City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

April 9, 2017

April 8th

Filed under: River birch, Wild carrot — canopus56 @ 5:05 pm

Cooperation vs. Competition

3:00 p.m. The promised snow did not arrive, and today is all sun and warmth. The parsley-like plant at the base of trees has grow a radiating head of blooms, and this suggests an identification as Wild carrot (Lomatium dissectum). Small bits of bark have fallen onto the road from some immature trees. The bark reveals the trees’ identification. They are cultivars of eastern Water birch (Betula occidentalis). A glade down canyon from picnic site 6 is visible from the road in a break between the trees. In a small spherical clearing, perhaps twenty feet in diameter, two-pairs of unidentified thrushes chase each other in tight, fast orbits.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 8th, 1852, he notes alder catkins are blooming. On April 8th, 1853, he sees a pine warbler. On April 4th, 1854, he sees a bald eagle harassing a flock of crows. On April 8th, 1859, the roots of a white pine, that he is standing next to, are partially lifted from the ground by the wind. He notes viola, a woodland flower that grows away from water, is shooting up through the leaf litter layering.

* * * *

During the 2014-2015 winter and spring, I recorded and plotted the distribution of several nesting species in Pleasant Valley in the canyon. Different species such as Stellar Jays and chickadees that relied on same Gambel’s oak resource shared an overlapping space. This space sharing was reinforced by predatory birds, such as peregrine falcons. Their behavior suggests cooperative diversity and not unrestrained competition as the optimal behavior that advances the good of the whole. Much can learned by the detailed observation of nature because inherent in watching nature is not only involves the emotional connection to living things. Nature appreciation includes the development of critical thinking skills. Competition is a necessary component in life, but cooperative stability are equally, if not more, important. Thus, even smalls birds in the canyon have lessons to teach us.

The migrating song birds continue to build this seasons’ nests in the canyon and they mate to begin their broods. Between picnic sites 3 and 5, the Gambel’s oak forest on the west side of the road gently slopes uphill and this is favored spot of several species of smaller birds to nest. Here, nature provides an instructive lesson on human affairs with respect to cooperation, competition, and the benefits of diversity. In 2014, Farine at the Oxford and an international team of colleagues observed about 19,000 feeding events by 1,900 laboriously RIF chip tagged birds of four different species of tits at four feeders in rural England. (A fifth specie only had 32 of 1,900 samples). They observed that rather than compete by each species dominating one of the four feeders, birds preferred to live in mixed specie groups of nearly equal proportions at each feeder. Farine et al’s hypothesis was that although costly, the benefit of increased information about resources and predators gained by social living in mixed groups outweighed the costs of increased competition for food and exposure to parasites. The researchers found that this preference for mixed groups held when feeding sites were stressed by the introduction of a fake sparrow hawk predator.

* * * *

In modern Euro-American culture, inequality has again reasserted itself to a level last seen in the late 1800s, and this change is both the cause and effect of a legacy of Darwinian socialism, Lamarckianism and eugenics of the nineteenth century. In the twenty-first century, Darwinian socialism has fused with a distorted view of E. O. Wilson’s sociobiology theory, globalism, and New Chicago School hyper-free market economic theory to foster a commonplace belief that economic and political elites are superior to ordinary people, instead of simple being the beneficiaries of random concentrations of inherited wealth in a semi-chaotic economy. In this new form of Social Darwinism, people believe that through economic competition, a superior class of individuals is created, who culturally transmit supposed superior attributes to their children. Persons with mid- to lower-economic status are expected to defer both economically and politically to this new global-elite, and it has become fashionable to elect economic elites to positions of power on the commonplace theory that “they know how to get things done” and in the mistaken belief that elites will not use such power principally to advance their personal interests and the interests of other elites. Such political and economic cultural consensus about society and economy go in cycles. The first half of the twentieth century in World Wars I and II resolved in a political consensus that favored cooperation and constrained competition guided by the desires of non-elites. Through 2017, that consensus has shifted to belief in hyper-competition and living in a state of constant economic and social disruption is more productive than creating new things and ideas from a base of cooperative stability.

* * * *

On April 8th, 2005, City Councilperson Eric Jorgenson announced plans to renovate the stairs at 4th Avenue and 9th Avenue in City Creek Canyon using monies from the 2002 Winter Olympics Legacy Tax Fund (Deseret News). On April 8th, 1915, local mining magnate William Spry presented a plan to build a causeway from 7th Avenue across City Creek to the State Capitol (Salt Lake Herald). On April 8th, 1913, plans to build a dam in City Creek Canyon were dropped due to a large negative response by residents (Salt Lake Herald). Residents fear that the dam might fail and destroy the city below.

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