City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

April 26, 2017

April 26th

Filed under: Dandelion, Meadow Mile 1.3, Plants, red bridge, Stream, Weather — canopus56 @ 8:18 pm

Biophilia – Part V – Biophilia Expression

5:30 p.m. Another heavy rain storm dominates the day, and the canyon parking lot is nearly empty. In the heavy rain, there are still three or groups walking with umbrellas and eight or nine bicyclists careen down canyon during a break in the rain. On Chimney Rock above the red bridge, I notice that its vertical face is covered in a green cloak of various small plants and mosses. Usually, the rock is red and barren. Using the monocular, the sandstone cliffs between mile 0.7 and mile 1.2 and the small sandstone massive on the west side of the road near mile 1.1 are also covered with small plants. The coming heat of May will quickly bake them off, but for now they are a welcome sign of spring’s explosion. In addition to the winter ice and spring thaw and the raw force of rain, these plants are the other force that will tear down the cliffs over geologic time. Even the Zen Rock is ignominiously colonized by dandelions, and dandelions along the road are reaching their peak bloom. The stream remains swollen and loud, but it is still four inches below its maximum spring peak.

* * * *

Stephen Kellert at Yale classified the values by which people relate to nature as a predicate to analyzing evidence supporting the biophilia hypothesis (Kellert 1993, Kellert 1984, Kellert 1976). Those values are a useful topology for understanding the nature experience:

List of Biophilia Values

Source: Kellert 1993, p. 59, Kellert 1984.

* Utilitarian – material exploitation of nature.

* Naturalistic – satisfaction from direct experience of nature.

* Scientific – Systematic study of the structure, function in relationships in nature.

* Aesthetic – physical beauty of nature.

* Symbolic – use of nature for metaphorical expression.

* Humanistic – strong emotional attachment or love to nature.

* Moralistic – ethical concern for nature.

* Dominionistic – dominance of nature.

* Negativistic – fear, aversion, or alienation from nature, e.g. biophobia.

To these, I would add two other values that may be subsets of elements already in Kellert’s topology: grieving and spiritual. People come to the canyon to grieve (July 22nd), and it even contains Memory Grove, a place of contemplation on those lost to death. In the 1800s, the modern forest model for cemeteries became popular, and this reflects how people associate death with a return to nature. In contrast, the Romans built sub-surface necropolses that were separated from the natural environment. There is a long history in western Judea-Christian history of prophets who go from cities to nature for meditation and reflection.

At home, I review my own journal entries and the digests of historical Utah newspapers regarding the canyon. Kellert’s biophilic topology provides an insightful and encompassing list of how I and other city residents have related to the canyon since the arrival of the Euro-Americans.

* * * *

On April 26th, 1948, two young cyclists were injured while racing down City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 26th, 1909, the City was ready to let several contracts, including installing a pipeline between the Twentieth Ward and the main in City Creek Canyon (Intermountain Republican). On April 26th, 1909, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the previous Sunday, residents flocked to parks and for strolls up City Creek Canyon.

Advertisements

April 25th

Filed under: People, Weather — canopus56 @ 8:57 am

Benefits of Nature – Part III – Mental Health Intervention and Crime Reduction

6:30 p.m. There was a great storm last night and this morning. Satellite images from yesterday showed a giant rotated storm containing a state-sized eddy of clouds and rain centered near Utah and the canyon that stretched from the Canadian border down to the Baja Gulf in Mexico. It was a night of heavy to medium rains that continued for most of today. I am always impressed and fascinated by weather events on such a grand scale; they re-enforce the immensity of the Earth and our relatively small scale. The effect of the storm is positive. It was re-wetted the soil to a few inches below the surface, and the storm will support the canyon forest’s ongoing spring leaf-in.

A disturbed person has written the words “We are all infinite” on a sticker and affixed it where it can be seen by persons walking up the road.

* * * *

Exposure to nature is also useful as a treatment to mental health issues. Attention Restoration Theory (ART), discussed above, is the theoretical underpinning of the many outdoor nature programs seen today for troubled young persons, e.g. Outward Bound. A period confined in nature restores the executive mental functions that are reduced in such youth. Roe and Aspinall found that comparing mentally health and mentally ill persons who took walks in either natural or urban settings, that mentally ill persons had a relatively higher positive response to natural settings (Roe and Aspinall 2011). City laws typically require the removal of vegetation around homes to remove hiding places for burglars and to provide visibility for law enforcement when policing neighborhoods. Conventional wisdom is that more green space provides more places for criminals to hide. Kuo at the University of Illinois and Sullivan investigated this commonplace belief in light of studies where residents report that they subjectively feel safer in more vegetated neighborhoods (Kuo and Sullivan 2001). Kuo and Sullivan, including control and analysis of many potential confounding factors, found that the degree of vegetation in a neighborhood was inversely correlated with higher personal, violent, and property crime rates (id). Safer neighborhoods have more vegetation in which criminals might hide, not less. They speculated and suggested for future research that one potential mechanism that explains these lower crimes is exposure to nature reduces levels of neighborhood aggression (id). They also suggested that heavily vegetated neighborhoods might induce more people to use their residential streets, and this puts more active “eyes on” witnesses on homes that then deters criminals.

