November 13th, 02012 by Austin Brown
Wednesday November 28, 02012 at the Cowell Theater, San Francisco
Peter Warshall’s work is aimed at helping people understand the cultural and ecological systems in which they’re embedded. He studied biology at Harvard, anthropology under Claude Lévi-Strauss, and has worked in communities and companies the world over, consulting on conservation and helping build consensus among groups with diverse and often conflicting environmental needs.
He was an editor and contributor to the Whole Earth Review, where he often expressed his deep understanding of ecology and human nature through poetic, interdisciplinary essays. In 1998, he offered a brief exploration of the similarities between painting and ecology, discussing, for example, trends in composition and color and how they relate to the analysis of ecosystems:
Henri Matisse (in his cutout phase), Gustav Klimt, and Paul Klee experimented tirelessly with configurations of patches of color: different sizes, the shape of each patch, the orientation of “floating” patches with the canvas’s straight edges and with other patches inside the artwork’s boundaries. Landscape ecologists similarly ponder patches such as beaver ponds in a watershed or forest groves dotted among evenly textured farmlands. The “right” configuration can bring harmony to either canvas or landscape. To conservation biologists, for instance, the size and shape of a patch of forest may mean the difference between protection of a rare warbler’s home or nest parasitism by cowbirds. Informed intuition serves both painters and naturalists well.
To bolster one’s informed intuition about place, he offers a quiz that Kevin Kelly once declared a Cool Tool. It starts with a simple declaration to “Point North,” and concludes by asking if you can “Name two places on different continents that have similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to here.”
Warshall leads us on a journey from inside our brains out into nature and on up to the Sun on November 28th at the Cowell Theater. You can reserve tickets, get directions and sign up for the podcast on the Seminar page.