“Beautiful weather isn’t?” said the postman standing in the rain. Indeed, mismatches between the expected and the actual result are seemingly everywhere. Think of the state politicians blaming teachers for allowing classes to be too large while lobbying at the same time to have more teachers laid off. Think of the professor who never answers questions and never explains the key concepts of the course; however he expects students to read the assignment, and be prepared to answer the professor’s questions. Then there is the issue of Mad Magazine showing Alfred E. Neumann face down in the desert crushed to death by a parachuted crate of first aid supplies. How ironic, a classic mismatch between the expected and the actual result. Sometimes you hear people say “that’s ironic,” when it is not. For example, rain on a wedding day is not ironic, just bad luck. However, if the weatherman predicts sunshine, and it rains cats and dogs, well that’s ironic.
No need to look far; take the Verde River in our midst where there looms a classic irony regarding its fate. At one time 17 different groups in Yavapai County were busy creating ways to manage the Verde River, all is well many people thought, and the river is in good hands; not really. Ironically those groups for the most part have had their own agendas even as word spreads that the Verde may run dry in places this summer.
Another irony close to home is the dilemma Sedona Recycles is trying to solve. Most visitors to headquarters at 2280 Shelby Road see huge piles of plastics and cans inside the gate, figuring that income must be pouring into the non-profit’s coffers, and something is being done for the environment to boot. Not so reports staffer Meghan Kincheloe, “because of ‘lightweighting’ we are making less money while doing more work.” Manufacturers now save money and greenhouse gasses are reduced by making aluminum and steel cans and plastic bottles thinner and lighter; less energy is needed and landfill waste is reduced. But guess what? “Lighter products mean we have to do 50 percent more work to sell the same amount of materials,” reports Kincheloe. So here we have a welcome environmental trend but which is giving the time-honored recycling center the fits. Since sale of recyclable materials funds wages for SRI’s staff; as sales slump due to lightweighting other expenses continue to rise, fuel, maintenance, repairs, utilities therefore threatening the whole enterprise after twenty-two years. To meet this challenge, plans are in the works for the most ambitious fundraising campaign in its history.
Another potential cultural treasure in Sedona may be threatened, too. Ironically rumors abound that certain city higher-ups are plotting to somehow to halt projects completion despite the fact that they have voted for time and again.
Speaking of ironies, early in the 20th century the deserts and remote canyons and valleys in Arizona underwent a transformation in the eyes of easterners and Europeans. Land which was once despised suddenly became a warm and sunny wonderland where gold and silver poured from mines in the mountains and fruits of all kinds could grow on the land. In the eyes of thousands and later millions it became an welcome escape from all the rapidly urbanizing cities back east, a kind of promised land where souls could be nourished and lungs restored. Enter the ironies. Soon people came to build railroads, bury nuclear waste in the sands, shoot rockets into the universe; also came were great earth-moving machines which wiped out cactus and all worrying about water shortages while building thirsty golf courses and kidney-shaped swimming pools. No one put it better than the legendary professor Peter Wild in an interview with the writer some years ago: “The same people benefiting from our region’s exploitation lobbying with near religious zeal for the deserts preservation…we have embraced a huge set of contradictions.”
But wait a minute. Hats off to the Verde Watershed Association and the Verde River Basin Partnership for joining forces for at least one year, clearing the muddy waters as one scribe put it leaving irony behind in pursuit of specific actions to save the Verde.