* * * *

On April 25th, 2009, City Councilperson Eric Jorgensen in a letter to the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune, argued in favor of the City’s proposal to create fire breaks in City Creek Canyon. On April 25th, 1993, the Utah Heritage Foundation announces it is offering a tour of Ottinger Fireman’s House, a museum, at 233 North Canyon Road in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune; Salt Lake Tribune, May 10, 1993, May 15, 1993). Visits to the House have dropped off since the road to Memory Grove has been closed for the last year (id). (In 2017, Ottinger Hall is a after-school center for neighborhood students.) On April 25th, 1934, a woman was fined $5 for accidentally setting a fire in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 25th, 1920, the Salt Lake Herald published an artists rendered of a proposed iron bridge that would cross City Creek at 7th Avenue. The bridge was to be part of a proposed memorial WWI war dead at what is now memorial park. On April 25th, 1915, the Salt Lake Telegram reported an overview on the use of prison labor that completed construction of a widened 7.5 miles of road suitable for automobiles up City Creek Canyon. The Telegram described the prison program in which vagrants were arrested and then put to work on the road as desirable method of removing the homeless from city streets and providing uplifting rehabilitation (id). On April 25th, 1897, Mayor Glendinning and other city officers inspected City Creek out of fear that a large avalanche had impounded stream water behind it (Salt Lake Herald). They found an avalanche 500 feet long and 80 feet deep across the stream, but the stream had eaten through the blockage (id). Councilperson Morris described two avalanches:

“[The avalanche] extends up and down the canyon for a distance of at least 500 feet, and is fully 80 feet in depth. It may have been a greater snowslide at one time, but the greater portion of it is now ice. It brought down with it great trees, tearing them up by the roots, boulders weighing almost a ton, and smaller debris and hurled them half way up the mountain on the north side. . . . At this point we abandoned our horses and proceeded up the canyon about half a mile further where another slide, larger, but very similar to the first was met. . . . Both slides came from the south side.”

April 24th

Benefits of Nature – Part II – Restoration of Well-Being and Stress Reduction

4:00 p.m. Heavy rain falls all day, and I am running in a medium to light downfall. Even so, there are twelve runners and walkers on the road and enjoying a wet canyon. The stream is swollen. The rain brings out the colors of the tree trunks: the Box Elder, cottonwood and River birch all have slightly varying grades of gray. Under this light and the soaked trunks, orange lichens have a high contrast. The red trunks of the Red ozier dogwood bushes also starkly contrast with their two-inch sparse green leaves. In the winter, these red trunks contrasted again the white snow. The Gambel’s oaks all show signs of leafing through mile 0.2, but they slumber thereafter. All other trees through mile 1.2 have significant unfurled buds. Green begins to dominate the upper story of the forest along the road, and Solomon’s seal dominates the understory. I hear about eight unseen chickadees in the forest’s thickets.

* * * *

Attention Restoration Theory (ART) proposes that the daily mental strain of modern life leads to cognitive burn-out and that a natural environment can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes. In 2012, Ruth and Paul Atchley at the University of Kansas and David Strayler at the University of Utah measured the creativity of 56 participants before they entered three-day Outbound Bound retreat in the wilderness were technological devices were banned (Atchley et al 2012). Post-wilderness participants had significantly higher scores on a creative problem-solving task as compared to pre-wilderness participants. This is a psychologist’s way of showing that vacations are necessary for restore ones mental functioning. In another small study, Howell and colleagues at Grant MacEwan University surveyed 452 undergraduate students regarding their degree of connectness to nature and their sense of emotional well-being (Howell et al 2011). They found that a person’s sense of connectedness with nature, measured using accepted psychological test scales, is positively associated with their sense of emotional well-being. But these are small studies involving non-randomly chosen populations.

* * * *

Research also indicates that exposure to nature reduces stress. Previously discussed studies involving a self-reported sense of well-being based on using accepted psychological test scales may be describing a subjective response to nature that has no physical counterpart. Such studies lack objective physiological, biochemical measurements. Thompson at the University of Edinburgh and colleagues measured outdoor activity and cortisol in salivary secretions over two days in 25 unemployed persons between the ages of 33 and 57 years of ago (Thompson et al 2012). They found a positive association between the slope of their daily cortisol levels (which naturally decline throughout the day), an increasing self-reported sense of well-being, and their increasing levels of activity in natural areas. Persistent low-levels of cortisol are indicative of continuing emotional stress, e.g. as in PTSD. Park at the Chiba University and colleagues used a portable electrocardiograph, a wearable blood pressure monitor, salivary swabs and psychological tests to measure changes in heart rate, ECG, and cortisol levels before and after exercise by 480 urban residents before and after traditional Japanese Shinrin-yoku nature walks in forests (Park et al 2010). Different types of electrocardiograph data is correlated with activity in the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Park et al found that as compared to urban settings, walking in forests lowered cortisol levels, pulse rate, blood pressure, increases relaxation (as measured by parasympathetic nervous activity) and lowers the flight-or-flight response (as measured by sympathetic nervous activity). Alvarsson and colleagues found in laboratory experiments on forty university students that the sympathetic nervous system, measured using skin conduction, recovered faster to loud natural sounds as opposed to loud noise, e.g. urban noise (Alvarsson et al 2010). This suggests that interrupting living in an urban environment saturated with traffic noise over-stresses the fight-of-flight (symathetic nervous) response and that breaks in a natural setting might aid in restoring symathetic nervous system. Again, these are small studies involving non-randomly chosen populations.

