pride- LA has shibboleths and landmarks and shared cultural experiences like Disneyland or going to the beach or following the Lakers or celebrity sightings.

Sure there are people who actually love Phoenix and are proud of it, but there are too many who don't give a crap. I know too many people who have lived in Phoenix for 5-10 years who can't pronounce the names of major streets, who have never been downtown, who still follow all their old sports teams from whatever Rust Belt city they came from. This isn't home to them- it's where they happen to be living because it's easy.

I always thought one indication of this kind of city pride is sporting events, actually. You never go to a Dodgers game and see that many opposing fans. Go to a Diamondbacks game when the Dodgers or Cubs are in town, and 3/4 of the stadium will be rooting for the visitors.

It's all related to that "Phoenix is not really my hometown" problem. But people treat LA differently in that regard- as someone who has lived in both cities, it's "home" to many more people.
posted by Old Man McKay at 6:11 AM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


OMK. It's the retirement community thing. Same here in Southwest Florida. People retire here at 50,60 and plan on moving home to wherever their kids happen to be when old age hits them. I have neighbors who mispronounce local names after ten years of residence. They vote down every single civic issue. They could not care less about our school system. It's what it is.
posted by notreally at 7:32 AM on March 16, 2013


I spent about 6 weeks in Mesa, Phoenix, Glendale early last year. I come from the Central Valley of California so the heat didn't bother me that much. It was the blaring sun. It’s hot where I come from, hit 78 yesterday, but the sun doesn't feel so damn oppressive as it does in Phoenix. Ant under a magnifying glass gets it right.

I've never seen so many leathery sunburned people all bunched together in one place before.
posted by M Edward at 7:33 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure there are people who actually love Phoenix and are proud of it, but there are too many who don't give a crap.

And it's not just Phoenix, it's all of Arizona. My mother lives in Mojave Valley by Bullhead and the entire area is just...ugh. Too many people not giving a damn about the desert and not enough people actually loving the place.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:43 AM on March 16, 2013


It's really not all of Arizona. Tucson is awesome; Bisbee is surreal. There are little towns scattered about that are like oases of sanity and weirdness. It's a big state, with lots of diversity.

The state is dominated by the Phoenix juggernaut, though; that many people concentrated into one big seething mass tends to tip the balance politically towards the batshit insane.
posted by MrVisible at 9:17 AM on March 16, 2013


I didn't think Phoenix was that horrible when I visited 2 years ago...but I did go in September. I had friends who moved there. I liked their airport, found some cool shopping, and I'll admit I am rather jealous of how my friend said she had lost her cold weather tolerance because they had such nice winters there. I have no cold tolerance but a lot of heat tolerance, so if anyone should move to AZ it should be me, really. Well, except for the ...interesting...politics.

That said, the friends just moved to Flagstaff, in winter, where it snows. THAT'S GONNA BE INTERESTING to see how they ah, survive now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:54 AM on March 16, 2013


We went to Flagstaff in January and I couldn't get over that as soon as we got high enough up that snow was appearing that people—Phoenicians like us, I assume—pulled their cars over and we're sledding down the side of the embankments on the highway. I kept thinking, isn't that unsafe? until we got off to do the same thing and I was so excited by the snow I didn't stop to think of how weird it was.

The cool thing about Flagstaff is that whenever you get sick of the snow, you can drive to Phoenix for some nice warm weather. That seems way more tolerable than the oppressive, inescapable snow I grew up with in the Upper Midwest!
posted by thesocietyfor at 10:03 AM on March 16, 2013


I lived in Phoenix for about a year back around '75, and though it was okay I eventually moved back to the midwest, then points farther east and points southeast. One thing that struck me about the Valley back then was there was a sense of history, but it was recent history, maybe back to the '40s or '50s.

Since I still have family living there, I've visited every few years. Every time I go back there seems to be less and less of what little sense of made Phoenix unique. Back in the day at least there was a bit of character to the place, but now that's even disappeared. And they squandered an opportunity to have real transportation alternatives when they chose to build more freeways instead.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:59 AM on March 16, 2013


Related: "Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water" by Marc Reisner, is a very good read.

Also: "Cadillac Desert: Water and the Transformation of Nature" a film from 1997. It is based for the most part on Reisner's book.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


... while you losers face down endless gray days and temperatures well below freezing, I've been running around in an amazing park without a shirt.

One of the good things about extended periods of cold is that it kills off lots of obnoxious species that can thrive otherwise.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:41 PM on March 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Places like Phoenix have made me wonder: do we have any idea what population densities of native Americans were, on a map, say? I should think it would give some notion as to the "natural" or more natural sustainability of a place.
posted by seemoreglass at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2013


Yeah, benito.strauss, there aren't as many obnoxious people in cold populations, that's a great observation.

Why can't people say they enjoy the mild winters here and other people say they like having four distinct seasons without resorting to name calling? I guess I know why, the fact that people here and in my real life take delight in putting down the place I call home makes me want to call people names, too, but I realize that doesn't make Phoenix look any more appealing.
posted by thesocietyfor at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2013


seemoreglass it looks something like this as far as I can tell -

"Population levels are debated," Bostwick says, "But there's a range, from 24,000 to 50,000 in the Phoenix basin, which would have been one of the sizable Native populations in the New World."

And larger than Paris in A.D. 1000.

