Out There

Some people are firmly anchored in the borderlands of rural Arizona.

In the desert of southern Arizona, near the Mexican border, people don’t stay for long. Well, that’s not entirely true. Some places are marked by staying, of hundreds or maybe thousands of years of homemaking. It’s just that this place doesn’t invite it. The summers tell you why. They clear out the towns, kill the migrants trying to cross the desert, and make the Border Patrol officers long for a transfer.

But some people stay. They revel in the painful hallucinatory heat, or at least tolerate it, as we all do with the less comfortable parts of our homes.

The people who thrive here seem to have adopted a more simpatico relationship with the landscape. They have no desire to impose order on it, or maybe they’ve long since stopped trying. No one has been there longer than the Tohono O’odham, whose ancestors date back to prehistory. Since the Spanish missionaries made their mark on the region, St. Francis has been the Tohono O’odham’s patron saint and the excuse for a great annual party. Last October I attended at the invitation of twins Terri and Klayla, who sang religious songs at the event. Driving to the festival site, in the heart of the reservation, I watched dust devils spin like tiny tornadoes, crossing the road and trying to take my car with them. I thought they were beautiful, the way they glided across the desert like a swarm of birds. I got out to photograph one and it passed right through me. I found it to be a kind of transcendent, breathtaking experience, but feel a little silly about that. By the end of the day I was quite sick of them. At the party, when a big gust came we’d turn our backs to it. Sometimes we’d stay ducked over, covering our heads, for a long time. Women would moan and children scream, but afterward it was as if nothing had happened. A couple of times the gusts were so strong that they pulled up the big white tents nailed to the earth with steel ties. The party pressed on. When I drove away at sunset, my eyes stung and the dust crunched in my teeth. A layer of it covered my skin and hair, even the insides of my ears. The party, I later learned, lasted until sunrise the next day.

Locals bristle at the idea that there is nothing more to this part of the country than a border. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which is adjacent to the Tohono O’odham reservation and was once a part of it, is the lushest patch of desert I’ve ever seen. At a 75th-anniversary celebration of the park, Superintendent Lee Baiza concluded the ceremony, "There is more to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument than just Homeland Security infrastructure." It registered as wishful thinking, not accurate description. The monument straddles the U.S.-Mexican border, and visitors have to pass through two checkpoints just to get there. Even in the peak tourism season during the winter, the Border Patrol agents seem to outnumber the hikers. It can feel more like a police state than a park.

It’s hard to find a stretch of this country more thinly populated than southern Arizona. For those who call it home, that’s often the attraction. This region has a reputation as an out-of-the-way place with a soft spot for the odd ones; isolationists who revel in, or at least tolerate, the eccentricities of their neighbors. It’s a lifestyle that appears antithetical to the border, which was once a mere notion, a simple line in the sand, and has increasingly taken the form of walls, checkpoints, multimillion-dollar facilities, and agents. A man-made construction in what is still a very wild desert. This border, which has so gripped our country, has still failed to entirely define a place.


The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.


Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

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