Monday, December 29, 2008

Arizona Dreaming

I was spending the holidays in Mesa, AZ (http://www.sustainlane.com/us-city-rankings/overall-rankings) and thought I'd share my holiday with the Appleseeds, since it included some sustainable surprises. Unable to successfully fight against the primary social activity that I sometimes forget still grips the rest of the nation, I watched an inordinate amount of television with my family. This did, however, include a great C-Span panel discussion on energy efficiency (http://c-span.org/Watch/watch.aspx?MediaId=Energy-A-13558), which I would love for someone to be able to figure out how to stream/download - it may only be able to be purchased from C-Span. Hmm. In any event, there are amazing things that are pouring through the media that deal with environmental policy and law that we can share with our CUNY community. Maybe the likes of a C-Span panel discussion is too dry, but there are tons of free video podcasts that might make great SIT time events. If we get a regular thing going where each of our members could be responsible for a week's showing we could become a gathering spot for students to stop in and see our weekly environmental law and policy updates from places like http://www.viropop.com/ or http://www.green.tv/. And if anyone is looking for some purely audio sustainability news (um, you could be) then look no further than our own university - this should open the CUNY site in itunes, which has a podcast called Sustainable Times: (http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browse/cuny-public.1691156758)

While in Arizona, I also got to drive (I LOVE to drive) my parents' Prius around the desert and made them drive with me on the brand spanking new commuter light rail line route (http://www.valleymetro.org/metro_light_rail/) since I couldn't actually ride on it - it opened the day AFTER I left town. It was also a really good excuse for me to go to Phoenix proper, since after 4 visits to see my family in Mesa I had never actually been to downtown Phoenix. Considering the blanket of brown haze that covers the Valley of the Sun there's a curious concentration of tricked-out pickup trucks and other vehicles suffering from gigantism, which leaves me bemused on the economics of gas guzzling automobiles and the disconnect between personal choice and environmental degradation. I can't help but think that its a whole lot of Field of Dreams mentality going on - if you make them bigger people will buy - but maybe there is data out there that says otherwise - that somehow consumers demanded that they drive tanks. Or maybe its the supposed hostility of the desert environment that 'drives' everyone there to get bigger cars, or the spread out scale of the place just makes people believe that they need something bigger. I tend to get around the U.S. to visit friends and family in different places and Phoenix is definitely the place with the biggest cars. There was one Smart Car plying the six-lane streets that belonged to an organic pizza place, and it looked as out of place in Phoenix as a sprawling metropolis looks in the middle of the desert. Given the vehicular social climate in the Phoenix metro area, I'm not sure that I'm so positive about the rail line's future. It will surely be a test of the policy-makers there to implement creative incentives for mass transit use. One creative incentive that was tabled at one of our meetings last semester was about preferred parking for carpoolers in the CUNY Law parking lot. I'd like to see us flesh out that idea and propose it. We're an auto-heavy law school in a mass transit dream of a city because of our location therein, but we're also a pretty darn social and conscious group so it sounds like a workable incentive to aid parking problems and our school's carbon footprint simultaneously.

I did go out of town with my parents to a magical place called the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum (http://arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/). Its one of the last remaining natural riparian zones in Arizona, so if you're ever in the area I highly recommend it. Its a special treat to see water bursting forth in the middle of a desert. The arboretum reminds me of two things closer to home - the Queens Botanical Garden and the New York water supply. We have got to get ourselves en masse to the Queens Botanical Garden. I saw we plan an early spring field trip. And speaking of field trips, I'm still up for going to the Museum of the City of New York (http://www.mcny.org/exhibitions/current/Growing-and-Greening-New-York.html) for the sustainability exhibit there. In terms of the city's water supply I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's worked with the campaign to fight against development around the reservoirs and other issues about keeping our amazing New York water supply as naturally clean as possible. The water issues in Arizona are definitely much different from those here in New York, but short-sighted water management there has landed the state in a real mess and we need to make sure we're not allowing the same general development ├╝ber alles approach to occur here - or perhaps not allow it to bleed out of the city too much.

I hope everyone's break has been enlightening and relaxing simultaneously.

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