* * * *

On April 24th, 1992, Beacon Elementary students held a one-mile hike in City Creek Canyon support of the creation of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (Salt Lake Tribune, Tribune April 25, 1992). According to Rick Reese of the Shoreline Trail association, progress is being made on agreements to start construction of the segment between the University of Utah and City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, April 25, 1992). Reese’s vision is to be able to “to walk from Emigration Canyon to Shriners Hospital without traffic or constraints[.]” (Reese was a legendary early rock climber who with Former Mayor Ted Wilson, explored many now classic rock climbing routes in the Wasatch. Reese went on to be an officer of the Great Yellowstone Coalition in Montana.) The Children’s Association to Revive the Earth will also plan to plant trees with Gov. Norman Bangerter on Arbor Day. On April 24th, 1908, the Police Department did a sweep of vagrants seeking to arrest one with experience handling explosives. A skilled prison laborer was needed to dynamite rocks during the construction of City Creek Canyon Road (Salt Lake Herald). R. B. Matthews, the City Creek Canyon water patrolman, impounded 13 stray cattle found in the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 23rd

Benefits of Nature – Part I – The Restorative Effects of Simulated and Wild Nature

3:00 p.m. On this overcast day, the parking lot is full and the stream still runs higher from recent rains. At mile 0.3, a round a bend in the road and startle a female mallard who is stand overlooking the stream. Ten feet in front of me, she rises in a flight response that is a flurry of molted dark browns mixed with light browns and white. Her receding figure is punctuated by bright rump feathers.

Local bird observer Brian Olsen reported at Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory’s “E-bird” list (Cornell 2016) that on April 21st, he saw or heard a extensive list of native and spring migratory visitors including Turkey vultures, a Red-tailed hawk, a Cooper’s hawk, Peregrine falcon, a Scrub jay, Northern flicker, Chukar, California quail, American robin, two Black-capped chickadees, House finch, a Lesser goldfinch (Spinus psaltria), and a Broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphour platycercus)

* * * *

Ulrich also cites human health and cognitive restoration responses to nature therapy also provides indirect support for the biophilia hypothesis (Ulrich 98-108). Patients exposed to to nature while confined to a hospital accelerates their healing (id), and resting in an unstressed natural environment accelerates the brains recovery of executive and cognitive functions after they have been dulled by stress (id). This idea has given rise to an entire architectural philosophy called biophilia design, and its impact can be seen in many new urban buildings that seek to integrate wide natural lighting windows with views of natural environments into office working spaces.

Whether or not study of nature restoration supports the biophilia hypothesis, the restorative and healing quality of nature continued as an active area of research between Ulrich’s 1993 summary and the present. Ninety-percent of all time spent by humans of developed nations are spent indoors and between 1982 and 2008, there was a declining per capita trend in the amount of time that developed nation residents spend outdoors, although total recreation days continues to increase (Pergams and Zaradic, 2008). This trend raised concerns about the impact of that time on both physical health and mental health. Research conclusions about the effects of nature exposure provides scientific support for the commonplace that nature heals and restores. Capaldi at Carleton University and colleagues review benefits of exposure to nature on ones sense of well-being (Capaldi et al 2015). Those benefits can be characterized as increasing or maintaining hedonic well-being, that is a subjective emotional well-being consistent of positive feelings and satisfaction with ones life, and increasing or maintaining eudaimonic well-being, that is a general sense that one is functioning well with a sense of meaning, autonomy and vitality (id).

In 2015, McMahan of Western Oregon University and Estes of the University of Wyoming conducted a meta-analysis of thirty-two studies involving 2,356 participants concerning the effects of exposure of nature on emotional well-being (McMahan and Estes 2015). They reviewed studies that involved actually going into nature as opposed to viewing images of natural environments. They found an moderate increase in positive affect from short-term exposure to nature, found no difference between the effect of exposure between managed nature (e.g. urban parks) and natural environments, and they suggested how future research programs could be improved to provide better results. For example, research has not addressed dose-dependent exposure. Does increasing the amount of time spent in nature have an increasing affect on emotional well-being? Coon and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of 11 studies with 833 participants that compared the effect of exercising outdoors in nature verses indoors, and they found an increased sense of well-being from exercising outdoors as opposed to indoors (Coon et al 2011). Lohr summarized how studies from 1984 through 2000 have indicated that exposure to nature reduces stress, improves social interactions, speeds recovery from illness, reduces mental fatigue, increases attention and reduces violence (Lohr 2007).

Do true natural environments have the same effect as managed open spaces like parks? McMahan and Estes’s meta-analysis did not find a difference, but other researchers have reported a distinction. White at the University of Exeter and colleagues analyzed survey results of 4,255 participants in a national survey of English residents (White et al 2013). They found that respondents reported the level of restoration achieved was associated with a declining level of urbanization stretching from coastal areas, natural woodland forests, and urban parks. White et al also found that restoration was dose-dependent: higher levels of outdoor activities in a natural setting resulted in a higher level of restoration (id). Korpela and colleagues surveyed 1,273 randomly chosen urban Finnish residents for their emotional responses when using urban woodlands verses managed urban parks, and the restorative experiences of people using urban woodlands was stronger than those using urban parks (Korpela et al 2010). Korpela et al also found the the degree of worry over daily life, e.g. such as money worries, was negatively associated with utilizing the outdoors.

