My study has always been love. Press me and I begin to murmur things like how my work is not science, but the subject of my work is data-driven biodiversity. I study patterns of habitat. To be more specific, I am a student of the beauty and history of biological evolution in morphological architecture and its application to fitness strategy across living systems. In my art and writing about ecology, I am more satisfied with the exploration of the best. most simple and elegant question than I am with any righteous, vocational answer. Where the #californiafieldatlas was a love story, my next books are becoming family albums. (obi)

California’s Natural World; Conservation & Restoration

Presention by Obi Kaufmann

California Native Plant Society – Yerba Buena Chapter

July 05, 2018

San Francisco, California



Thank you all so much for having me. As a naturalist, how could you not be a fan of that which is rare in the natural world? Rare means precious. Rare means value. Rare means a moral imperative to protect. In the year of my birth, 1973, The California Native Plant Society, already having existed for eight years, and having published California’s Rare Plant Index five year before, collaborated with the Smithsonian to review the national list of plants and found that California holds populations of a third of all plants on that list. Monumental, industrial work towards restoration and stewardship is the hallmark of the California Native Plant Society and supporting and participating in their efforts is my distinct honor and pleasure.

01a, flowers

Plant lovers, flower friends, tree huggers are a very special vintage of person. They certainly are their own kind, a type. It is not a temporal aspect of personality, it is not a phase, it is a pillar of character, it can be a calling, like being an artist or some other vocation to which one is bound, to which one is committed with a ferocity of love that is normally reserved to family. The academic manifestation of that love, those burning decades of focus, can be a proficient lyricism with among other thing, Latin and the accompanying binomial nomenclature used to name species; alas, this lyric ability is wasted on mixed company where in all but the most specific social situations, you are guaranteed blank stares should you find yourself indulging an expression of the obsession.

(02 Condor Map)

I am really, quite sure that the lay people, ordinary folk who aren’t called to the niche-specialized work that the good folks at the CNPS do, day in and day out, get bored so quickly at the professional talk of dendrology and angiosperm diversity, is because of its lack so often of human context, of human story. We, the naturalist community, are mostly just happy to let the plants be the plants; they aren’t resources, they aren’t commodities. Our internal resonance, our appreciation of them, and with the natural world in general is best expressed by our study of it. We find a community, however insular, however exclusive, and we become experts, and we work on a dangerous fulcrum of being not-understood, of being dismissed, of our work being too esoteric to be relevant. I think that this conundrum – and I do think it is a conundrum, not a criticism – is symptomatic of a larger issue now, in contemporary political culture. Our work, more than ever, is being politicized, that rapacious form of appropriation where to preserve biodiversity, for example, is wrapped up in a whole bundle of ideologies, of agendas, of what I believe and what you believe. And it doesn’t matter what it true. It doesn’t matter that we know science is not a belief-system. What does matter is that we are in a torpor of narrative, a gravity-well of story where what we hold most dear: the nuanced interdependence of all living networks is not real to the experience of so many.


Tonight’s presentation will not be me getting too preachy about what we need or need not do to combat, or to defend, or to even change anyone’s mind about anything. Lord knows those roads have been mapped, ad nauseum, by those more qualified than myself. I believe, at the core of my process, that with the right attitude, with the right quality, with the right language, paradigms crack and slip, almost tectonically, unintentionally, by a function of what can be described as a physical dimension to human, conscious thought. Tonight, I am going to walk you through an introduction of my work, where I have been, how I got there and where I think it all might be going. Tonight, I am going to work through some process of my own voice ascending these stairs to what it aspires to be: a more explicit demonstration of my love for California’s natural world. Given that I believe my creative, mortal purpose is the joyful participation in all the world has for us to witness, my vision is ultimately and necessarily inclusive.

