Rafael Fajardo

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Scorching Phoenix Plans For An Even Hotter Future - Peter O’Dowd via NPR

I read this piece waiting for the obvious and didn’t hear a whisper of it.

Scorching Phoenix Plans For An Even Hotter Future - Peter O’Dowd via NPR

The view is bleak from John Larsala’s front drive in West Phoenix. The tree in front of the house is dead, and the grass is dead, too. In fact, there’s no grass at all anymore.

On a household income of $18,000 a year, Larsala can’t afford the water charges required to keep his yard green. “All these trees are dying, because I can’t put water on it,” he says.

So Larsala’s children and their friends play basketball in the barren yard. That is, until June comes around and the blazing Phoenix summer finally forces everyone inside.

John Larsala struggles to keep his family cool during the Phoenix summer. The shade trees in his front yard have died because he cannot afford to water them.
Peter O’Dowd/KJZZ

John Larsala struggles to keep his family cool during the Phoenix summer. The shade trees in his front yard have died because he cannot afford to water them.

For three months, Larsala will shut the doors and windows tight. To save money, he soaks his kids in a cool bath and delays using the air conditioning until just before bedtime.

"Whether you are inside or whether you are outside, the heat costs you money," Larsala says.

When told that climate scientists predict the state will get even hotter in the future, Larsala is taken aback.

"It’s going to be hotter than what it is right now? Who gonna live here? How are we gonna live here?"

The question is poorly answered in the remainder of the piece. Taller buildings, more shade trees, more public transit, blah blah blah. A long list of partial measures, but no where is the obvious.

In the near future, people will not be able to live in Phoenix. There will be inadequate water. The plants are all dying, because the city does not cool down below 100º F during the hot months. The costs of living in the hottest city in the US are simply too high. 

So, I was expecting to hear the obvious: people should move away.

In fact, it should be a national priority to move people away. Let’s move John Larsala and his family to Cleveland Ohio, or Detriot. Let’s pay them to dismantle their homes in Phoenix before leaving, and pay them to rebuild dilapidated ones when they arrive in the heartland.

The costs of waiting will be high. Unless national policies are set we will exhaust the aquifers in drought areas. Instead, we should equalize population levels to a point where the water — little as it is — will not be totally depleted.

So, no more golf course, no more new buildings, no more Las Vegas casinos.

But our totally ineffectual US leadership is caught up in an ideological war about whether there should be gays in the military, whether starving people should get foodstamps, and the taxation of millionaires. But climate change and its impacts are the greatest challenge to us — a hundred times more important than Obamacare — and we aren’t doing anything. They are kicking the can down the road.

I wrote a scenario a few years ago about The 2017 Resettlement Act, relocating people from California and the West back to the former rust belt and the state of Haiti. Drought and other violent weather was the primary cause, but the Bee Famine of 2016 was the tipping point. 17 states lost their statehood and reverted to federal territories, managed by the Department of the Interior, but in 2020 President Michelle Obama was willing to consider that at least some of the territories were almost ready to be returned to statehood.

Sadly, I fear that this sort of after the fact, far-too-late response to climate change is our fate.