The core of that population was urban, Bostwick says.

"And estimates range up to a thousand people in a single village."


Population of modern Phoenix seems to have been in the same range until just after WWII, now there's about 1.5 million, sprawled across about the same square mileage as the Hohokam inhabited.
posted by hap_hazard at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2013


Why can't people say they enjoy the mild winters here and other people say they like having four distinct seasons without resorting to name calling?

I'm with you 100%, thesocietyfor. That's why I wanted to point out that the use of "loser" was kinda douchey.

And I actually like them both. I grew up in SoCal and now live in Boston. The way Spring here gets into you blood is just amazing, unlike anything I felt in California. And when I go back visiting I appreciate the sun and the beaches so much more than when I was living there.

Yeah, benito.strauss, there aren't as many obnoxious people in cold populations, that's a great observation.

I'd bet money that there are actually more obnoxious people here. We've even invented a word for it (Masshole).
posted by benito.strauss at 1:33 PM on March 16, 2013


Yeah, when I lived in snowy climes by the time February rolled around and I had to dig my car out one more damn time you can bet I was just as much as an asshole as I am here and getting into my car in August involves burning my hands, thighs and any other parts that come into contact with the surface of the car! Too cold weather weighs on people just like too hot weather does after awhile.

I agree, no need to call people losers because of where they live. Thanks for clarifying!
posted by thesocietyfor at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2013


I have lived in many places. They were all very different. I just went to LA for a 10 day trip to visit friends. I like LA. I lived in Minnesota for many years. I liked it there very much. I lived in VA for a few years. It took me a little longer to warm up to the place, but I eventually did and I was sad to leave. I currently live on the Massachusetts coast. I like it here very much as well and was happy to return to our emerging spring even though I appreciated the sunny warmth of LA in March. They all have good points and less good points. Some points are the same. Some are different. I have found that if you go to a place looking for whatever the stereotype is supposed to be, you will find it. But if you look for the opposite you will find it as well. I think that is why people have such different experiences with a place. The experiences were probably the same but they were probably looking for different things. There are jerks everywhere. There are friendly people everywhere. I don't know why we find it so difficult to understand that.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:24 PM on March 16, 2013


Related: "Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water" by Marc Reisner, is a very good read.

Enthusiastically seconded -- and I find this article extremely interesting because I'd been looking for something that continues in the same vein after 1993, when Cadillac Desert was published.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 3:40 PM on March 16, 2013


I've spent a lot of time in Arizona and still have to go back occasionally because of family.

Dry, unforgiving landscape peopled by dry (and not in a lovely, witty way) and unforgiving. There's a reason Arpaio gets re-elected and the Tea Party is thriving.

The best thing to do in Phoenix? Leave. The feeling of relief whenever the plane begins its taxi for takeoff from PHX are the best memories I have of that place.
posted by Alles at 3:52 PM on March 16, 2013


[thesocietyfor, you need to knock it off.]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:23 PM on March 16, 2013


So many people move to LA because they love the idea of LA.

And then they realize they were lied to. And never participate in any sort of citizenship because they don’t plan on staying. Even if they’re here 50 years, they don’t plan on staying. I don’t think I know anyone in Los Angeles who’s ever voted in a local election.

...or they see it as a city of opportunity

That’s true, people come to L.A. to take, to get something. That’s the culture.

I’m very familiar with both places, and not that fond of either. But if I had to choose (and I might, soon) I would have to live in Phoenix. The main problem with Phoenix is that it’s too much like L.A., or Orange County specifically, for the most part. Except cleaner. And less crammed together. And less smoggy. And without the freakin soul sucking traffic.

For all you could say that is bad about LA, it's still one of the world's greatest cities, and it's at the center of global culture.

We’ll just have to disagree about that. It is big though, if that’s what you meant. Not to say that there’s nothing good or interesting about L.A., but the "good" to "sucks" ratio is WAY off.
posted by bongo_x at 12:53 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of Bacigalupi's story "The Tamarisk Hunter."
posted by doctornemo at 7:16 AM on March 17, 2013


Here's a challenge: can you find a pedestrian? A prize for the first person who can move around and actually locate one. I couldn't in a few minutes of clicking around from this spot.

This actually is evidence that the residents of Surprise are quite comfortable as Phoenicians. I lived in Phoenix for 20 years and even as a young, dumb kid it didn't take me more than a couple summers to realize that you do go walking long distances (to Home Depot! or car repair shops!) during the heat of the day. Maybe Google Maps needs to start shooting their Street Views in the early morning or at twilight. I certainly saw plenty of pedestrians when walking or biking in residential neighborhoods in the evenings.

Also when I moved to Phoenix the only major sports team in Arizona was the Phoenix Suns. It really should be no surprise that the Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Coyotes are taking some time to build a following. And, honestly, I think they are doing well, given that two of those teams were ripped out of other communities and have threatened to move since (but maybe I am projecting).

More on topic the idea that climate change will be important to Phoenix is not unreasonable and that it is worth watching how various elements of that play out in that city but another lesson to be learned here is that alarmist articles written by people who don't show an understanding of or empathy for their (city) subject are going to be of little value. Not everyone is going to be convinced by hyperbole and scare tactics.
posted by mountmccabe at 8:02 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Climate Science Denier Leads House Science Subcommittee
posted by homunculus at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2013


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