* * * *

Exercise outdoors has a higher restorative effect than indoor exercise. As time indoors increases and increased urbanization raises barriers to outdoor recreation, the issue of whether indoor verses outdoor recreation has the same health benefits and restoration of emotional well-being become significant. Hug at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and colleagues surveyed 319 persons at Swiss exercise centers during the winter months regarding their exercise preferences (Hug et al 2009). Persons who exercised outdoors during the winter months reported higher levels of restoration than those who exercised indoors, but Hug et al noted that this does not imply that exercising in nature is necessarily better than indoor exercise. People who exercise indoors also seek social connections and rate indoor exercise as better satisfying that equally important need. Hug suggested that the higher restoration from outdoor exercise is consistent with exercising alone. Outdoor exercise provides a release from social constraints and worries that would not be found in a social exercise setting, even where the social ethic of a club permits members to exercise alone and without social interruption from others.

* * * *

On April 23rd, 1997, a group of prominent locals who ran regularly in City Creek Canyon, remembered Tony Cannon on his passing (Salt Lake Tribune). Cannon was a descendant of the 1847 advance party. They were informally known as the “City Creek Maintenance Crew”. Tony Cannon, who ran in City Creek Canyon every day for years, dies from a stroke (Deseret News). Cannon knew “every landmark, among them Little Black, Smuggler’s Notch, Rudy’s Flat, Pleasant Valley and North Fork.” (id). On April 23rd, 1993, City officials warned about increasing coliform levels from unleashed dogs being found at the mouth of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 23rd, 1997, Tony Cannon, who ran in City Creek Canyon every day for years, dies from a stroke (Deseret News). Cannon knew “every landmark, among them Little Black, Smuggler’s Notch, Rudy’s Flat, Pleasant Valley and North Fork.” (id). Cannon was also known for hauling “armloads” of trash from the canyon during his runs. On April 23rd, 1916, 1916, the Salt Lake Tribune in a real estate promotional piece, noted that there was a housing construction boom occurring and that among the amenities of living in Salt Lake was the closeness of City Creek Canyon. On April 23rd, 1913, the City Commission refereed Morgan County’s request to construct a highway down City Creek Canyon to the Health Commissioner. On April 23, 1888, the Salt Lake Herald suggested that to solve the city’s water shortage, a dam could be constructed across the entrance to Pleasant Valley in City Creek Canyon.

April 22nd

Biophilia – Part IV – Twin Studies

2:00 p.m. It is the day of the annual running of the Salt Lake City Marathon. Nine-hundred and fifty of the world’s elite runners travel a course that comes down 11th Avenue, around the lower canyon’s rim on Bonneville Drive, and then down the lower canyon to Memory Grove. While historically since the 1920s, running races have gone up and down City Creek Creek above Bonneville Drive, this race does not. But the race course was removed by noon and the canyon has returned to its usual calm. A bright sun is out and the parking lot and road on this weekend day is full. Pairs of Painted Lady butterflies do acrobatic maneuvers. I count 10 white cabbage butterflies, 5 Painted Lady butterflies, 2 Mourning cloak butterflies and one possible Yellow swallowtail butterfly.

Near mile 0.7, a single male mallard flies up canyon along the road at head level and below the overhanging tree canopy. I laugh loudly with surprise and the mallard turns its head backward while expertly not missing a forward propelling wing beat. A rock squirrel scurries across the road, runs up a mature Box Elder tree, and without passing crosses fifteen feet over the stream by going down an overhanging River birch branch. It disappears underneath a cottonwood snag log near the base of the birch. Both are at home and know their neighborhood well.

The glade on the opposite side of the stream that contains purple phlox contrasting with yellow poison ivy blooms (March 29th and April 20th) looks just green today. The brighter sunlight washes out the color contrasts, and the true colors of the glade can only be seen in overcast skies.

It is also Earth Day, and as I drive home out of the canyon along Bonneville Drive, people are gathering to hear speakers on the steps of the State Capitol Building. The speakers, who include Nobel Laureate Mario Capecchi, will decry how the current wave of conservatism that dominates United States political and popular culture ignores the science of nature in favor of invented facts grown from dogmatism and ideology.

* * * *

Genetic heritability based on twin studies also provides indirect support for the biophobia negative hypothesis. One study of phobias in approximately 2,100 female twins indicated that the fear of threatening animals, such as spiders snakes and bugs, has a heritability range between 30 and 40 percent (Ulrich 1993 at 84). But twin studies have their limitations, as discussed by Guo at North Chapel University (Guo 2005). Guo notes such studies assume that like parents who provide a similar parenting environment are not more likely to marry (44), and maternal twins are dressed and raised more similarly than fraternal twins (id). These effects may overstate the presumed genetic effect. Second, under modern standards not present in 1993, twin study results should be considered provision until confirmed by molecular genetic studies (id). Many twin studies identify high proportional contributions from environmental factors. Guo notes that the real usefulness of twin studies is that they provide a pseudo-controlled experiment holding the effects of genetics constant and thus, such studies provide a more effective exploration of environmental factors. Guo points to his own twin study of the propensity for adolescent drinking. Although teen drinking has a genetic component, his and Elizabeth Stearns’ study revealed that having teen friends who also drink is a strong environmental factor.

