George Packer (Togo) writes cover story for July/August ATLANTIC

In the news —


George Packer (Togo 1982–83)

For its July/August issue, The Atlantic has made climate change its focus, leading with today’s cover story by staff writer George Packer  on the rise and possible fall of Phoenix, Arizona.

In his cover story, “The Valley”— the second-longest that The Atlantic has published in the past 40 years — Packer provides a sweeping, kaleidoscopic look at the precarious political and physical ecology of Phoenix, demonstrating that the country’s fastest-growing and most dynamic region contains, in microcosm, all of America’s most contentious and dangerous issues: climate change and election denialism, education and immigration, homelessness and zoning, the future of the working class and of a multiethnic democracy. Phoenix’s contradictions are so great — explosive population and economic growth paired with existential political and environmental challenges — they raise questions about the city’s sustainability, and about the sustainability of the American political project. Phoenix, Packer argues, makes you keenly aware of human artifice — its ingenuity and its fragility; growth keeps coming at a furious pace, despite decades of drought, and despite political extremism that makes every election a crisis threatening violence.

“Democracy is also a fragile artifice,” Packer concludes, after spending eight months reporting in Phoenix. “It depends less on tradition and law than on the shifting contents of individual skulls — belief, virtue, restraint. Its durability under natural and human stress is being put to an intense test in the Valley. And because a vision of vanishing now haunts the whole country, Phoenix is a guide to our future.”

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