Review: Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City
The book is an attempt to critically evaluate the concept of sustainability in the metropolitan area of Phoenix, keeping always an eye on the lessons and aspects that may apply beyond the region. Throughout eight chapters, the author exposes his view backed up by an extensive literature review as well as numerous interviews to activists, academics, politicians and citizens engaged in the struggles and key issues of the future of the city. Recognizing its usual low priority in the the policy agenda, Andrew Ross pays particular attention to the idea of environmental justice and the social aspect of sustainability, arguing that the sustainable future will be socially inclusive and just or it will not be.
As a foreigner temporary living in Phoenix, the book has been an invaluable source of information to get both the background and history of the city as well as the state of opinion (some of the facts reach past 2011) regarding several key topics. Often times during the months I’ve been reading the book, I’ve found myself coming back to some of the facts and background offered in the book and relating many places, names and events to one or another chapter. Definitely a useful read for the newcomer to the region. One last tip (and a mental note to myself): if you are unsure about committing to read the the more than 300 pages, get a taste of the main issues brought to debate as well as the author’s position in all of them in the slightly more than 10 pages of the last chapter.