(04 BOOK)

With that, I would like to present the California Field Atlas. I am very proud where the book has gone in the past ten months since its first printing, as we are now already in its fourth. It has won three awards: the first was for the unfinished manuscript, my publisher submitted it for the Phelan Award for California writing, the second was the book of the year by the Northern California Book Sellers Association and the third was the gold medal for significant contribution to publishing from the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

(05 Ten Months)

It’s been ten months since the publication of the California Field Atlas. Ten months since I left this box of flowers at the garden gate. Ten months on tour up and down, left to right, traveling through and across the human ecology of California. More rewarding than presenting the work itself is the audience I am able to become before this electric network, a community ready for this nature-first narrative. I listen to the choir of neighbors ready to be counted in a nation that draws its strength from a healthy relationship with all systems of the natural world. In the next one hundred years, as our society turns from extraction to replenishment as the primary attitude toward this giving-land of plenty, into a post-carbon economy, we will reject more and more the rhetorical miasma set as a divisive agenda upon us from the swarm of professional politicians. The solutions to all manner of our ecological dilemmas are already on the table. Disregarding the vocal extremes, we are one and we are not afraid of the work it will take to continue this, perhaps the most important conversation we can have.

(06 prismagraphic)

Perhaps you know what the book is, perhaps you don’t. Let me summarize it this way: several hundred, hand-painted maps and wild life renderings describing how the natural world works around California. A little bit deeper, I could describe it this way: an introductory handbook and inventory of conservation, in celebration of California’s natural history. It also is a Field Atlas, a genre of my own invention, that describes those living systems that have influenced and supported, continue to influence and support, and will always influence and support ecosystems across California’s physiogeography regardless of the contemporary urban veneer, the jacketing tyranny of concrete and plastic that we have so successfully imposed. Whatever modicum of success the book is enjoying, I owe it all to what I think more and more is an electric-network of citizens ready for this nature-first kind of narrative. How do we begin to reconcile this ache we have in our bones that California does not belong to us, but rather the reverse: we belong to this place, and more so, that this place is alive.

(07 Biogeochemical Cycles)

The condition of life, of being alive is an important thing to summarize, as I do spend most of my working hours deliberating it. I start my book with the one assumption, well actually two assumptions, but I’ll start with the first one now: that every natural feature of California is alive and deserves an emancipated rebirth from the old human paradigms of utility and extraction without reciprocation and gratitude. If I were to rewrite that assumption now, two years after I initially drafted it, I would exchange the word feature with the word system – Every natural system is alive. It’s more concise language to express an idea that carries the larger message of my life’s work. All systems within the biosphere, that gloriously thin belt of roiling biotic and abiotic systems, that global conversation of biogeochemical cycles that makes all complex organisms possible – those systems that have not been rendered sterile through human artifice – all contain properties and exhibit behaviors, at relative scale, that arguably not only mimic life, but are life itself.

(08 Black Holes and Warped Spacetime)

Quantifiable detection, measurement and consensus are the three necessary concepts that science requires, that my work does not. I am an artist, and every minute that you hold this book in your hand, I am asking you to accept my view of the natural world based on my inspiration, on my appreciation and on my experience as an explorer. I am very sensitive in drawing a line between what I do and what scientists do – I grew up with it. Both my parents were scientists of sorts: my mother, Dr. Jeffre Talltrees is a clinical psychologist and my father, Dr. William John Kaufmann, III, was an astrophysicist. Here is a copy of one the eighteen books he wrote before his death, 24 years ago today. Black Holes in Warped Spacetime. The blurb on the cover reads “From star birth to star death… to the final cosmic reality where fact and fantasy merge.” I am sure he did not write that.

