City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

April 19, 2017

April 16th

Filed under: Canyon wren — canopus56 @ 2:41 pm

Space Watch

2:30 p.m. Moderns have so many technological tools for observing nature that were unimaginable by Thoreau. He accessed books at Harvard and corresponded with leading naturalist experts of his day. This afternoon, I am standing at the edge of the canyon near 11th Avenue and Bonneville Boulevard, and I am waiting for the International Space Station (ISS) to fly overhead unseen above a brilliant spring day. The ISS is equipped with several video cameras that transmit live images back to Earth (NASA 2017). One of four cameras points in the ahead direction and a second in the away direction, and using a mobile telephone, I watch as the ISS reaches the Pacific Coast and heads inland. At a viewing area along Bonneville Drive, a hobbyist is flying a drone back and forth across the canyon and guiding the airship through video using virtual reality goggles. As the ISS passes overhead to the north, I see the Great Salt Lake and the canyon and myself as a blur one corner of the image. The space-based view are reminiscent of the first maps of the region.

Does this all this digital technology bring us closer to or further from experiencing the canyon? All technology has dual effect, and it remains for humans to use technology as their servant and not as their master. Experts in popular literature argue for both the positive and negative trends of how technology separates or brings us closer to each other and nature. Berkeley child psychology professor Alison Gopnik argues in a recent popular book that angst over the intrusion of modern digital technological devices is analogous to the Gutenberg print revolution (Gopnik 2016). Books are also information devices that when given to children causes them to withdraw from people and society and that weakens human memory. But books have also been the driver of modern innovation and cultural transmission. She likens the increasing reliance of the plastic human mind on digitally delivered information that earlier transition. In contrast, Adam Alter, an associate professor psychology at the New York University, in another popular book argues that modern information digital technology should be likened to an addictive substance, like heroin, cocaine, and nicotine (Alter 2017). Digital technology interfaces are distributed by profit-motivated businesses who intentionally design them with behavioral positive re-enforcement features to increase compulsive use. My own test is whether technology serves life and humans or whether it serves a headlong rush towards non-life, narcissism, or the adulation of machines. Some contrasting examples are illustrative. The playing of digital video games that feature as their central activity the simulated killing of other human beings is designed to desensitize people to economic and political violence. Conversely, digital information access can be used to learn about other cultures and their views. Instant access to the world’s music can lead to the self-annihilating following of consumerist entertainers that through marketing have developed a cult of personality. It can also lead to exploring the now globally accessible selection of the world’s music on ones own instincts and by not being guided by profit-motivated corporate-controlled algorithms.

Continuing on my jog up canyon, I hear again a bird call that is a haunting decrescendo of notes of declining tone. I have never seen the bird that makes the call, but today, I pull out a newly installed mobile telephone application, an audio spectral frequency analyzer, that makes a picture of the bird’s call. Using this image, later I am able to confirm that the call the comes from the Canyon wren (Catherpes mexicanus).

It is a Sunday and the parking lot and road are full again.

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On April 16th, 2011, National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney predicts there is only a 10 percent probability of City Creek flooding, although snowpack is at 187 percent of normal (Salt Lake Tribune). He notes that flooding occurs when City Creek stream flows reach 210 cubic feet per second (Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 2011). On April 16th, 1907, Arbor Day, many city residents went to City Creek for a picnic (Salt Lake Herald). On April 16th, 1906, many children went to City Creek for picnics (Salt Lake Telegraph). Child Patsy Sullivan became lost, and was later located by search parties (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 16th, 1904, the City surveyed City Creek Canyon road for widening planned widening (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 16th, 1904, school children visited City Creek during a school holiday (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 16, 1898, Arbor Day, public offices were closed, and a contingent of University, high school and elementary school students planted 100 trees from the Brick Tank Reservoir to the natural bridge (Salt Lake Herald). Further up the canyon in Pleasant Valley, they also planted locust bean tree seeds (Salt Lake Herald, Salt Lake Tribune).

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