In other words, genetic biophilia causation is not a binary choice. Genetics may be factor, but the stress of modern life may be a more significant factor.

* * * *

On April 22nd, 2017, Nobel Laureate Mario Capecchi gave at the Capitol Building and overlooking City Creek Canyon in which he noted how often he experiences dismay, “by how little science has penetrated our thinking” (Salt Lake Tribune, April 23, 2017). On April 22nd, 1932, S. S. Barrett asked the City commissioners for a license to prospect for minerals in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 22nd, 1927, more prisoners were sentenced to work as prison laborers on City Creek Road (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 22, 1896, the Salt Lake Tribune urged the city to build a city-owned electric power plant in City Creek in order to break the monopoly of the existing utility (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 21st

Biophilia – Part III – Nature Fearing Studies

External Link to Image

Collage of City Creek Wildflowers, April 2017. Source: Author. Plant names are in text.

6:00 a.m. Rain showers including sleet fell last night and through the morning. From the city floor on the westside of the valley, I have a sweeping view up City Creek Canyon and along the mouths of the six other Salt Lake County Wasatch Front canyons. The rain falls in periodic sheets and microbursts that, with the morning light, color the canyon with curtains of delicate and varied gray tones. The canyon and the front are a series of paintings that rival the old Renaissance masters and Rubens.

4:00 p.m. As the front passes, the afternoon has given way to bright sunlight, but the canyon is still empty and full of solitude. Painted lady butterflies play tag, and one follows me up the road for about fifty feet, stops and then resumes its trailing track. It repeats this behavior four times before flying off. Two mallards streak down canyon skimming just above the trees and flying directly above the road. The road is their marker. The sleet has wilted all the long new 4 inch leaves of the horsechestnut trees. The Box Elder leaves are barely effected, and the Gambel’s oaks do not notice because they remain largely in their winter slumber. The water marks on Zen Rock show the stream is six lower than maximum notwithstanding last night’s downpour.

All is green and fresh and more spring wildflowers bloom both along the road and along the Pipeline Trail: Starry solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum); Golden currant (Ribes aureum); Purple milkvetch (astragalus agrestis); Arrowleaf balsamroot; (Balsamorhiza sagittata); and western pink and blue-purple Longleaf phlox (Phlox longifolia Nutt.)

* * * *

The biophillia hypothesis has a binary opposite: biophobia. And the existence of biophia also can be proof of the existence of a genetic compulsion to be in and to like nature. Biophobic responses are adverse reactions to threats from the environment like spiders or snakes. Biophobic human reactions provide more definitive results because the body’s automatic response to negative experiences is more pronounced and easier to measure. Human negative responses can also be more easily conditioned in controlled experiments. Biophopia studies involve viewing pictures of threatening predators or poisonous animals while being conditioned with mild electric shock treatments. Psychologists then measure how quickly the body forgets the conditioning. If a person takes a comparatively longer period of time to forget the electro-shock conditioning, this is taken as evidence of a genetic predisposition for enhanced awareness of threats in a natural setting, genetic biophobia, and the biophilia hypothesis. Ulrich summarized many of the biophic studies through 1984 (Ulrich 1993):

* Involuntary physical responses to adverse conditioning when viewing natural threats such as spiders and snakes are more persistent than the response to neutral geometric shapes (Ulrich, 78).

* People exhibit stronger defense reactions when observing others’ fear reaction to threatening scenes like spiders and snakes versus neutral scenes (Ulrich, 79).

* After mild electroshock conditioning, a person’s autonomic body responses to spiders subliminal images of spiders and snakes embedded in films still takes a longer time to unlearn as compared to embedded images of non-threatening settings (Ulrich, 80).

* After mild electric shock conditioning, the autonomic body responses of persons viewing open natural settings are more persistent than when viewing low depth heavily forested scenes. This is interpreted as a genetic remnant of human evolution on the African savannas (Ulrich, 82-83).

There is an irony to these experiments, or its seems as I continue jogging down canyon. Showing a genetic basis of liking nature by shocking people with electric prods as they view photographs of nature in a controlled laboratory experiment seems far removed from the clean spring air and blooming flowers of today’s canyon. But these biophobic studies do lend more weight to the proof of a genetic basis for biophillia than the indirect proof of liking studies.

* * * *

On April 21st, 2006, snowpack in upper City Creek is 200 percent of normal (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 25, 2017

April 20th

Filed under: Long-leaf phlox, Mallard, Poison ivy, Weather — canopus56 @ 7:19 pm

Biophilia – Part II – Nature Liking Studies

External Link to Image

Snotel Snow Pack at Louis Meadows. Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service. (2017).