(09 Iris)

Throughout high school, my after school regimen was three hours of math homework a night before dinner. Stack of paper, cup of sharp pencils. I still work that way, now often with a brush in hand. I believe my father was attempting to instill in me the discipline of math and science as the language of empirical truth-to-inquiry into the fundamental nature of the cosmos. This far from those days, still quite clearly having some type of conversation with my father’s intellectual legacy, I see now that what I actually gained in those endless man-hours of calculus practice was a larger appreciation with I would call the aesthetics of systems theory. All I see, all I was trained to see, is a pervading grace that when matched with my own proclivities towards the arts and the humanities, amounted to a kind of philosophical liberation, a scientific backbone where I now am licensed to take my inventions: my invented geography, my elemental-narrative of earth, air, fire and water and exhibit them freely as working extrapolations that offer truth in an interpersonal context.

(10 Klamath River)

The river doesn’t care if you think it is alive or not. At that scale, the Klamath River will look like how I’ve painted it here, a thousand years from now – long after all of our roads have returned to the dust from which they are made. The tools we use to describe our instincts: words and art and the invention of fiction that were gifted to our species during the cognitive revolution more than 70,000 years ago are best used for society’s long term well-being when they are used in the service of Stewardship of the natural world. This is now a lost sentiment, after Watt’s 1774 invention of the oil powered steam engine, a date uncoincidentally aligning with the revolution that spawned the world’s first major democratic, governing power. We now live in Bill Mckibben’s world: the end of nature – a book I have a lot of problems with – when every bit of the biosphere was touched by the atmospheric spread of humanity’s first, global-altering emission, cementing our legacy of detritus and pollution in the visible, geologic strata.

(11 forest)

In the industrial world, in the grips of the industrial world’s ethical paradigm, it is nearly impossible to imagine stillness, or balance is probably the better word, on a cultural level. Even those among us who wish to see a restored ecography – some new version of society where a balance is attained between the extraction and replenishment of our copious natural resources – are attempting to envision a machine that puts the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube. That is not to say that we’ve not made great strides towards reconciling the known threats. The invention of Public lands, a bit more than a century ago, was a great step towards identifying our right to develop with our responsibility to set aside. It helped us to realize what the author Gretel Ehrlich calls the Solace of Open Spaces, a necessary driver of sanity in our body and our collective mind. Fifty years ago, The Golden Age of Environmental legislation did what it could to unite us in our efforts to remediate the terrible poisons we injected willfully into our shared environment and threatened the longevity of the legacy that is our natural world, opened up to us by such author’s as Rachel Carson.

(12 POST)

Despite potentially being threatened to whatever degree by any given executive administration and their unwise policies, there are certain core bits of knowledge that we’ve attained to the betterment of our natural world. An obvious example for this crowd might be the acknowledgement that the willful introduction of alien species into any given ancient ecosystem always disrupts the productive equilibrium of that community. But we are still so far from realizing a day when we transform our hearts from reclamation to restoration, that relieved cessation to manifest destiny, when the exponentially spiraling, positive-feedback loops are tamed. We do not yet know what we do not know. We are still in the wave of industrial progress, and when that wave moves through us, either by its own momentum or by our choice to restructure it, our society will be left with a new paradigm, and the structure of that paradigm will be ecological.

(13 Water)

I have now just finished up my second book in this series which will ultimately be a five series set. This second book is a bit of an outlier to the other four: it is about water. This first book, the California Field Atlas is an elemental tour of the big, macro-networks of Earth, Air, Fire and Water are there relative influence across the topography, largely irrespective of humanity. The following trilogy: The California Lands Trilogy will consist of three books to come out in 2019 and 2020, again published by HEYDAY called The Forests of California, The Coasts of California and the Deserts of California. First though, I had to get my head around Water – the single most altered aspect of California’s large and natural systems of life. The book is called the State of Water, a field atlas to the conservation of California’s most precious resource.

(14 Rivers)

We enjoy water now in California as a generously available commodity derived from, at different scales, a finite resource. After enough numbers have been considered, and after enough resources have be reconciled between what we use, what there is and what we need, I am always amazed by how far we’ve extended the natural limits of the sheer volume of water in this arid paradise. The next one hundred years, like the last one hundred years in California history, will be defined by water. The premise of the book, if there is an agenda to it at all is that if we’re not talking about conservation, we are not have a good debate about water. Better pour another drink, because as Mark Twain (probably never) said: “whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.”

