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I mentioned earlier that I’d talk about my reading list. I’ve got a few books I’ll review for this site. The one I’m reading currently is about how the U.S. Southwest, where I live, will be affected by anthropogenic climate change. The book is ‘A Great Aridness‘ by William deBuys.

IMG_0143A few excerpts from the intro:
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As deBuys mentions in his intro, the housing market in the Southwest, in particular Phoenix, took a hit in 2008 but is expected to get back on the [population] growth track in the near future.

I will go so far as to say that not only growth but capitalism itself may be in part dependent on a growing population,” Pacific Investment Management Co.’s Bill Gross wrote. – link

Capitalism is fueled by population growth. More people = more consumption = increased GDP and tax revenues.

Elliott D. Pollack, CEO of the economic and real estate consulting firm Elliott D. Pollack & Co., said Arizona’s economic growth depended on adding 100,000 people every year. The population boom fueled growth in “people–serving” jobs, such as doctors, real estate agents and salespeople, he said.

Pollack said he doesn’t expect Arizona to return to the job growth of 2007, just before the crash, until 2015.

“It will be almost a lost decade,” he said. – link

The following satellite pictures tell the tale of the exploding population in Phoenix, even coining a new phrase to describe such explosive growth suburbs as “Boomburbs“…

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In the early twentieth century, when big American cities spawned satellite cities, those satellites were often downscaled mimics of the cities they surrounded. Like New York City, for example, its suburb Newark, New Jersey, had its own downtown. In the second half of the twentieth century, however, a different kind of satellite city emerged: a populous suburb with no central business core. “Boomburbs”—suburbs with populations of 100,000 or more that have maintained double-digit growth over decades—are primarily a phenomenon of the southern and western United States….

…Like much of the American Southwest, southern Arizona is arid, and agriculture depends on irrigation. As a result, cultivated fields—rectangles of green and brown—contrast with the pale tan of the naturally bare desert soil. In the 1989 image, most of the land east of Chandler is agricultural. Between 1989 and 2009, however, most of the fields give way to the blue-gray colors of buildings and pavement. In 2009, only a small number of agricultural fields remain, mostly east and south of Route 202. Because many of the United States’ boomburbs occur in the arid Southwest, planning for their water needs is particularly challenging for metropolitan and municipal governments. – link

Getting back to the book’s theme of climate change and the U.S. Southwest, a ballooning population is running headlong into a future characterized by a “new form of desertification… [brought on by] industrial society’s abuse of the atmosphere.” Radical transformation of our corporate-monopolized economy is the only way that climate change can effectively be dealt with. This would, however, appear all but impossible when any form of true government oversight and responsiveness to the citizens has been thoroughly corrupted and sidelined by corporate interests. According to a review in Truth-Out, deBuys illustrates in detail how corporate power is preventing any such changes:

…Of all his stories documenting the choppy and chaotic effects of global warming in the Southwest, especially the rising temperatures and the plagues of droughts, fires, and bark beetles killing thousands of acres of forest trees, I found the natural history and political drama of Mount Graham the most compelling. This is an example where political corruption and higher temperatures collude in unleashing the decline and fall of the Southwest…

…DeBuys sums up both the science and the biopolitics (ruthless politics) sealing our fate. He sees the triumph of corporate power as a resurrection of the 1520 Requerimiento, Spain’s legal justification for the enslavement and murder of the resisting indigenous people to clear the way for Spanish plunder and political control in the Southwest and Latin America. Indeed, the Requerimiento marked “the momentum of Spain’s imperial impulse,” no different than “the momentum of contemporary climate change today.”

The connection of past colonialism with its present variety, triggering and making global warming possible, is an insight into and a lesson on how the future is likely to be…

There are two major differences between the avarice of the Gilded Age Robber Barons and that of today’s all-powerful multinational corporations. Firstly, the corporations of today are much more omnipotent and control society through a form of despotic rule called ‘inverted totalitarianism‘. As Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer exclaimed last summer, “They were pikers compared to what we’re doing now.” Secondly, an egregious wealth gap and the political disenfranchisement of the worker do characterize both periods, but now the world must contend with climate chaos along with a host of other environmental problems, any one of which can bring down modern civilization.