Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City PART 2

Well I've reached the halfway mark of "Bird on Fire." Here are a few insights I have gained about the book and about the Valley.

The most important piece of advice I can give is to read "Bird on Fire" with a healthy dose of skepticism. Like all books, the author has a clear bias and I found Andrew Ross's bias to be a little extreme. Almost all opposing arguments are left out and a few of his environmental beliefs seem to distort his conclusions. Despite this bias, however, the author provides a well researched history of the city of Phoenix and I have already learned a lot from it.
The author's history of Phoenix can be divided into two parts. First, the history of Phoenix on a large scale. This includes the ancient Hohokam settlements, the Anglo arrival, the development and boom years of Phoenix, and lastly the effects of the "Great Recession." These facts are apparent to a local who was taught them in school or has lived through them. As one would expect, there is particular emphasis on water use. The water section is a little dry, but would be worth while for anyone who wants to find out more about where your tap water comes from.

The second part of Ross's history lesson is much more interesting. In it, he focuses on the recent history of downtown Phoenix* with an emphasis on the local government's attempts to "revitalize" it and lure businesses back into the urban core. In these chapters, he covers local facts that help open the eyes of the reader to how the downtown developed and the significance of certain buildings, neighborhoods, and businesses. His information on downtown Phoenix is far from comprehensive, but it gives the reader a peek into the stories behind the headlines and events that occur in downtown Phoenix. Some of his topics include the background for the light rail, First Fridays, the construction of the stadiums and convention center, and the politics in the new downtown artist community.
One topic I found interesting and will look into is the author Jon Talton. He is a Phoenix native who wrote, among many other pieces, a series of mystery novels that take place in Phoenix. His novels do not simply use Phoenix as an arbitrary backdrop to the actions of the characters, but apparently his writings draw inspiration and ideas from the culture and history of Phoenix. I can imagine his books being interesting reads for any local residents. (Don't worry. If I pick up one of his books, I will resist posting any more book reviews)

Overall, the first half of "Bird on Fire" has had some ups and downs. So far, I would say that this is worth reading for any resident of the Valley.

Now I have to try and finish the rest before it's due back at the library...

*Unfortunately, Tempe is only mentioned occasionally, so definitely no mentions of Escalante Neighborhood.

1 comment:

  1. I found your review of Bird on Fire very informative. I'm reading No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and its Hidden Costs by Andrew Ross, and have come to a similar assessment about him as an author. I find his sociological commentary very interesting but his level of bias detracting from my reading experience. I may pick up Bird on Fire next anyhow.