Did you know that, except for insect-feeding creatures, humans are one of the rare species that actually pay attention to anything above head? While predators are mostly concerned with what takes place at ground level or in their immediate surroundings, preys focus mainly on the horizon. We, on the other hand, may look around, and up, merely for the sake of looking. What do we notice first? What stands out… like windmills and cell phone towers.
In its search for smarter, long-term energy and communications solutions, the human mind turns to the one direction that has captured its imagination for millennia: the sky above. As we developed new traveling technology, we naturally sought to defeat gravity; as we developed ways to bring electricity to every city and home, we strung a giant harpsichord maze above the fairways; as we developed new defense strategies, we sought to get a birds-eye view of our territories; as we developed new energy technologies, we reached high to capture the powers of the wind and as we developed communications technologies, we projected a signal network far above the ground upon which we stand.
In 2006, The Wireless Association figured that “the number of cell towers is expected to grow from 175,000 to 260,000 in 2010.” That represents a 48% increase. According to Steel in the Air, a consulting firm that assists public and private landowners with issues regarding cell tower leases, carriers have already infiltrated industrial and commercial sites and need to expand into residential areas. As with any expansion, pros and cons spring up as fast as the towers themselves and zoning and planning commissions must get smarter.
Remember the first cell phones? Bulky suite cases with an old-fashioned mouth piece and an antenna you had to remove and store away every time you moved. A friend of mine, who worked in the film industry, called to inform me that he was standing on an outdoor movie set, miles away from civilization, and proudly announced that he was communicating with the help of such a device. The experience was surreal as sheep happened to be the main actors on that particular day and also wanted to send regards. Thus, I received my first cell phone call with background voices bleating in unison and could not help but imagine the crew of the Enterprise, stranded in a sheep pasture in the early nineteen hundreds with their sophisticated technology and nowhere to go.
Necessity being the mother of invention…where there is a problem, there is also a solution: Fake trees! Cell tower concealment has evolved into an art form. Well, almost. According to Wayne’s World, an online textbook of natural history, “Rather than have obtrusive towers cluttering our cities and countryside, they are now being disguised in many clever ways. Some of these covert forms include trees, cactus, gas station signs, boulders, and even church steeples”.
And where do such trees come from? Why, a cell phone tree nursery of course.