Editor's Note: Published today to support Blog Action Day 2009 an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. This year the theme is climate change.
Of course, people do live here. Phoenix is the 12th most populous cities in the United States. Believe it. Wiki says so. There are oases of cool mountains and tree filled valleys. We tromped through ruins nearly 2,000 years old giving silent testimony to the presence of humans for millennia in these barren dry lands.
But I challenge anyone to drive across this countryside day after day without coming to the sober realization that most of the land is too dry to support and sustain life over the long haul. Communities like Hurricane and Farmington and Mesquite – booming now as snow birds flee south and subsisting on deep reservoirs of ground water built over the eons from the seepage of limited rains through thousands of feet of sandstone – these places terrify me.
What are these people thinking? The water will not last forever. It won't even last a generation. DrC just shakes his head as we drive by WalMarts and Burger Kings, Subway, Chevron, and Sonic Burger, “The shape of future ghost towns.” I can almost see the dust and sand and tumbleweeds blowing down the central street, the laundromat door creaking back and forth, a shopping cart catching the wind and rolling a few feet before banging into the wall of the empty casino.
Water is life, and there simply isn't enough to sustain the population here today let alone accommodate the vast numbers of people city planners seem hell bent in seducing down here. “Live where you vacation!” trumpets a road sign in Fredonia. “Retire in style!!” blasts another in St. George. The vivid green grass of these developments glows sharp and unnatural against the dessert background of tans, corals, pinks, and grays. People retiring from Indiana expect a lawn, those from Pennsylvania want to golf. Never mind that water falls in summer deluges to a depth of feet each year up north while these warm, sunny southern wastelands are prone to decades long droughts and the average in even a good year barely tops an inch.
How many other places on our overburdened planet are like this? How many other myths are we spinning to comfort ourselves when we push into areas not meant to support our species? I see more clearly the disaster on the horizon than ever before. Even in the absence of global climate change, humans are fast approaching the tipping point. Driving across this great barren expanse, I am filled with a grinding horror at what my girls face in the coming decades. It is not enough to teach them math and science and history. We need to teach them how to survive what's coming.