(15 Salmon)

I pick my fights carefully in this thin book. Like my other books, it is a systems theory, a personal journey through art and analysis that is about more than what it is actually about. The infrastructure of California water, specifically surface water systems – a braided knot, an artifact of superimpositions over the state’s natural circulatory network that is as dazzling as it might be precarious. My focus is on the riparian ecosystems that harbor so much endangered, endemic life and my relationship to it, not only as a thirsty artist (pun intended) with so many of his own opinions, but a citizen involved in unpacking the truth. Sometimes the process appears as a fight, at other times a celebration.

(16 coyote)

When I wrote the California Field Atlas, the political climate of the country was much different. As I am working on the follow-ups, I am tracing a very delicate line between activism and celebration, between ire and ecstasy, between agenda and observation. Ultimately, the primary dynamic in my systems analysis is scale, through both time and across space. The political reality of the moment does not necessarily have any more or any less a catastrophic effect on the wild character of California, than the last five hundred, or even ten thousand years, the history of human residency in this place. The avalanching effect on patterns of endemic life that society has, is coming sharply into focus as the most important issue of our day.

(17 Map 01)

In my work, I do not recount a doom and gloom philosophy, listing emergency calls-to-action, but I also strive to not suffer the foolish policies of the unwise interests at the helm of any given governmental administration.

In my work, I examine the relationship between art and science, which in my mind is the play between meaning and truth and apply that research to one object-field-system of study: California. The course of my study is mechanically, a puzzle of endless depth, width and breadth despite the topographic finiteness of the land area itself. The end of my work is societal atonement with California’s natural world; an equilibrium between human extraction and replenishment based on more-than-knowledge, but a deep understanding rooted in love to protect and restore. To give back the gift.

(18 Map 02)

I have a lot of faith in the idea of Geographic literacy, but I have a hard time pinning down exactly what it is. It is certainly not only the rote ability to read a map. It is more than the ability of being able to read the land. It is more than knowing what is where. Geographic literacy is wrapped up in the qualitative function of how – how do systems relate and support life.

(19 Owl)

Let’s go with that: Geographic Literacy is the interdisciplinary study and appreciation of living patterns across a specific landscape. Geographic literacy is not only the study of ecology, the study of the relationship between biotic and abiotic forces, but the understanding of how macro-networks of a given province (be it a watershed, a fireshed, a carbonshed, a viewshed) are influenced by physiography, hydrology, climate, soil, pollution and other elemental, shaping forces that influence biodiversity at any moment on the ecosystem’s adaptive cycle, its successive life cycle.

(20 Adaptive Cycle)

All living networks share the same adaptive cycle regardless of scale. New growth always evolves into mature forms of conservation within the system-body. This inevitably leads to the release of stored energy at the opposite side of the diagram from the generation of it. The decimation releases resources that makes way for the reorganization of those structures that define the function of the system itself and extend through time to both the beginning and the end of terrestrial life.

(21 flowers)

Ascribing power of self-generation and renewal, or purpose, to a natural system is to see that system as alive – a being unto itself. Or at least, this reach to understanding set some parameters to better understand our role in the functioning of that system. If all natural systems are living systems, the moral perspective shifts and we become responsible to recognize our integral relationship to it. Systems of nature are now legally considered property: resources and commodities. The economics that we’ve built around this system of law – capitalism – depends on the myth of resource scarcity, it is the driving force of supply, demand, investment and return. I am not decrying the evils of our legal system or even capitalism itself, I don’t have a prescription about how it will play out. I am suggesting that when we shift the perspective, when the paradigm begins to slip, when we see the world as a living thing that exists in cycles of rebirth and redefinition, we see our own society susceptible to the same kind of evolution. And then, we can begin to talk about how the land sustains and renews itself – we move from the realm of scarcity into the realm of plenty.

