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June 09, 2009


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Circa 1970 was the crucial period for understanding our preordained future. The example of LA loomed large, and the birth of environmental consciousness got people to thinking in terms of long-term sustainability issues. This is the period Portland rose to the occasion and drew its line in the sand - growth boundaries. This is the time of The Club of Rome, Earth Day, The Population Bomb, the EPA, and the Clean Air and Water acts.

What's amazing to consider is that this wasn't one of those Red vs Blue divides where certitude replaces thinking. Even conservatives were concerned about overpopulation and quality of life. It's why someone as crusty and reactionary as Eugene Pulliam could publish an editorial lauding Santa Barbara for its lack of freeways. Today, he'd be tarred as a liberal elitist.

The counter-revolution was in full swing by the late 70s. Reagan's twinkly-eyed gaze reconciled all doubts and America buried its brief flirtation with responsible growth limits. And no city was faster than Phoenix in replacing doubt with faith.

In retrospect, everything seems inevitable. That's the problem with history when you want to scream at the pages as some horror is shown unfolding. Stuff happened and it likely happened for compelling reasons. That doesn't make it right but it should make us sit up and understand the Enemy, whom we get to know all-too well during quiet moments.

The Phoenix story is the common one. Portland's is the uncommon one (and the subject for ongoing demonization by the libertarian vandals who still rule American consciousness). I was shouting about this 40 years ago to the mostly perplexed gazes of people content to get along by going along.

We lost because there's not enough content to The American Dream. The house, car, and pension were nice but failed to lift this nation to a deeper purpose than wealth and smugness. It's why the cornucopian propagandists won the battle for America's soul. We never had a chance because greed is a much more powerful instinct than love.

I'm a native of Phoenix, and lived in Portland the past 28 years. During that time, one city became enriched, the other impoverished of spirit and direction. One is a mess, the other is not.

Visit either one and you'll know which is which.

A skillfull and carefully crafted analysis. Impressive comments posted here.

"My chief goal in writing the Phoenix 101 post about the old city was to dispel the notion that “there’s no history here,”"

Sadly there is a truck load of "history" here and it's from several centuries BEFORE your 1950. People too often forget that areas around Arizona have a much deeper past than even back East.

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