4:30 p.m. It has rained for most of the morning, and a brief interlude of sunlight breaks the coldness. As I start today’s jog, the Sun is replaced by the cloud shelf of the next approaching rain front. It is raining as I start today’s jog; this turns to hail near mile 0.8; but then the returns to a slow drizzle. Even in this inclimate weather, there are about ten people walking or running through the cold spring rain. The rain and snowmelt has surged to a new highest level accompanied by a deafening roar, but at the Zen Rock which I use to determine stream height, in a small rock protected calm near the shore, a single mallard sleeps while the stream gently rocks it back and forth. The stream lulls the bird to sleep. I would have missed the mallard since it was visible only through a thick of trees, but by turning its head around and resting it on its back, the mallard’s iridescent green neck made an incongruous flash of color against the otherwise grey and brown shoreline. The stream’s loudness may not continue because the mid-level snow pack is spent. The SNOTEL station at Louis Meadows, elevation 6,700 feet, reports that the snow pack is gone, but the Lookout Peak station at 8,200 feet near the canyon’s headwaters record about thirty-two inches water-equivalent snow left on the ground, or perhaps as much as four or five of snow feet once the air-content is included. This higher elevation snow might continue to feed the overwhelming white noise of the stream through most of May.

In the glade above picnic site 3 that holds purple Long-leaf Phlox, late blooming yellow poison ivy flowers have opened. The glade is also punctuated by shafts of dark horsetails, and it is framed above by orange complex inflorescences of a blooming river birch tree and on the sides by the new green leaves of small trees.

* * * *

In 1984, Nobel laureate E. O. Wilson proposed another explanation of humans’ attraction for nature by re-purposing Fromm’s biophilia term that may also explain my fascination with nature. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis stated that modern humans have a genetic predisposition to be attracted to and to be fascinated by nature, and this predisposition is the result of eons of years of natural selection acting on pre-history humans (Wilson 1984, Wilson 1993). Humanoid precursors that paid close attention to nature would have had a higher probability of surviving and of passing their genetic material to latter generations (id). Thus, my attraction to nature and stream noise is driven my genes.

The biophilia theory was subsequently was developed by many evolutionary biologists and in 1993, Wilson, with Stephen Kellert at Yale and Roger Ulrich at Texas A and M published a review of its development (Kellert 1993, Ulrich 1993, Wilson 1993). In that review Ulrich discusses evidence supporting the hypothesis based on studies done by many researchers. Types of studies include biophillic (liking nature and positivistic), biophobic (fear of nature and negativistic), and genetic heritability. The body’s biophilic reactions are more difficult to measure behaviorally and are less susceptible to behavioral conditioning. Thus, biophilic studies provide less definitive evidence for a genetic basis for human attraction to nature. Biophilic studies involve viewing images containing various degrees of natural through urbanized settings. Participants rate their preference for each scene. Several biophilic studies found that across cultures, people express a preference for viewing savannah-like open forests (Ulrich, 90-96). This is interpreted as indirect proof of a genetic preference formed as early man evolved on the African plains. A recent liking study replication reaching similar results is Han (2007).

Hence, I and other moderns are attracted to being in the canyon because our primitive ancestors grew up in such an environment. But liking studies are a weak sign for the genetic liking of nature hypothesis, a point that Ulrich concedes, because it is almost impossible to develop an ethical controlled experiment that tests the theory or that separates cultural conditioning for its genetic component. This indirect proof of a genetic compulsion could just as easily be caused by a purely sociological and psychological reaction where city dweller seek relief from a stressful modern life. Such indirect proofs, although tempting to believe (and I want to believe them), may be what sociobiology’s critics like Stephen J. Gould, called another “just so” story.

A more recent theory that extends and stretches the limits of the biophillia hypothesis is oceanographer Wallace J. Nichols’s Blue Mind Hypothesis (Nichols 2014). The blue mind hypothesis poses that humans are compelled to be close to water because of a genetic predisposition that associates water with survival. And indeed, forty percent of the world’s population does live within 100 kilometers of a coastline. The proof that he offers is mostly of the indirect liking survey type, and simpler alternative explanations exist. For example, more people may live closer to coast lines because the access to a larger economic network that water travel provides makes getting a living easier.

* * * *

On April 20th, 2006, Ensign Elementary plans its annual fund raising walk up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 20, 2017

April 19th

Filed under: Butterfly, Cooper's Hawk, gnats, People, Sounds, Stream, White cabbage butterfly — canopus56 @ 3:06 pm

Biophilia – Part I – Water Meditation

2:00 p.m. Stream water is at its highest under a bright sun with cold air. The loud white noise of the snow-melt engorged stream has remained a constant companion that has dominated the canyon since March 12th. Combined with today’s bright sunlight, these two forces of nature, light and water sound, drive me into a restful sleepy state. Over the last month, I have developed an involuntary reaction to seventy decibel sound of mountain water. Stegner noted that next to the loud sound of mountain water, “it is impossible to believe that one will ever be old or tired” (Stegner, 41), in part, because such water is embodies a continuing renewal of force (id). In its grasp, I must sit in the sun at one of the many benches in the canyon, close my eyes, and slowly drift and meld with its noise. It is a restorative experience. I feel the energy of the stream and sunlight flow through me while at the same time my sense of body and self dissipates. This is how the earth heals both a person’s body and soul. It is in this way in which the life-giving sun and the canyon draws one towards life and away from human activities of city life. I rise filled with love towards nature, and I am not the only one. Two others are sitting on benches near the stream with half-closed eyes.