(22 River Otter)

The next several hundred years will be the age of ecology. We will learn how remediation becomes restoration and moves to stewardship for the conservation and preservation of biosphere-system-balances that make human life possible. Since the late 18th century when we entered the era of the carbon economy and began the veiling of the whole surface of the planet in a thin layer of combustion’s residue, then again in 1945 when we upped the ante on the process and deposited another layer of strata in the form of radioactive particles that marked the beginning of humanity’s nuclear age, we entered a new, geologically detectable age of the Holocene, the Anthropocene, or as E.O.Wilson warns, the age of loneliness. If in fact it is to be an age of loneliness, as the so-called sixth massive extinction that is proceeding at a rate corresponding directly with the exponential growth of our species, we will only witness its beginnings and not its far reaching effects as our existence is supported by a network of all life that reaches to touch all pieces of the biosphere. With collective vision, we are together drawing another path through this labyrinth, one that is at least locally alive more now than it was fifty years ago. From this context, a painting of a river otter, and relating a simple tale of their precarious resurgent population across the San Francisco Bay Delta, is far more than just a cute, aquatic predator regaining a foothold – it is a symbol of us recognizing the way to our future legacy is by examining, supporting and reinforcing the legacy of nature’s past. As much habitat as we can afford to return to wild, endemic patterns is investment into our own, rich and resilient future.Intro

Cycles in Geographic Literacy

Look at nature enough and cycles begin to dominate. Folding back in, recycling, reforming and being spat back out in some transformed configuration is the closed course of all elemental function. All energetic-source vectors follow in the shape of the globe and head far off toward some vector of their own invention and momentum to only come back around again. Ecologists describe energy as a consumable force that is unidirectional – a giving momentum from one trophic level to the next until it is spent. The spending of energy is better thought of as a release of constituent components, mineral and abiotic units that are always recycled and used again.

In my work, I examine the relationship between art and science, which in my mind is the play between meaning and truth and apply that research to one object-field-system of study: California. The course of my study is mechanically, a puzzle of endless depth, width and breadth despite the topographic finiteness of the land area itself. The end of my work is societal atonement with California’s natural world; an equilibrium between human extraction and replenishment based on more-than-knowledge, but a deep understanding rooted in love to protect and restore. To give back the gift.

I have a lot of faith in the idea of Geographic literacy, but I have a hard time pinning down exactly what it is. It is certainly not only the rote ability to read a map. It is more than the ability of being able to read the land. It is more than knowing what is where. Geographic literacy is wrapped up in the qualitative function of how – how do systems relate and support life.

Let’s go with that: Geographic Literacy is the interdisciplinary study and appreciation of living patterns across a specific landscape. Geographic literacy is not only the study of ecology, the study of the relationship between biotic and abiotic forces, but the understanding of how macro-networks of a given province (be it a watershed, a fireshed, a carbonshed, a viewshed) are influenced by physiography, hydrology, climate, soil, pollution and other elemental, shaping forces that influence biodiversity at any moment on the ecosystem’s adaptive cycle, its successive life cycle.

All living networks share the same adaptive cycle regardless of scale. New growth always evolves into mature forms of conservation within the system-body. This inevitably leads to the release of stored energy at the opposite side of the diagram from the generation of it. The decimation releases resources that makes way for the reorganization of those structures that define the function of the system itself and extend through time to both the beginning and the end of terrestrial life.

note: this diagram of my own invention is a symbolic approximation of a very complex and subtle system-cycles, collectively known as the biogeochemical cycles. The most misleading aspect of this diagram is the idea that these recycling systems move in linear narrative or a consistent arch, when actually the cycles reconfigure themselves from multiple origin points to multiple chemical outcomes.

