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Phoenixes or to generalize even to god help us John Edwards Two Americas exemplified by the suburban sections north of town where the affluent make pious choices to buy a Prius eat organic support endangered species and the other south side of town where whole communities are treated as dumping grounds for waste disposal and hazardous industry where NIMBY rules simply don t obtain In the long run Ross writes there is nothing sustainableabout one population living the green American dream while across town another is still trapped in poverty and pestilence In our lush leafy tranuil suburbs we seldom have much of an idea how that other half truly lives and what miserable circumstances it at times is forced to endure Many but surely not most will know some of this in the abstract or from the news or from actual experience Nor do we often take the time to focus on that We read a book that bares such elemental truths in a dispassionate sympathetic voice and a sense of guilt liberal guilt a salutary emotion may set in The solution apart from a mad rush out the door to do good works seems a uixotesue uest for ending eco apartheid and achieving genuine ustice which would entail a kind of minimax conditionality for entire communities all the way up to the national level grow yes by all means because without growth the wherewithal for solutions might not exist making change at best difficult but figure out how to do so in a way that also advantages the least members of your community and leaves something for posteritywhich is essentially a definition of sustainable growth In 2012 this is a ferociously difficult injunction under current rules The least we might then do is spend some time thinking about how increment by increment we might begin to make that happen The problem of course is that the rules 90 percent of us are playing by are market driven onesrules both formal and informal we tend to agree with that leave ample freedom of action rules that are adjustable to be sure to suit a variety of conditions not graven in stone tablets But rules that simple cannot provide all the answers we may be looking for Moreover in the instance at hand Ross is talking about Arizona which isn t in the transcultural empathy business these days and has traditionally been on the receiving end of eco and economic immigrants in flight from dried out windblown ranch and farmland newly devoid of water and livelihoods We read about that in the newsI m beginning to ramble Andrew Ross has knocked me out of a comfort zone in which I wasn t uite aware I had been cosseted into a zone of nervous disuiet And I really should ve known better having grown up in the heart of NJ s Cancer Alley Ross s subtitle implies that there are lessons we can draw from the experience of Phoenix and there are But he doesn t produce drumrolls and trumpet fanfares to announce them he would rather his readers weigh his narrative and evidence and reach their own conclusions And nearly a week after finishing this challenging uietly confrontational work I m still thinking about what to do A good book can do that And I have a few ideas Bird on Fire might seem on book can do that And I have a few ideas Bird on Fire might seem on surface an odd choice to give five stars to as it s not really a book most people would Notes for the Everlost just pick up and read It s about urban planning for one and even specifically the way truly progressive planning gets hampered by the political powers that be Secondly it s dry as hell a tome utterly fixated on presenting evidence depicting the ways policy dictates sustainability Thirdly it s about Phoenix of all places which has to be one of the least desirable cities in America a distinction Bird on Fire does little to dispelBut for the slow meticulous flash less document on a city in crisis that it is Andrew Ross s book is a masterpiece of information analysis and reporting In it s own fixated way Bird is a true epic with a breathtaking scope that at least feels as if it s leaving no corner unturned of Phoenix s decades long descent into an unsustainable dead zone of a metropolis All the topics you would expect are here from the hidden downfalls of a water system that magically brings water to than 4 million people in the middle of a desert to an economic engine built on real estate growth and literally nothing where other cities were harmed by the Great Recession Phoenix was decimatedUltimately Bird is about environmentalustice looking closely at poor Phoenix communities who like most poor communities have the most to lose from bad city planning and most fascinatingly Arizona immigrants both illegal and otherwise Arizona is infamous for its attempted crack downs on immigration into the state from Mexico but as Ross ably demonstrates it s idiotically designed metropolises like Phoenix who are one of the primary causes of immigration as climate refugees are increasingly driven from their weather fraught lands by the sweeping effects of climate change Bird on Fire is not a pick me upper and doesn t even pretend to be optimistic but as the subtitle suggests in meticulously chronicling the worst planned city imaginable it has a lot to teach future generations of city planners and policy makers It should reuired Reading Of Every Public of every public involved with urban development Phoenix bound or no. E highlights the positive changes happening in Phoenix in particular the Gila River Indian Community's successful struggle to win back its water rights potentially shifting resources away from new housing developments to producing healthy local food for the people of the Phoenix Basin Ross argues that this victory may serve as a new model for how green democracy can work redressing the claims of those who have been aggrieved in a way that creates long term benefits for all Bird on Fire offers a compelling take on one of the pressing issues of our time finding pathways to sustainability at a time when governments are dismally failing their responsibility to address climate chang. 