Tag: environment


Rising Gas Prices and the Future of Phoenix


[image from a documentary entitled, "The End of Suburbia"]

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the rise of oil/gas prices here in the US and wondering what affect it will have on us long-term.  I (like many others) are convinced that high gas prices aren't going away anytime soon. Our economy is not so good at going backwards when it comes to pricing.  We will inevitably (and it is scary that this is so) adjust to the cost of $4/gallon gas and forget that we once complained that gas was $2/gallon or then $3/gallon.  

While this may be the case, high gas prices will certainly affect the future of the United States of America.  We are already adjusting and beginning to imagine life beyond the automobile, or least to life with less automobile. We are driving less, using public transportation more, and inventing new words like "staycation.  I personally am excited about the renewed value many are putting on riding a bike and focusing more on local consumption. But despite these new and creative ways we are getting by as Americans, we are still doing it with a sense of hostility toward high gas prices.  In other words, our negative postures toward these news ways of life imply that if and when gas prices roll back we'll return to our gas-guzzling car-loving ways. The implication is that we'll sell our new Prius for that SUV, allow our bicycles to grow cobwebs and dust once again, and return to our excessive carbon-footprint ways.

I want to suggest we take a different view to all of this.  Sure the pain of $70 tanks of gas leave us wondering how we'll stretch our paychecks to survive and we get less product for more money all the way around (high oil prices affect everything from food costs to electricity costs).  But maybe this is the best thing that could happen to our future as a people.  Maybe this pain we currently feel will finally force us to reimagine what it means to be an American. Possibly we will finally have the creative courage to look at other ways of living – one that are more responsible, other-focused,and ecologically-friendly.  I sure hope it will.

As I have been imaging the affects that this gas crisis might have on the US, I can't help but begin by imaging what a new Phoenix might look like as a result of raising gas prices.  Here are some initial thoughts:

– might residential development in Phoenix look more urban as opposed to the typical Phoenix suburbs.  Will this finally force us to value high density residential living and to see it's value as sustainable development in contrast to suburban development?

– will we finally take public transportation seriously? I am wondering how many of the numerous people who've told me that, "the Phoenix light rail project is the biggest wste of money" might be rethinking that perspective.

– might we move from automobile-driven development (high parking space per capita) to community-driven or sustainability-driven development.?

– we will finally take our existing urban spaces seriously and attempt to make up for the decades and decades we've neglected them?  Might new urban spaces emerge throughout the valley?

– will this all lead to the rise of an "ethos of the other" for those who call Phoenix home?  In other words, will we discover what it means to deeply share life and city with those our live on our streets?  Will we remember how to be neighborly?

– will we through all of this discover a new commonality as Phoenicians that bind us together into a city not of buildings, infastructure, and municipalities, but a city of people sharing a common identity of place, story, and common dreams.


I for one, sure hope so.


 BTW: I wonder how the crash of the housing market will play into all of this as well


Some Links:
"Downtown Phoenix sees benefits from the economic slump" from ABC15
"Is America's suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare?" from cnn.com

A couple of links…

Here area few links that are worth passing on…

Running the Numbers – the latest series of photos from artist Chris Jordan that puts into perspective the enormity of American consumption.  This is a great example of how art can serve as a tool for social awareness and action. via Gizmodo

The Burrito Project – a network of localized chapters that make burritos to share with the homeless.  This is a grassroots effort without leader, agenda, or headquarters.  Check them out on the web or on myspace.

Happy surfing. 

Earth Day/Week


It seems as though I am constantly playing catch up recently, feeling days and even weeks behind.  This past Sunday (April 22nd) was Earth Day.  Despite my first intentional of the important day celebration last year, this year's Earth Day came and went before I even realized the date.  Kelli was out of town and I was doing the "Mister Mom" thing in the days leading up to Earth Day – so give me some slack.  So I've decided that instead of simply calling it a loss and waiting for next year, I am going to this whole week as "Earth Week".  I am really curious of what changes I might consider making if I intentionally thought of living as green as possible for a week.  How might it change my habits?  I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: got some new house keys cut so I don't have to enter/exit the garage when I leave/come home, rode the bus into downtown this morning (something that I have wanted to do for a long time, but just never have)

UPDATE: Riding the bus has been a pleasant surprise.  It only prolongs the journey a few more minutes.  It forces me to walk from house to stop/stop to location and then back.  And the best of all, the journey is filled with silent and restful sitting/waiting.  I can read, pray, plan, think, observe, and converse without having to worry about driving. I am study the routes and to find additional ways to add the bus into my routine.

