Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Place is Hot

The city of Phoenix, Arizona is known as "Hoozdo" or "the place is hot" in the Navajo language. I bet you didn't know that but it's an appropriate name. According to Wikipedia , out of the world's large urban areas, only some cities around the Persian Gulf, such as Riyadh and Baghdad have higher average summer temperatures. The temperature reaches or exceeds 100 °F (38 °C) on an average of 89 days during the year, including most days from early June through early September. With high night-time temperatures as well, that makes it hotter than Mexico City, or Athens, or Mumbai.

Last weekend I happened to read a thread here asking about global warming and bad weather, and I ended up conversing with Greg, who is a high school teacher in the Arizona city of Mesa. I've rejigged our conversations into a interview style. When you read this , try thinking of the phrases "climate change" and "my city in decades to come"

CB: Do you think global warming exists?

Greg: Yes, I think global warming exists, and I think it's reversible, but I doubt if it will happen. We're too addicted to things that help it along (if not cause it, which is still the debate, I guess). I live in Arizona! What do you think is the worst weather? If it's not the 115 degree temperatures, it's the few nights when we had violent windstorms. Fun!

CB: How do you cope?

Greg: Chris - everything - and I mean everything - is air conditioned. During the summer people rarely go outside except to get in their cars and go to the mall. If I didn't have a pool I'd never leave the inside of the house. At night it does get a bit uncomfortable, even inside, but we have big fans and the AC and I rarely sleep with sheets on. No fun whatsoever.

CB: I don't know hold old you are - but can you say if it is hotter now in Arizona than it used to be? What is the effect on nature - do you have gardens, do you have any birds or wildlife around?

Greg: no, I've only lived in Arizona for five long years, but I can tell you that it has gotten hotter here. The presence of lots of people in the past thirty years or so means more blacktop and Phoenix has become what they so nicely call a "heat island." At the same time, they've cut down the trees that used to give shade (they're trying to bring that back) and we have lost the orchards that used to be all over the valley and would keep things relatively cool and would definitely help in the nighttime. I have spoken with long-time residents who speak of summer nights in the 70s, which is almost unbelievable to me. So on a local scale, we have definite "global" warming and it's almost completely due to the human element.

CB: Orchards - what sort of fruits grow in the orchards - I'd guess it's lemons or oranges?

Greg: If there were any orchards left here (they have mostly been wiped out for development) it would be citrus fruits. Oranges used to be huge here.

CB: How do cats and dogs fare in this environment - the heat seems very tough on dogs? And what about children - do they need much sunscreen?

Greg: I don't know about dogs, because we don't have one, but a few of my friends do, and they seem fine. Our two cats are indoor cats, and they just lie around a lot. Interestingly, in the summer they lie in our kitchen window, which would seem to be hotter than most places, but they deal with it. They drink a lot of water, too. Kids need a lot of sunscreen, although I don't put any on them when I just go out in the car. If we go in the pool, they need it, but our car, like most, has tinted windows, so they don't get the full effect when we're driving around.

CB: Typically, where do people from Phoenix/ Mesa go on vacation?

Greg: People here go to San Diego or Rocky Point in Mexico (I can't remember the Spanish name, but everyone here calls it Rocky Point). Apparently (I've never been there) it's pretty much an American town in Mexico on the Gulf of California. Or they head to the northern part of the state, where there are lots of small towns with small resorts.

CB: If the temperatures are getting higher, how is this being viewed by the politicians and leader writers in your area? Is global warming accepted as a threat? Do people thinks its sustainable to have so many people living in your area if the temperatures go higher still?

Greg: Chris, the problem with AZ is that most people are not natives, and therefore don't have much of a connection to the area. I certainly don't, but then again, I don't want to stay here. The politicians and the populace are far more interested in expansion into what is essentially a flat land (we have some hills, but nothing to stop the expansion).

Housing is plentiful and relatively cheap, and people move here simply for the winter weather (which is nice) and for the jobs, which are also plentiful. They don't care about the effect on the environment and elect people who reflect this, and by the time they've been here for a few years and realize the problems, a new influx of immigrants is here and clamoring for more space. I think everyone accepts that we have a problem, but no one is willing to tell people they have to rein in their expansive tendencies and understand that they can't pave everything without making everything hotter. This is really the pure American West - you get what you can, and damn the consequences! People who come here, for the most part, want to be left alone by the government - they hate taxes and hate anyone telling them what to do.

That's a wild generalization, of course, but that's pretty much the way it is. Everyone wonders about what we're going to do when we run out of water, but nobody does much about it.

CB: Why do you want to move on from the Phoenix/ Mesa area?

Greg: I don't like Phoenix for oodles of reasons. I don't like the weather, and the few months of nice weather in the winter doesn't make up for the nine or so months of awfulness. I don't like the desert surroundings, either. And I came here from Portland, which had a lot of theater and good restaurants and interesting places to go. Here there's nothing. We moved here because of the job situation, but that has changed, so we're looking to leave.

CB: As a last thought , I guess that what you save on low gasoline prices (price of diesel here now is 99.9 p per litre - that's about $6.96 per us gallon) you spend on aircon?

Greg: I guess 3 dollars a gallon is cheap by European standards (it doesn't feel cheap!), but you're right - our electric bill this month was over 300 dollars. Of course, in the winter it's usually very small because we don't have to use the heat.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Rocky Point, Mexico is a/k/a Puerto Penasco

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