I live in Phoenix, and year after year, it is routinely the hottest metropolitan area in America, regularly posting temperatures higher than other Southwestern cities such as Las Vegas, Tucson, Dallas, Houston and Albuquerque. With nearly 4 million people (most who have moved here in the last two decades), the Valley of the Sun has become a boiling sprawl of asphalt. Parking lots, dizzying freeway expansion and building out, not up have left us residents battling increasingly dangerous temperatures — never mind the already scorching desert climate here.
Phoenix Civic Space
Phoenix’s Civic Space Park, aglow at night
It’s fitting that Blog Action Day is focusing on climate change. After years of mindless sprawl in every direction, Phoenix has become a concrete jungle, and city planners are now left scrambling to figure out how we’re going to prosper, let alone survive the next 40 years. With summertime temperatures soaring well into the 110s, it’s already hot enough here, people. In outlying areas such as Gilbert to the east, or Buckeye to the west, temperatures are typically five to 15 degrees cooler than the city core at any given time, regardless if the sun is out. The desert heat is literally being absorbed and trapped near the ground, urban heat island style. The more buildings, roadways and development, the worse it gets. We just experienced one of the hottest summers on record, even for our desert climate. Our average number of days over 110º has risen from nearly seven in the 1950s to about 22 in the 2000s. See? It’s only continued to get worse. So, what can be done? Shade is the name of the game. Downtown Phoenix is sponsoring a tree planting day in November. New building developments are situated to reflect the least amount of light. Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix, which opened earlier this year, will have 70% shade coverage when its trees and plants reach maturity. The park was purposely developed without parking spaces in attempts to cut out sun-sucking asphalt, and promote public transportation and foot traffic. These are small steps, but at least we’re making some progress. With more awareness and like-minded people in the fold, Phoenix may be able to reverse its scorching reputation. Well, at least somewhat.