The characters at play in this drama do not change, although the scenarios they exist in, namely the rate of change in ecosystem quantities at scale does. Through the abiotic theaters of life on earth: the lithosphere (earth), the hydrosphere (water) and the atmosphere (air), biogeochemical cycles run their endless loops. The runners of these loops are the nutrients themselves: carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen and sulfur are the big ones.

The major abiotic ecological cycles
  1. The Carbon cycle describes the process by which carbon enters the atmosphere (in the form of Carbon Dioxide) through respiration and combustion and is then reabsorbed biologically through photosynthesis and passed along through the cycle by consumption of plants. It is important because photosynthesis (sugar derived in plants through sun-energy) is the source of all ecology and Carbon Dioxide is necessary in the formula for plants to produce sugar.
Carbon Geography: Carbon exists in the ecosystem in locations called Stores (oceans, forest, and such). The Store can either be a Sink (absorbing more carbon than it gives off), or a Source (giving off more carbon than it absorbs.)
  1. The Nitrogen cycle describes the process by which atmospheric Nitrogen becomes available to ecosystems to produce and decompose. The first step in this extracting atmospheric Nitrogen is bacterial. Bacteria transform nitrogen into Ammonia to make it available for plants in a step called Assimilation. Plants and animals use ammonia to make amino acids and DNA, i.e. growth. When the plant or animal dies, ammonification is how bacteria collect the nitrogen for reuse. Denitrification is the reduction of the nitrogen back to gas.
Nitrogen Geography: Ecosystems and biodiversity increase with nitrogen fertilization, but a tipping point occurs when Nitrogen saturation is attained and begins to damage all biological processes. The process of Nitrogen Pollution is a positive feedback cycle that cause decreased biodiversity and extensive eutrophication in fresh and saltwater systems.
  1. The Nutrient cycle describes the process by which all life-in-matter within the ecosystem is produced. The Nutrient cycle encompasses aspects of all the mineral cycles: Carbon, Nitrogen, Sulfur, Phosphorus, Oxygen and water and requires an equilibrium of these other cycles to efficiently produce healthy ecosystems. Biomass becomes litter which decomposes and with rock, becomes soil. Soil produces plant and life to again become biomass.
Nutrient Geography: 100% of all energy and nutrients is any ecosystem is used again and again indefinitely. This closed loop recycling is always dependent on 1) the protection of biodiversity 2) Access to renewable energy and 3) the recycling of plants.
  1. The Oxygen cycle describes the process, by which photosynthesis as its main agent transports oxygen between the atmosphere and the biosphere. Photosynthesis is responsible for most of the atmosphere’s free oxygen, or that oxygen not locked up in water and other chemicals. Oxygen is also cycled through the Biosphere and the lithosphere through the weathering of calcium carbonate shells of marine organisms.
Oxygen Geography: Atmospheric oxygen has led to the formation of the ozone layer which protect all terrestrial life from ultraviolet radiation and affords the biosphere its current habitable condition.
  1. The Phosphorus cycle is the process by which Phosphorus, a key-component to building biomolecules is processed through rocks and minerals and utilized by biologic agents. As in the Nitrogen cycle, mycorrhizal fungi broker phosphorus between soil and plants in exchange for sugar.
Phosphorus Geography: an over-abundance of Phosphorus in a marine or freshwater ecosystem will cause a choking bloom of algae, which leads to quicker rates of eutrophication. Phosphorus rarely occurs in a gas form but exists in the earth and thereby makes this cycle, by existing on the geologic timeline, the longest, potential timeframe for a revolution of any of the major mineral cycles.
  1. The Sulphur cycle, in terms of its ecological relevance, is the process by which this essential element, used in the production of proteins is recycled through plant uptake, or used by plants in its atmospheric form, Sulphur Dioxide and then returned to the earth through plant residue and other biosolids.
Sulfur Geography: the amount of Sulphur in the atmosphere always increases because of volcanic activity and the human burning of coal. Sulphur is intrinsic in the production of Fossil Fuels. When Sulfur is released through the burning of fossil fuels it enters the water cycle and transforms rain water to a pH level of 4.3 or lower, acid rain.
  1. The Rock cycles describes how magma from the crust crystallizes to become igneous rocks on the surface. Erosion than transforms those rocks by means of sedimentation into sedimentary rocks. The processes of plate tectonics, by means of tectonic burials, transform those rocks into metamorphic rocks by means of melting back to magma.
Rock Geography: called geology, is the study of the components of all land-type constituents and their chemical make-up across topographies.
  1. Also called the Hydrologic cycle, is the process by which liquid water condenses into the atmosphere by the processes of evaporation and evapotranspiration (the breathing of plants) to come back to the earth in the form of precipitation.
Water Geography: physiographic processes that are included in the water cycle are volcanic steam, sublimation (ice becoming steam without becoming liquid), desublimation (atmospheric water becoming ice without becoming liquid), surface runoff, fog drip, ice and snow, snowmelt runoff, soil infiltration, groundwater flow, groundwater storage, streamflow, freshwater, plant uptake, dew, springs, seepage, flora and fauna, vents and volcanoes and oceans.

