Skip to content

(from March 2008 archives) ANOTHER DIRE ZEPHYR PREDICTION COMES TRUE…Stiles.

NOTE:  I wrote the following short piece for ‘Take it or Leave It,’ almost five years ago.  Now it’s all happening.  A story in today’s Arizona Daily Sun titled, “Google cameras map popular Grand Canyon trails”  announced,  Google “now has brought its all-seeing eyes _ mounted for the first time on a backpack _ down into the Grand Canyon, showcasing the attraction’s most popular hiking trails on the South Rim and other walkways.”

What’s next? A Google hike to Landscape Arch? Down Courthouse Wash? A stroll to the ‘Harvest Scene?’

There was a time when I’d expect an outcry from environmentalists but nowadays my guess is, they’ll just see it as a way to promote the natural beauty of the land as, incredibly, a way to protect it, via an expanded viewership who might send some money.




March 2008 Zephyr Archives:


It’s almost impossible to dodge the label of hypocrisy these days. I claim to have Luddite leanings but I use a computer to publish this paper and I drive a car almost every day, and I climb onto a jumbo jet and travel thousands of miles each winter, just to escape to the ‘simple life.’ Though I don’t have cable tv, I’m mesmerized by it when I visit someone who does. And nothing astounds me more than Google Earth.

Recently I Google Earthed my Aussie pal John Wringe’s farm in Western Australia. I found Donnybrook, followed the highway to Kirup, turned right at the pub (home of Kiryp Syrup) and went west a few kilometers on a one-lane road. Finally I saw the familiar red tile roof, the work shed…I could even see cows in the paddock.

And yet, like every other technological advance, it seems to take a another bit of mystery away from our world; I’ve wondered what’s next.

“What’s next?”

Apparently other mega-media companies are vying for the Google Earth market. When these guys start competing you know we can expect big changes. Big “improvements.” Now they’ve found a way to integrate satellite aerial photography with ground imagery. Even as you read this, thousands of crews are crisscrossing the continent, with triple-mount cameras, recording every road and highway in America. Others are carrying hand-held cams that allow the photographer to take us just about anywhere.

Imagine, according to one report on NPR, you’ll even be able to shop in this fashion.

You descend from geostationary orbit, 23,000 miles in space, heading for New York City, to Manhattan. You see the street grid below you. Fifth Avenue. Suddenly you’re at sidewalk level, moving north, until you find the store you’re looking for. You go inside, browse the shelves until you find something to buy, and click on the ‘purchase now’ button. Voila!

But what about other applications?

I’ve cursed backcountry guidebooks for years, but in the future, they may seem like quaint relics from a primitive past. Soon the same “green capitalists” who brought us the amenities economy—the enviropreneurs— may be able to take guidebooks to their ultimately obscene conclusion. Consider for a moment, camera crews roaming every wilderness area in America. Every canyon. Every peak. Every pristine mountain lake. Imagine a technology so sophisticated and the resolution so clear that it even allows the viewer to check out nearby rock art or an old cowboy inscription or an especially notable wildflower.

No one would ever have to wonder what lies around the next bend of the canyon. Or what’s just over the next ridge. They’ll know everything that awaits them, right down to the most intimate detail.

In a world where people who have traveled thousands of miles to a national park and still ask, “Is this hike worth it?” (They’re in a national park!), I can only assume that the general public, by the millions, will embrace this technology, when and if it becomes available.

The idea of wilderness, to me, always meant more than the resource itself. It was that unknown quality, the Mystery of it all, that drew me to it. I cannot imagine a natural world with no mysteries. With no more untold secrets.

But do you know what really worries me? If these ideas become realities, if it becomes that easy to “explore,” will I have the strength not to look?



Posted in Uncategorized.

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK


(required, but never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.