With its delicate and finely balanced biomes and some of the most dramatic and exotic scenery on earth, Arizona has over the generations been a haven, a laboratory, and a rallying point for environmentalists and ecologists.
One of the biggest threats to the state’s extremely varied ecosystems is growth; much of the desert has been paved over and crowded with homes, while the upland forests host droves of overbuilt homes just waiting for a wildfire to burn them to their foundations. There are no signs that this trend is going to let up any time soon, either.
The constant influx of people has led over the years to environmental problems far beyond the mere pavement of desert and clearing of forests. Growth and the state’s founding impetus to glean profit from the land have led to the overpumping of groundwater and the damming and taming of most of the state’s rivers. This has altered the green riverways so completely that many species of native fish are now as good as gone, and nonnative plants line the mostly dry riverbeds, crowding out native riverine flora like cottonwoods and willows.
Climate change, scientists say, is likely to increase the state’s environmental woes, and, coupled with an ongoing drought that has been more or less eating away at the state for more than a decade, may lead to shortages on the Colorado River, water from which the vast majority of urban Arizonans, including Tucsonans, depend.
Some scientists have recently predicted that Lake Mead may dry up by 2025, while others believe the current human culture in Arizona may, one day in the future, suffer the same collapse as did the Anasazi, the Hohokam, and other complex societies who have tried to make a go of it here, leaving behind the ruins of their rise and fall but not much else.
© Tim Hull from Moon Tucson, 1st Edition