Today’s #FridaySALT post features artist and naturalist Laura Cunningham from October 02011. We share audio of a Seminar About Long-term Thinking from our archives each Friday.
Laura Cunningham is the author of A State of Change : Forgotten Landscapes of California. Trained in paleontology and natural science illustration, she has been a scientific illustrator for the Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley and illustrated fossils for the Smithsonian Institution. Her work has been seen at exhibitions around the US, including the Pacific Rim Wildlife Art Show in Seattle, the Oakland Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Carnegie Museum, and Safari Club International.
In Ten Millennia of California Ecology, Cunningham shared her artwork, based on extensive research, which showed what familiar California landscapes looked like from hundreds to tens of thousands of years ago. The Bay that once was a valley. Bears, condors, elk, grasses, oaks, all play their part. As do fire, flood and climate change. A mysterious 19th Century parrot sighting, and the hopeful tale of the condor. Her work provides speculative visuals of times that no human could witness, and reflects on constant environmental change through civilization’s ascendancy at the western edge of the North American continent.
From Stewart’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):
Along the Pacific shore there used to be 10-ton Steller’s sea cows (extinct in 1768), a giant petrel with an 8-foot wingspan, and a flightless diving goose that ate mussels. Further back, in the Ice Ages before 12,000 years ago, the ocean was lower, and San Francisco Bay was a savannah occupied by huge bison (6 feet at the shoulder), a native full-sized horse similar to the African quagga (Cunningham shows it with quagga-like stripes), Columbian mammoths, and the giant short-faced bear (10 feet tall standing up).
The Seminars About Long-term Thinking began in 02003 and are presented each month live in San Francisco (also available as a podcast). The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand.
Long Now members can watch the full video of this Seminar here—you must be logged in to the site. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. You can join Long Now here.