Arizona Without Us

I’m currently reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, a thought experiment about what would happen to the natural and built environment if humans suddenly disappeared.

Interestingly, although this book takes him all around the world, from deep forests in Poland to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, he mentions Arizona several times. This became slightly less interesting when I found out he was a professor at the University of Arizona in my hometown of Tucson for ten years, but the information in the book from all areas of the state is still fascinating.

Phoenix: In the chapter talking about the fate of nuclear power plants and waste if humans were to suddenly disappear, Weisman mentions the largest power plant in the United States: the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station located outside of Phoenix. The part goes on to talk about the operation of the plants and temporary storage exhibited by most plants.

Northern Arizona: Another chapter talks about the immortality of plastic. The Hopi Indian Reservation is the longest site continuously inhabited by humans in the United States, since about AD 1000. The Hopi used to throw their waste off the mesas in which they resided and nature took care of the rest, but once consumer items were made of more lasting material, these people soon became surrounded by growing piles of trash.

Southern Arizona: This is by far the most fascinating of the Arizona bits, especially since I grew up in Tucson and my summer job took me all around southern Arizona. When humans (Clovis) first inhabited North America over 10,000 years ago, they hunted the massive mammals of the time, including giant sloths and mammoths, to extinction. There are 14 known kill sites of the Clovis people, containing evidence of large megafauna processing and extensive tool making. Three of these sites are just outside of Tucson: Murray Springs, Naco and Lehner.

It’s amazing how much natural and cultural history Arizona has! I wish I had known about this earlier.

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