0000 residents who live in xeriscaped adobe huts Phoenix is the product of rampant boosterism attracting highly polluting and totally boom and bust cycle dependent businesses the biggest of which is housing The city could have let the world in solar energy development but for many frustrating reasons has not If there is a good thing about life here other than the sun and my relatives who live there Ross does not share it So why read this Not to feel better about wherever you live although you certainly could do that No this book comes at a time when the whole country risks making many of the bad decisions Phoenix has so this is almost literally a textbook example of how not to make a place to live Textbook is actually an apt description as Ross is a professor and his writing leans to the academic s love of long unvaried sentences But ROSS NOT ONLY KNOWS HIS HISTORY AND POLICY BUT not only knows his history and policy but also talked to a wide range of Phoenicians who offer varying perspectives on their city and it s fate Not the damning manifesto I expected but rather a fact based look at the fragility of Phoenix and cities like it A must read for anyone interested in what too many people think is the city of the future If we did ever live in the clouds or in space it would look a lot like Phoenix Invited by Future Arts Research an Arizona State University institute to come and do research of his choosing in Phoenix 19 Andrew Ross Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University endeavored to take the social and political temperature of Metro Phoenix 17 Historical research and 200 interviews with the region s thoughtful influential and active citizens 17 prove the Sunbelt a feverish place whose post war metropolitan growth provides a nationally instructive case study In this book Ross both challenges and empowers the Valley of the Sun saying If Phoenix could become sustainable then it could be done anywhere 14 Ross argues however that the path to sustainability lies not in the eco technological fixes that we have all been encouraged to accept recycling programs water conservation LEED certified buildings enhanced public transportation run on clean fuels solar energy farms urban farming and local food systems but in changes in social relationships cultural beliefs and political customs 16 Otherwise no matter how innovative a technological solution it is at nearly certain risk of being ineuitably applied over social and geographical landscapes creating and reinforcing what has been termed eco apartheid 17 While he phrases it as a uestion Ross rather definitively concludes that The key to sustainability lies in innovating healthy pathways out of poverty for populations at risk rather than marketing green gizmos to those who already have many options to choose from 239 In this line of thinking sustainability is not an effort taken on for the good of the Earth or even for future generations of children and grandchildren It is an endeavor of the current moment that ought to be the current moment that ought to be in for the good of today s most vulnerable and affected populations 250 who ineuitably suffer environmental injustices from poor air uality to toxic exposures I wanted a book about Phoenix and may be feeling unduly harsh that this is a much broader book about the American Southwest immigration and environmentalism that rarely focuses for long on the actual nitty gritty of urban life and planning in the specified city Ross has some interesting ideas and anecdotes to share I particularly appreciated the section on environmental When I Moan (Vassi and Seri 1: Russian Stepbrother Romance) justice and the take down of FAIR but their disorganized arrangement and lack of thorough sourcing makes me want to ship the entire book back to him with a note reading Good rough draft now rework Many of us read in the hope that from time to time we might come across a book that will change our lives avid readers occasionally have this experience and are alert to its recurrence Ross s Bird on Fire whacked me onto or less a different path of reasoning and in that sense certainly opened up some possibilities His topic is the City of Phoenix AZ and what I d like to say is sustainable growth in parched climes like that of Phoenix perhaps a virtual oxymoron but instead it sust sustainability Growth is somewhat problematic for what it s wrought And Phoenicians must recognize that sustainability is well nigh impossible given their unsustainable water picture But to recognize the impossibility of their water situation amid a decade long drought with little prospect of surcease Phoenicians would have to blast their real estate driven model of growth to bits And barring a catastrophe that seems unlikely To Happen Our Lifetimes happen our lifetimes Ross tells the tale after scores of interviews with Phoenicians of every walk of life And it will surely not happen as long as Midwesterners continue to throng to Phoenix and the city remains able to tie up regional water resources such as the relatively recent court awarded bounty granted to the Gila River Indian Reservation that might be bought or traded for to support additional building And therein lies a complex story as the interaction of economy and environment is invariably a complex phenomenon Ross s sustainability has layer after worrisome layer but in the end comes down to the two. Ntends that if we can't change the game in fast growing low density cities like Phoenix the whole movement has a major problem Drawing on interviews with 200 influential residents from state legislators urban planners developers and green business advocates to civil rights champions energy lobbyists solar entrepreneurs and community activists Ross argues that if Phoenix is ever to become sustainable it will occur through political and social change than through technological fixes Ross explains how Arizona's increasingly xenophobic immigration laws science denying legislature and growth at all costs business ethic have perpetuated social injustice and environmental degradation But They should hand a copy of this to anyone who moves to greater Phoenix