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requiem for the desert by Amber V. '24

as temperatures rise higher

Written early September after a presentation by Spencer Glendon from Probable Futures.

I am from the desert.

I was once enamoured by green trees but now I am aware of the sameness of everywhere, the unique beauty of a mountain range of saguaros. Sah-wah-rows.

I am from Arizona, which means it’s my job to step in whenever someone complains of the heat and say, “You’ve seen nothing, sweet winter child. You’ve never tasted true heat.”


Rillito River bed

I stand by that but I hope they never will, up here. They don’t seem to like where the heat is at already — for the past three days people have been complaining. I grew so convinced it was hot that I expected the faucet water to be lukewarm when I asked for cold, the way it gets in Arizona in summer. I expected the wet towel in my room to dry overnight. It is not yet close to the summers I’m used to, the August I used to run in. But it’s getting closer, and each uptick in temperature is unnerving.

I went to a presentation yesterday. It was meant to shock CEOs into caring, to make them worry over how their businesses would crumble if the bedrock of our society came crumbling down. I was less shocked, and less concerned about the market, but one part stuck out to me: the presenter said, the climate you know isn’t your climate anymore. But the climate you’ll have to experience henceforth used to be somebody else’s. Learn from them.

He talked about putting shade over benches and closing windows to keep out the heat. I mean — obviously. In Arizona it’s hostile architecture to not have shade over bus stop benches, everyone knows that.

But I am from the desert. This is the sort of learning he’s talking about.

To be fair, it’s worse to have heat waves here because the city isn’t built for it. My dorm, Burton Connor, has no AC, and outlaws window ACs, the more affordable kind. Buildings are insulted to keep heat in, not let it out. 

But — where does my climate go? My desert, already on the edge of what is survivable? Do we plant our cacti where there used to be forests?  

It’s hard to go back home without feeling a certain anxiety. The Tucson I know fights capitalism and every time I come home, I make a pilgrimage to each coffee shop I love, wondering as I do if it will be the last time. Chain stores have started opening across the street from them, one by one. I don’t buy from those stores, even in Boston. 

I run by the river, drinking in the landscape. Our sunsets are the most beautiful I know. 

Last time I went back I realized I needed to appreciate the desert’s hardiness. That Tucson had been Tucson for longer than I was around. The desert survived; that’s what it evolved to do. It kept on after I was gone.

And yet.