The Symbol Life


While in Northern Ireland last week, I had a chance to talk further with others who are a part of an emerging global community deemed,"The Symbol Society". While this society is in it's infancy stages (we've been accused of having a name and a logo and so were trying to form something logo-worthy around those pieces of identity), what is emerging from this conversation is a sharing in a common way of life – a symbolic one.  This symbolic life attempts to as Kester has said recently, "… to point to something beyond ourselves. It is to live in hope, realizing that everything we do will have some ill effect somewhere, but believing that to keep raising symbols will, in some small way, have some greater impact at some unknown time in the future."  I like Kester's definition of this symbolic life. 

There is something wildy attractive to me about intentionally living in a way that points to an alternative, counter-cultural existence found in the kingdom of God.   As symbols we will fail to fully represent what/who it is our actions point to, but at some point all symbols fail. After all, a symbol is not the thing it represents – it just communicates something about it.  It is my hope that my existence (along with all those on this symbolic journey) will communicate well the beauty, the hope, the generosity, and the love that is central to the kingdom and the king we point to.

It is along these symbolic lines that a local community is beginning to take shape here in Phoenix.  It is appropriately called, "symbol", or more formally, "the symbol communities". 

May we be effective symbols. 


Engaging culture or living counter-culturally?


Travis and I started talking about counter-cultural living today and ended up at this deeply troubling (at least to me) question – "As followers of Jesus are we called to be counter-cultural or to engage the culture?"  The two ways of life seem contradictory at first, but can they be?  I think the answer to the question is "yes" – Yes, we are to live counterculturally as citizens of a kingdom that is counter-cultural to our present world AND yes, we are to flesh out this faith within the culture we find ourselves in. 

There is much to say here, but I want to let it brew a bit.  In the meantime….I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thinking about bottled water, air conditioning




I have been thinking a lot about my envoironmental responsibility and ecological footprint lately.  I wanted to pass on some of the concepts that have been challenging me.  Ignorance is bliss on these issues, but it's still ignorance 🙂

Bottled Water  –

My friend Justin posted this article months ago about the ecological effects and realities of bottled water production that got me started thinking on the subject.

Treehugger.com (I know it sounds cheesy, but it's a great site for ideas/products to live more green) posted this article on this church in Canada that  decided to boycott battled water for theological reasons.  Not sure I am ready to go as far as to make it a black and white theological issue to make water a commodity, but it challenging none the less.  And I appreciate their conviction (even if they are Canadian).

Kelli and I have decided to go "tap" instead and except for a recent case of "flavored water" (what in the hell is that all about anyway) that mysteriously appreared after our last trip to the grocery, we have been fine without the luxury of bottled water.

Air Conditioning –

In California, Kelli and I never used the AC in our house, we had it, but never needed it (I miss that beautiful place).  But here in Arizona, the story is a bit different.  120 degree summer days make it really hard to not bathe yourself in super-cool AC.  Kelli and I resist as much as possible and try to keep our AC set at 85 degrees as much as possible.  I will admit this is for financial reasons more than it is for environmental reasons, but I have been realizing that our thriftyness benefits the planet quite well.

Kester Brewin, a British teacher, author, and faith practicioner I recently met and respect a ton, recently wrote on his blog about the US's use of AC as a way of life.  You can find the article here.  It is interesting to hear a non-American's perspective on the American need for such cool surroundings.  The bottom line is that we use WAY more AC than the rest of the planet (which I guess isn't all that surprising, but it is embrassing).  Kelli and I recently returned from Mexico where most homes, stores, and public places are sans Air Conditioning.  It was hot and humid while we were there and we found ourselves running back ot our hotel daily longing for the rush of ice-cold air that met us as we opened the door to our hotel room.  The locals must have thought we were insane, spoiled, and definitely American.  Gotta think through this AC thing a bit more.

Anyway – just some rambled thoughts on being more responsible with the planet we call home.


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