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November 02, 2009

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I've been having a discussion with a friend about human nature and the problem with averting the future catastrophe of climate change. Why is it that humans are so hard-wired for skepticism about something grounded in hard science, but find it easy to believe in ghosts, UFOs, and lucky lottery numbers?

We are who we are for a reason so evolutionary biology at least provides a key here. Our reptilian brains can register alarm quite easily about immediate threats but are lulled to complacence if the threat is gradual or doesn't involve explosions, snakes, or falling from great heights.

It is interesting how the denialism about climate change parallels our denialism about human nature. We are not nearly so rational as we like to believe. On a local level, there's the denialism that assumes there are no long-term problems with building a non-sustainable megalopolis in the desert. We're about to discover the limits we denied.

This is a metaphorical ghost that will become increasingly corporeal. In five to 10 years, the evidence of manmade climate change will be so obvious and devastating that even deniers will have their faith challenged. That's when Phoenix starts to implode. How do you sell a place planted on a time bomb?

I can imagine Phoenix withering away over the next 50 years to the size of Yuma. I wish I could call it tragic but for all our gluttonous and sprawling glory I'm not sure there's really that much to mourn.

There are those who truly believe that Phoenix is a great place with a bright future. Betcha they're not here from June through most of October! Jon refers to "climate refugees" coming to his Washington state. Scottish poet Thomas Campbell observed that "coming events cast their shadow before". If we're truly doing the visioning thing, we're making plans to vamoose for at least the Hades part of the year!

Jon speaks of Washington state government concerned with the influx of climate refugees from Phoenix in concert with rising temperatures in the American Southwest. He's not making this up -- this trend has been taking shape for more than a decade. Read this article about the ongoing White Flight to the Seattle area from Phoenix, which was originally published in mid-July 2001 in The Stranger, an independent weekly newspaper based in Seattle.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/fleeing-phoenix/Content?oid=7959

The absolute northern limit of Phoenix? The sprawlmeisters blew right past Bell Road, as Jon notes. Junk roadside development now parallels I-17 all the way to Prescott. It is clear that the absolute northern limit of Phoenix may be Munds Park. Or Seattle. Or Bellingham. Until Americans give up the dream of the big house on the big lot "in the country" (but with a Target and a Costco close by), the march of our cities into the boondocks will not abate.

Mr. Talton,
Thank you for taking the time to write about the Phoenix General Plan Update. I need to correct a few items in your column. First of all, the responses posted on the website are from the question - What do you value most about Phoenix and why? The responses reflect things that drew people to Phoenix and provide a reason for staying.

During the month of November, the question is Imagine Phoenix as the best it can be - what do you see? There were three visioning workshops held Monday - Encanto, Camelback East, and Paradise Valley, and Desert Ridge will be held tonight. The results from these workshops has not yet been compiled, but it will be posted on our website as soon as it is ready. Many of the comments that I have seen from this first handful of meetings spoke to having addressed urban heat island effect, especially reducing the overnight lows, as well as a real response to climate change.

Secondly, we are mandated by Arizona State Statutes to update our General Plan every 10 years. Giving our current fiscal situation, we would not have chosen to initiate this project at this time if it ws not mandated by State Law. However, the lull in development activity has given us the gift of time to pause and reflect. In researching previous general planning efforts, we were not able to find an effort where such an open ended question was asked about what people want for the future of this place. All previous efforts were based on the assumption that Phoenix would grow, and grow quickly and the community was only asked how that growth would by physically accommodated. As we've learned over the last 18 months, it is no longer advisable to rely on projections of previous trends. This gives us the opportunity to reconsider where we've been and where we want to go.

Thirdly, we are not using any consultants for this project. Phoenix staff are working very hard to facilitate workshops using our existing infrastructure of village planning committees, and the committee members are embracing the opportunity to once again focus on their original purpose of Planning.

I want to thank you for sharing your vision for Phoenix. It is not dissimilar to other comments I have heard talking with the community. The value of this visioning process is that it will capture these comments so that decision-makers can see just how many people hold a common vision for the future.

On a personal note, I am a refugee from Washington State who came to Phoenix in 1986 after graduate school at the University of Washington. While Washington State is a lovely place to visit, I prefer my adopted home in Phoenix.

Best regards,
Carol Johnson
Phoenix Planning Manager

Blowin' sunshine up yer kazoo.

Carol,
Did the Phoenix City Council approve an emergency expenditure for consultants host public meetings, during which they gathered public input that was used to ultimately develop your response to Mr. Talton's column? It doesn't really matter -- Rogue readers tend to be skeptical and/or fed up with how Phoenix (and the surrounding cities) and the State of Arizona are run. As such, we don't give a damn what you have to say. Please, don't waste your -- or our -- time.
Regards,
A former longtime Phoenix resident (and Arizona native) who found greener pastures elsewhere.

That's right, we wouldn't want an open dialogue or to correct anything that may have been misleading in the original post. No, Rogue comments should remain as a forum solely for Phoenix bashing.

I've read every post on Rogue since the blog was first created and ChrisinDenver does not speak for me when he asserts what "Rogue readers" think.

To say that posting a comment on this blog is "wasting time" is more of an insult to Talton than anyone.

There are some well-intentioned future planning initiatives in the Valley. Fountain Hills even has a strategic plan that was built from bottoms up survey and broad-based citizen input in 2006.

Where many of these efforts may fall short is that they often need an extra measure of reality about tackling issues such as the bad air that the American Lung Association says afflicts one in six Valley residents.

Footnote: recent particulate (Brown Cloud) particulate readings have been awful but the media largely ignores it in favor of rhapsodizing over "beautiful sunsets".

I, for one, would certainly like to hear opposing opinions.

I stand corrected. Please accept my apologies, fellow readers.

Chris sees the error of his ways and that's appreciated. All views are welcome here. I'd love to get more (civil) dissent, even from the Kookocracy. But I am indebted to all who leave comments.

"It doesn't require a sixth sense to know that a vision based on denial and commitment to an unsustainable status quo means one thing: 'I see...dead city.'"

It's already a dying city, Jon. A drive around the hyperdeveloped far west side--Litchfield, Goodyear, and waypoints--will show you mile on mile of ghost strip malls. Everywhere you look out there, you find shiny new retail space sitting empty. Some of it was briefly occupied by businesses that shut down and left; most of it has never been leased.

Meanwhile, despite having been slowed a bit by the recession, builders continue to blade the Estrella mountains, where they're still tossing together stick-and-styrofoam crackerboxes eave-to-eave around fake "lakes" still more golf courses, without enough buyers to support the retail infrastructure that was supposed to have occupied all those empty malls.

One of the developers has the hilarious nerve to call its fake lake a "yacht club"! :-D

Having attended one of these meetings in Laveen last week, I must say that it was a refreshing example of our planning staff reaching out to residents for input. Whether your extreme skepticism is justified or not, I trust that our input was well received and will be put to good use. And more importantly, I appreciate that our community's views were expressed in a public meeting and they generally reinforced our village's general plan and the guiding document that has become something of a holy grail around these parts: The Southwest Regional Growth Study.

Your point that these meetings are often ineffectual is duly noted. But at least we are promoting an ongoing dialog between residents and our local government, which has already proven valuable in some of our own backyard rezoning battles. Post housing boom, newer and older residents of Laveen generally tend to get behind similar development guidelines, which is not only reassuring but it also contributes to our ongoing community-building efforts.

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