Goldwater's crystal ball: Fifty years ago, senator penned predictions on Arizona at 100

You might be surprised at how much he got right
2012-02-14T00:00:00Z 2012-02-14T06:47:32Z Goldwater's crystal ball: Fifty years ago, senator penned predictions on Arizona at 100 Arizona Daily Star
February 14, 2012 12:00 am

Barry Goldwater was a U.S. senator in 1962 when he wrote this piece for the Tucson Citizen newspaper. On this centennial day, see for yourself what Arizona's most famous native son said about growth, the desert, water and more. Notes about how things are today are in bold.

Fifty years from now, if things go well, I will be concerned only with heavenly surroundings, so any shortcomings or overstatements of this forecast will be of no concern for me. (Goldwater died in 1998 at the age of 89.) But my children, then ranging from 68 to 75 years of age, and my grandchildren and great-grandchildren of all ages, will be living in this heaven on earth, Arizona.

So I looked into my crystal ball, determined to project the image of my native state 50 years hence with the accuracy of experience and the hope of love, trusting in the ability of man to restrain his bad side so that the good things I predict will be allowed to come true, and conversely to stimulate his good side so that man will make them come true.

Having come to that decision, I loosened my legs from the restraining ceiling of my desk and departed for another long walk across the floor of the desert, which has been a part of my life.

A desert rain, just passed, accentuated the pungency of the greasewood and I stopped my walk with the dreadful first decision that the man of 2012 would not be able to walk from his doorstep into this pastel paradise with its saguaro, the mesquite, the leap of a jackrabbit, the cholla or the smell of freshly wet greasewood, because people will have transgressed on the desert for homesites to accommodate a population of slightly over 10 million people. (Arizona's population stands at 6.4 million according to the 2010 census. Up from 1.3 million in 1960.) The forests will still be protected, as well as our parks and monuments. But even they will have as neighbors the people who today enjoy hardships to visit them.

But it will be the deserts that will support the majority of the new homes. Phoenix will have a population of about 3 million, and Tucson will grow to about 1.5 million. (82 percent of Arizonans live in metro Phoenix or Tucson.)

Phoenix and Tucson will remain the two largest cities in the state, with Phoenix being either the fourth- or sixth-largest city in the United States. (Top US cities by population: 1. New York 2. Los Angeles 3. Chicago 4. Houston 5. Philadelphia 6. Phoenix)

However, spectacular increases in population will occur in Yuma, Flagstaff, Casa Grande, Sierra Vista and some yet unborn cities in the Harqua Hala Valley, near Cave Creek and east of Tucson. (Cave Creek has 5,000. The other cities remain unborn.) The growth of Glendale, Peoria and Avondale will parallel that of Phoenix proper, so that 50 years from now all of these cities will be contiguous with each other and with Phoenix, and will form a city complex not unlike the present city of Los Angeles. (This is true.)

Long before this period of 50 years passes by, the large coastal cities will be getting their drinking (water by) leasing the inland streams for inland consumption. But to augment our major sources of water we will also, long before 2012, be using water piped from the ocean for domestic purposes. (Southern California gets 30 to 40 percent from groundwater. The rest is imported from the Owens Valley, Colorado River and the State Water Project. There are tiny, test desalination plants.)

As farmland gives way to homesites in the central valleys, farming will be done in an extensive way in the already developed areas around Yuma and in, as yet, undeveloped area in the Centennial and Harqua Hala Valley lands with much greater diversification of crops than we now have. Cotton, our main crop today, will dwindle in importance by the time 50 or more years pass because more new man-made fibers will replace to a marked degree the need for cotton that we know today. (Lettuce, heavily planted in the Yuma area, accounts for 14 percent of farm receipts. Cotton is 6 percent.)

As the population center of the United States continues to move rapidly to the west, so will industry as to be near this new concentration of consumers. Arizona's principal economic growth will be in the industrial field, with emphasis being on items of a technological nature. It will not be many years before industry will become an important part of the economics of most Arizona cities, whereas today it is more or less confined to a few. (Technology is important in terms of high-paying jobs, but government is the top employer, followed by retail trade.)

This industrial growth will, of course, depend upon the maintenance of a good governmental climate; but I expect the people of this state in the next 50 years will be able to maintain the same kind of good government at the state, county and local levels that the people of the first 50 years have to an almost complete degree.

Indian reservations as we know them today will no longer exist because the government will have deeded the lands to the Indians who now live on them. (That hasn't happened.) Indians will be with us in increasing instead of decreasing numbers, (This is true.) and as they become more and more educated, they will play a more and more important part in the life of Arizona. (Indian gaming has contributed $757 million to the state, cities, towns and counties since it started in 2004.)

Our ties with Mexico will be much more firmly established in 2012 because sometime within the next 50 years the Mexican border will become as the Canadian border, a free one, with the formalities and red tape of ingress and egress cut to a minimum so that the residents of both countries can travel back and forth across the line as if it were not there. (There's a doozy.)

Fifty years from now, even though Arizona's population density will reach about 100 per square mile, there will still be lots of open space in which man can enjoy himself. (It's 56.3, up from 11.5 when Goldwater wrote this piece.) Our watersheds will improve, our forests will continue to grow, and even the Grand Canyon will be about 3 inches deeper. (The National Park Service laughed when we asked about this. How did Barry measure? they wondered.)

Arizona will continue to be the haven for people who seek an outlet for initiative and a reward for work. The frontier challenges will exist then as they do today, for man's progress never stops unless man stops it. Fortunately for our state, our men have always and will always want to go forward, not backward.

My children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be as happy living here as I have been during the first 50 years of statehood, because the people will remain warm and kind and thoughtful. And even though much of what we now know as desert will have disappeared, there will remain a sufficient amount of natural beauty to satisfy all of the desires of the 10 million people who will live here.

In fact, even though I hope to be on Cloud Nine or Ten or whatever they allot me, I am sure that 50 years from now I will look down on this delightful spot on Earth and be envious of the people who call Arizona their home in the year 2012.

 

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