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Know the West

‘I’ve always been a fan of getting people to empathize with a landscape’

#iamthewest: Giving voice to the people that make up communities in the region.


Luke Swenson/High Country News

Naturalist and outreach specialist with The Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill 
Tucson, Arizona

As a young child growing up in Tucson, I fell in love with the desert. I’ve always been a fan of getting people to empathize with a landscape and with beings which are not human. That comes from working with Indigenous communities and personal life experience. This desert is in some ways very harsh and unforgiving, but the adaptations that plants and other animals have developed to survive this place are very specific. There’s a perception that these plants and animals are tough and resilient — and therefore immune to the threats of climate change, human expansion and extraction of resources. But they are only resilient within specific thresholds, and they can hardly keep up with the unprecedented extremes we continue to experience on our planet, year to year.

Luke Swenson is a photographer and storyteller based in Tucson, Arizona. He is co-creator of Atascosa Borderlands, a community-based storytelling project that documents a remote part of the Arizona-Sonora border.

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