Phoenix was founded before Arizona became a state in 1881 by a former Confederate veteran, the former happening on Valentine’s day, 1912. It was said of one the founder’s convoy, the city should be named Phoenix because it was built on the ruins of another civilization. Perhaps it was an acknowledgment of a greater truth, the abhorrent wars with the Native Americans or the fact that it’s easily one of the sunniest places on earth, second only to Yuma, AZ on the Arizona-California border.
Theodore Roosevelt, famous for his stance on conservation and the establishment of the first national monument in the U.S, once said this of the Grand Canyon and more generally Arizona:
“Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
Travelling around the state, brief of my time was, I was struck at how much of the land was unadulterated, visible as it would have been to my grandfather and his before him. For vast stretches of land, no cell phone reception, not so much as a radio signal could be caught. While it could be interpreted in some senses that this means that Arizona is lacking in development, I would contend, as Theodore Roosevelt might, that some things are fine as they are. Development doesn’t always have to imply that a community gets a Walmart, Starbucks, or some other feature of our modern urban sprawl. Progress too isn’t best defined by our ability to connect, multitask, and go fast. In the interest of speed, of volume, of capital, we’ve erected “McCities” and the internet as both testaments to our increased growth and capacity as a society as well as hallmarks of our hubris and decadence.