The Long Stroad Home

Phoenix has a way of stirring up mixed feelings in me. I spent the first 20 years of my life here, so it’s always going to evoke a sense of home. Kind of.

Spending the next 15 years of my life in Eastern Europe with brief stops in Asia and the Middle East, has made me feel less and less at home in Phoenix.

Nice weather and great Mexican food are nice, but I don’t think I could actually live here again. I’m hardly an activist or a doomer, but the utter unsustainability of the place is hard to look past. I don’t see any plausible future in which Phoenix remains a metropolis in 5 generations. The lawns, golf courses and car dependence don’t bode well.

I’d love to be wrong and dream of a future of rammed earth houses, walkable communities and sensible agriculture. Unfortunately, the hubris of Anglo-American culture combined with the same extended drought cycles that wreaked havoc on local indigenous civilizations will likely lead to massive depopulation in the coming centuries, even decades. A Fukuyama-Pinker optimism doesn’t match the realities of the American West.

I’m not a general pessimist. Human ingenuity will thrive on the whole, but geography is stacked against particular places. Angkor Wat likely fell due to climate change, but that didn’t stop other places in Southeast Asia from thriving.

Looking at the stroads of Phoenix, it’s hard to see them morphing into the sort of vibrant European and Asian cities that I’ve come to love living in. Walking to everything I need, bustling outdoor cultures and strong urban cores bring a quality of life that no McMansion can match. Sure, many things are more convenient here, but it’s just not me anymore.

It’s weird to think about the place you were born like this. Emigration is a curious thing. For some, where they’re from will always hold a sort of mystical status; for me, Phoenix is a nice place to visit but the feeling of home has faded away over the years.