Maxed Out 

How "man" took nature and made it his own

Since there haven't been any scandals on the local political front this week and since it's still too early in the game to waste the ones I'm keeping in my back pocket, I'm taking a break from politics this week. Actually, with the exception of wrapping up my shift doing momcare, I'm taking a break from everything this week and enjoying the last few days of warm sunshine I'm likely to feel until April.

The sunshine is courtesy of the geographic and climatic confluence of the U.S. southwest. The warmth is courtesy of both the sunshine and global warming, thanks to whose joint efforts it was still over 100°F earlier this month, having cooled to a very satisfactory 90°F since my arrival.

Global warming got a big boost this week when Richard Muller, a prominent physicist and former skeptic, pissed off the climate change deniers who'd funded his study of the world's surface temperatures by stating the obvious: the Earth is getting warmer and it's not the result of leftover dinosaur farts. The last report was he'd gone into hiding.

Anyone who has ever lived anywhere near Phoenix, Arizona, is uncomfortably aware of global warming. Unfortunately, many of the people living here have lost enough brain cells to the heat that they're suffering from one of its most tragic side effects - they've become Republicans. As Republicans, they can't admit global warming exists. It's a tenet of the party, just like lower taxes mean more jobs and we still don't believe the obviously fake birth certificate provided by that black man in the White House.

Fifty or so years ago, Phoenix was a cow town of moderate size. Its climate, while still approaching brutal during the six or so months of summer, was far more benign than it is today. The dog days of 110°F heat were moderated by an infinitesimal level of relative humidity; it was a dry sauna. The climate was healthful and healing to easterners and midwesterners wracked by cold, wet winters and humid, pollen-laden summers. By the time the bleakest days of February rolled around, just about anyone living north of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Rockies would have gladly sold their first-born to be basking in the Arizona sun.

Naturally it didn't take long for developers burdened with questionable scruples - which is to say all of them - to seize upon this wonder of nature. Tying up vast tracts of desert, they lured the ill and infirm, and particularly the asthmatic, westward with full-page newspaper ads offering the good life. They touted ranchettes, Westernese for tract houses, wide-open spaces, unlimited sunshine and youthful good health. To give this land of Gila monsters, rattlesnakes and saguaro cactus a more homey touch, at least one land baron went so far as to tie red apples onto scrubby pine trees and plunk them down in front of the ranch-style haciendas featured in his colour ads in newspapers as far-flung as Hoboken, New Jersey.

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