from out of town Fair warning if your politics are right of center you ll take issue with it Is it accurate Well it s a starting point for investigation that s for sure by Keith SpencerIt s a bad time to be an Arizonan Even my mother who expatriated from New York 30 years ago admitted to me recently that our Arizona heritage had become an embarrassment In the past few years the state of my birth once known for its desert landscape and cowboy history has been reduced to a string of diminutives in certain generally liberal coastal circles That racist state with the crazy governor and the fascist sheriff Nowadays when asked where I m from I feel compelled to insert asterisks in my answer I grew up in Arizona but haven t lived there for eight years I ll say This distinction is necessary for us natives to affirm that our state wasn t always a punch line it was only recently that we devolved into a recognizable unflattering stereotype like Texas East St Louis or Gary IndianaOf all the four letter words leveled at Arizona green is rarely one of them From a strictly literal perspective green isn t even a color which dominates the landscape the Sonoran and Mojave deserts are vast terrains of white sand punctuated by blue bushes and stately saguaro cacti The state is landlocked no beaches to despoil here and so much of the state s land is archetypal desert desolation it is hard to imagine land being a limited resource These prickly facts along with our inherently anti communitarian Wild West mentality make Arizona an especially poor state for any kind of collective social action greening includedRead here It first has to be asked if the author in his two years in the valley practiced what he preached Did he eat all vegetarian food in the valley and throughout his life outside of the valley meat is shown to be one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases Did he take public transportation everywhere or walk Did he find a green book manufacturer to publish his book All too often these educators of sustainability wish to dictate to the people how they live their lives while at the same time living a life that has a carbon footprint of than 10 people A recent example in case is President Barack Obama who went to California and gave a speech on the drought while later playing golf at a course that uses millions of gallons of water Harrison Ford and Al Gore have many mansions and private No Biggy! jets while at the same time telling the public how they should cut back for climate change So I uestion if he is a hypocrite likeust these three examples givenOne of the asinine theories made by Ross is that illegal immigrants make Phoenix green and sustainable He uses the remarks of the city archaeologist to try and make a stretched parallel between the ancient Hohokam having migrant labor that left after helping in certain seasons as the theory goes and that of immigrants today who stay for extended periods or permanently To somehow say that increased permanent immigrant population does not have an effect on sustainability is stupidity You can t have it both ways Either there IS a sustainablility green problem that would clearly be exacerbated by an influx of immigrants that add carbon demand on water or population has zero effect on sustainability Make no mistake about it this is not a man who goes by facts he twists facts to fit his own beliefs On a personal NOTE I TAKE NO ISSUE WITH IMMIGRANTSANDREW ROSS CONTINUALLY I take no issue with immigrantsAndrew Ross continually that because Phoenix is in a desert it should not be there Civilization started in the desert He also implies that there is some water crisis with Phoenix in the future This is simply not true SRP has put infrastructure in place that was begun over 100 years ago such as many reservoirs large enough to hold enough water for many years without additional inflow lakes Roosevelt Apache Canyon Saguaro and underground auifers that hold massive amounts of water It is also important Roosevelt Apache Canyon Saguaro and underground auifers that hold massive amounts of water It is also important note that these reservoirs have had upgrades that have taken decades to construct to increase their capacity Still Mr Ross made no mention of any of thisHe continually tries to tie development in greater Phoenix to the low Colorado river when agriculture accounts for nearly 80% of consumption of the river Ross makes no mention of voluntary education programs in water conservation that have cut water usage to less than that seen in the 1980s when the population was a lot less in Phoenix The book tries to be critical of a 2006 referendum called prop 207 that was in response to eminent domain and forced zoning ideologies on property owners such as historic preservation ordinances The author is clearly driven by political opinion of the left and is hostile to property rights and individual freedom and liberty Ross offers really no solutions to the problems he raises I would give this book 2 if I could This terrific book discusses the intersecting uestions of sustainability at play in what he argues is the least sustainable city Phoenix AZ The author looks at urban sprawl local agricul In case you couldn t tell from the clever title the city is Phoenix and the book is depressing The city should not exist really unless it reduced itself to about Phoenix Arizona is one of America's fastest growing metropolitan regions It is also its least sustainable one sprawling over a thousand suare miles with a population of four and a half million minimal rainfall scorching heat and an insatiable appetite for unrestrained growth and unrestricted property rights In Bird on Fire eminent social and cultural analyst Andrew Ross focuses on the prospects for sustainability in Phoenix a city in the bull's eye of global warming and also the obstacles that stand in the way Most authors writing on sustainable cities look at places like Portland Seattle and New York that have excellent public transit systems and relatively high density But Ross co. ,
Bird on Fire

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