I have always had an innate drive to be at one with nature, and some of my earliest childhood memories are related to that experience. But where does that inherited drive in me and in others who visit the canyon come from?

Yesterday’s cold rain has set the insects back, and only a few are seen this afternoon. White cabbage butterflies feed on the wild carrots heads that line the road. Two new small butterflies appear, along with some gnats and a small bee that moves to fast to identify. There is new one and one-half inch orange butterfly with subtle black marks and distinct ends to its antennae, possibly a type of fritillary. The second unidentified butterfly is a small black butterfly with jet black wing and a subtle blue-black tinge to its abdomen.

I stop at picnic site 1 and again stare transfixed staring into the water as it speeds by. Suddenly, two Cooper’s hawks land in a tree next to stream. These are the two fast fleeting shapes that I saw skimming over the road a few days ago (April 15th). They are maybe fifty feet away; this is the closest that I have ever been to these raptors; and they have also come to sun themselves. The sit motionless in the high branches lazily opening and closing their eyes. The Cooper’s hawks have a grey backs, molted-brown breast and body feathers, bright white rump feathers and a banded tail. One of this pair has piercing red eyes. It’s companion teases the other, and in response the first plumps up its white rump feathers in agitation. I stand their motionless and have a good ten minutes sharing the sun with these residents.

A group of three mothers are pushing baby carriages down the road. Between the motion and deafening white noise of the stream, the babies are all quiet and content. What impression does the sound make on their unformed, young minds? It has become the fashion to purchase technology enhanced bassinets for infants. At night, sensors detect the infant’s motion automatically rocks the bassinet and floods it with stream-like white noise. Like me, the simulated stream sound sends the infants back to sleep.

* * * *

In 1964, psychoanalyst, humanist and cultural commentator Eric Fromm termed biophilia as one of two competing forces within each of us:

“There is no more fundamental distinction between men, psychologically and morally, than the one between those who love death and those who love life, between the necrophilous and the biophilous. . . . . The full unfolding of biophilia is to be found in the productive orientation. The person who fully loves life is attracted by the process of life and growth in all spheres. . . . . Good is all that serves life; evil is all that serves death. Good is reverence for life, all that enhances, life, growth, unfolding” (Fromm, 37, 47. emphasis in original).

Fromm warned that modern bureaucratic-technological society by separating humanity from nature was driving humanity towards a necrophilous or death orientation. Homo sapiens has become what Fromm called homo consumens (Fromm, 57). Fromm’s notion of homo consumens is analogous to what modern economists call homo economicus, a idealized human who makes decisions based only on rational economic basis concerned only with the experience of life as the act of consumption. Symptomatic of homo consumens is homo mechanicus or gadget man (Fromm, 58), a person obsessed with a life-view defined by manipulation of dead machines rather interacting and participating with life (id).

Fromm viewed humans not as an essence, but as a process flowing from two contradictory facts (Fromm, Chap. 6). First, humans are animals that are part of nature. Second, humans are self-aware beings with reason. The rightful use of reason to satisfy our material needs and psychological motivations in a contradiction draws us away from nature, and this creates biophilous and necrophilous tensions within psyches. Since many of our motivations are unconscious, we can never be fully sure whether reason in service of unconscious desires are destruction or healthy. The best free choice that a man, a woman or a society can exercise is to be aware when making decisions is whether they foster the tendency toward development and life or toward of anal-narcissism and death (id).

Fromm reviews how these two forces have a long history in religion, philosophy and psychoanalysis (id). The Judeaic Genesis narrative is of separation from nature by the exercise of free choice. Adam and Eve did not sin by choosing knowledge, they where given both knowledge and free choice by a creator, and as a consequence there were sent to a life of choices that drive either towards or away from life and development as a full human being (Fromm, 19-20). The Genesis narrative has its parallel in the Greek myths. Recalling that the Greeks viewed the universe as Earth-centered, Gaia was the creator not of the Earth, but of the entire universe, including their cosmology of heavenly Gods that we retain as markers of the constellations. Humans were separated from Gaia by the first female human’s (Pandora’s) exercise of free will in choosing to open the pithos, thus separating humanity from nature.

What draws me back to reunite with nature? Enjoyment of nature is a reminder, in those several decisions that we all must make on a daily basis, to try to choose as much as is practicable that which fosters all life.

* * * *

On April 19th, 1982, Salt Lake City officials declined to act on a Davis County proposal to create a commuter connector road around Ensign Peak and City Creek Canyon (Davis County Clipper). On April 21, 1914, work on widening and improving City Creek Canyon Road was completed to Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Telegram), but Mayor Heber M. Wells restricted the use of automobiles only up to Eleventh Avenue (id). On April 19th, 1911, City Councilperson J. W. McKinney introduced a resolution to end gravel pit operations in City Creek Canyon in order to improve water quality (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 19, 1907, the City adopted an ordinance establishing a dedicated patrolman for City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). The patrolman would be provided a horse and a salary of $2.75 per day. Duties included clearing rubbish from the canyon. Patrolman positions were also established for Parleys and Big Cottonwood and a ranchman was hired for Mountain Dell. On April 19, 1898, the City Engineer, Waterworks Superintendent, the Mayor and four citizen council members toured City Creek and recommended improvements, including repairing caved in seep tunnels and clearing and rip-raping the stream bed (Salt Lake Tribune). In 1898, there was a drought and the city officers were seeking to increase the water supply. On April 19, 1897, Mayor Glendinning toured City Creek Canyon due to flooding of Central City Neighborhoods (Salt Lake Herald).

