Page 4 – Bird on Fire – Andrew Ross
Ross highlights one particularly bright spot in the fight for sustainability in the Valley: the Gila River Indian Community. This Native American reservation, located just south of Phoenix, had been locked in a legal dispute for more than 80 years over access to water from the Gila River. Finally, in a landmark decision in 2004, a court ruled in the reservation’s favor. While the ruling has complicated the plans of developers elsewhere in the Valley who cannot build without a water supply, it also means that residents of the reservation may be able to return to their original relative prosperity as successful and sustainable farmers, which they enjoyed before years of severe economic and social hardship. But even here, sustainability isn’t a given. It remains to be seen whether farmers on the reservation will opt for the water-efficient, diverse agriculture of their ancestors, or whether they will follow the more recent, and less sustainable, industrialized model.
Whose vision of the future will win out? That is the real question for the Gila River residents and for Phoenix as a whole. Sustainability is anything but a given in the Valley of the Sun. But it is certainly not too late to change course.
Tim Høiland is a writer, communications specialist and international development worker living in Phoenix. He explores the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace in the Americas on his blog at www.tjhoiland.com.