Singed feathers

The “bird on fire” of Andrew Ross’ new book on urban greening is, of course, Phoenix, Ariz., named for the ignited and reborn bird of myth. But in the case of this Phoenix, on the front lines of climate change, immigration and conflict between the haves and the have-nots, that rebirth will take some serious effort. Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World’s Least Sustainable City doesn’t just throw in the towel, though; there are a number of things that could be changed to make Phoenix work as something other than a gas-guzzling, water-poor excuse for a desert town. Ross’ argument is that technology alone hasn’t a hope of saving Phoenix; it will require approaches that change the way of life into one that understands we are past the point where a sprawling, low-density city can expect to hold onto its cars and its yards. Best of all, Ross includes some lessons for those of us who do not live in the desert. If Phoenix can change, perhaps it won’t be so hard for us.