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VIDEO | 03:13
LA Times Today: Explaining L.A. Fauxliage
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LA Times Today: Explaining L.A. Fauxliage

Watch L.A. Times Today at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News 1 on Channel 1 or live stream on the Spectrum News App. Palos Verdes Peninsula and Orange County viewers can watch on Cox Systems on channel 99.

If you ever learned a poem in elementary school, it was probably the one that began:

“I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.”

Today, some exceptions apply.

The cell phone towers disguised to make you think they’re trees.

Now there’s a new book by Annette LeMay Burke called, quite aptly, “Fauxliage,” as in faux, fake foliage.

It’s a book of 66 photographs taken throughout California, Arizona, and Nevada, documenting how technology goes to great green lengths not to look like technology.

Some of them I was familiar with, and you probably are too … palm trees in Southern California, and pine trees in the mountains.

But the art of hiding these towers in plain sight has gotten much craftier.

In fact, trees haven’t been used with such sneaky intent since Shakespeare’s Birnam Wood climbed Dunsinane Hill to defeat Macbeth.

There’s a noble saguaro cactus, the monarch of the Sonoran desert, now a mock-up cell phone tower.

One that stunned me was the cross in front of a church – one of the three symbolic crosses of the New Testament story of the hill of Golgotha.

A cross that’s really a cell phone tower, in front of a church.

The reason that there IS this niche of bogus trees is because we’d scream bloody murder against an ugly, naked cell phone tower right down the street from us. That’s why some cities require that they be disguised.

But for the cell phone companies, this “fauxliage” also helps people to overlook the technology right there in front of them.

It’s not just allowing you to text your kid during recess or talk with your parents in Florida, but it can also be used to scoop up a driftnet full of data about anything that happens on or with those phones.

Conspiracy theorists who believe that the spread of Covid is somehow because of 5G technology have attacked and torched several dozen cell towers in Britain.

No wonder cell companies want to mask those techno-masts.

And it usually works. The first few times you see it, you think, aha, cell phone tower. But then it blends in with the landscape imprinted on your brain and it just doesn’t register with you any more.

Cell phone technology is very advanced indeed, but the art of copying Mother Nature to camouflage the technology – not always adept, but getting better.

Who knows? Maybe college forestry students will one day be able to “minor” in tree masquerading.

We have to keep celebrating trees – real, green, honest, biosphere-friendly trees. Let’s rework that poem to help us remember:

“I think that I shall never see

Deception ugly as that tree … “