April 19, 2017

April 18th

Filed under: Bicyclist, Colors, Kingfisher, Plants, Starry solomon's seal, Unidentified — canopus56 @ 2:47 pm

Yellow and White Flowers

4:00 p.m. In the first mile, all trees that are not oaks seem to have bloomed, and perhaps ten Gambel’s oaks along the road have bloomed up to mile 0.3. It rained during the day, and the canyon is full of the smells not of winter earth but of green spring leaves. The wind and rain have parts of the road with rotting bunches of inflorescences. These are something of a mystery because they appear to be River birch blossoms, but the deposits on the road are about two hundred feet from the nearest River birch tree. There are no other potential sources nearby. Could the wind have carried them that far? A small roadside bush has opened quarter-inch yellow flowers, and they are tube shaped at the bottom but open into five radiating petals. The small corn-like herbs mentioned yesterday have opened tiny – just a few millimeter – white flowers also with five petals. Because of their size, these are easy to miss. You have to walk up to the stalks and closely look into the top most set of leaves. They are Starry solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum). The entrance to the possible burrow mentioned yesterday has fresh dry dirt knocked out over rain soaked soil. Something lives there, and as I turn away from watching the burrow, a Rock squirrel darts across the road. Just before exiting the canyon, a lone Kingfisher is again sitting on the high powerlines stretched across the canyon, making its staccato calls. It is cold, windy, and wet, but I may be misinterpreting the Kingfisher’s raucous, annoying voice as complaining. This is its type of weather and to the bird’s ears, the song may be joyous.

The parking lot is nearly empty, and I realize how with the spring rush on the canyon, solitude had gone. Today, I hear only my own footsteps as jog along the road. As I exit the canyon, a hard rain starts to fall over a quiet, empty canyon. A few signs left along Bonneville Boulevard announce the upcoming April 22nd running of the Salt Lake City Marathon along 11th Avenue and down the lower City Creek Canyon to Memory Grove.

* * * *

On April 18th, 1920, the annual City Creek canyon running competition was rescheduled due to weather (Salt Lake Herald).

On April 18th, 2009, Mayor Ralph Becker placed the City’s proposed creation of firebreaks along City Creek Canyon Road on hold due to public opposition (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 18th, 1925, the Salt Lake Telegram in an editorial approved of city plans to widen the road in City Creek Canyon by the use of prison labor. The Telegram stated, in part, that:

“City Creek is more than a motorists’ retreat . . . Few cities in the county are blessed with a natural park such as City Creek Canyon . . . It should not only prove a magnet for our own people, but an irresistible summer attraction for visitors and tourists passing through the city.”

On April 18, 1909, the Intermountain Republican noted that homes were filling up the Avenues from 11th Avenue to Brigham Street (South Temple), and the paper supported building a bridge across City Creek near Eight or Ninth Avenue. On April 18, 1908, city commissioners approved widening City Creek Road using prison labor (Intermountain Republican, Salt Lake Telegram). On April 18, 1900, the Salt Lake Herald described the use of prison labor in making the road up City Creek. The article is accompanied by racist caricatures of a Chinese prisoner and degrading depictions of older men no longer fit for employment who had been arrested for vagrancy. On April 18, 1876, part of the City Creek Road gave way under five young men walking in the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 17th

Filed under: Gambel's Oak, Maple tree, Squirrel — canopus56 @ 2:45 pm

Squirrel Hole

1:30 p.m. Today’s overcast skies keeps temperatures in the sixties, but overnight temperatures for the last two days have been above freezing overnight. As a result, the stream is again running at its highest, as measured by its water mark on the Zen Rock (January 4th). At Guardhouse Gate, the three mature horsechestnut trees bloom together. To mile 0.2 along the road, the Gambel’s oaks are starting to bloom. They, like the river birch, have a small compound tubular inflorescence of about twenty ovaries. Along the roadway for the first mile, numerous herbaceous plants that have stalks and leaves arranged like corn have grown about one-foot tall. What will they become? At mile 1.2 above picnic site 8, a Red maple tree has blossomed. The radiating blossoms are similar to the green blossoms of the Box Elder tree, but in the maple, they are dusky red in color.

Going down-canyon near mile 0.4, I hear scurrying on the road bank and catch a glimpse of a young Rock squirrel. I have often wondered where their burrows are, and today, above picnic site 5, I find a three or for inch diameter burrow hole on the west side of the road bank. There is fresh dirt around the entrance. I mark this site (40°47.889′ N, 111°52.420′ W) for watching. Perhaps I can confirm its inhabitant is a squirrel.

The parking lot is full, but the today only holds bicyclists.

* * * *

On April 17th, 1991, residents in Memory Grove sought closure of Canyon Road to reduce “cruising” traffic (Deseret News). On April 17th, 1900, city prison labor is used to build the boulevard around City Creek, now Bonneville Drive (Salt Lake Tribune).

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.