Ascribing power of self-generation and renewal, or purpose, to a natural system is to see that system as alive – a being unto itself. Or at least, this reach to understanding set some parameters to better understand our role in the functioning of that system. If all natural systems are living systems, the moral perspective shifts and we become responsible to recognize our integral relationship to it. Systems of nature are now legally considered property: resources and commodities. The economics that we’ve built around this system of law – capitalism – depends on the myth of resource scarcity, it is the driving force of supply, demand, investment and return. I am not decrying the evils of our legal system or even capitalism itself, I don’t have a prescription about how it will play out. I am suggesting that when we shift the perspective, when the paradigm begins to slip, when we see the world as a living thing that exists in cycles of rebirth and redefinition, we see our own society susceptible to the same kind of evolution. And then, we can begin to talk about how the land sustains and renews itself – we move from the realm of scarcity into the realm of plenty.

Geographic Literacy & the Watersheds of the Peninsula

I often say that I don’t have any prophetic truths about where and how the state of California conservation and ecology is going to unfold in the next 100 years. We are entering a time dominated by ecological chaos on many levels of scale, all stemming from and around the inter-human (meaning here, the effects of a global human population of 10 billion) and the intra-human (meaning here, the systems and policies we as the community of California citizens choose to enact and defend). Whatever help I can be and it is my solemn honor to do so, as a painter, a cartographer and a naturalist, is to present as clearly as I can what is effectively, an inventory of conservation. We have to know what there is to defend in order to conserve it at all. I am sure that by presenting this information in a beautiful, simplified, graphically-efficient manner, the well-rendered, handpainted map can be a vehicle for what is certainly no less than a fundamental, consciousness shift.

Working draft of the Watersheds of the Peninsula for the POST (the Peninsula Open Space Trust) by Obi Kaufmann – @coyotethunder on instagram.

By removing the roads and by essentializing a nature-first narrative, we place ourselves and our anthro-aggrandizing human network in what is perhaps a humbler context, a larger ecosystem of necessarily networked forces. By familiarizing ourselves with the larger geography of the natural world and its living systems that support and sustain us, our value perceived towards those systems begins to warp into a more organic paradigm; a new paradigm that the stressed and exploited resource-systems that we rely on need for us to immediately adopt. In that spirit of geographic literacy and with assured hope that simply by learning, by naming and by apprehending how and where these local, living networks interact, our love and respect for them grows, I present my latest map: a collaboration with the PENINSULA OPEN SPACE TRUST. With love and respect for conservation comes legal defense, political will and a society-changing world view, that once fully embraced will protect not only whatever it is we choose to protect, but may just afford our complicated little species the grace it needs to navigate through the coming decades of chaos.

Watersheds and Watercourses of the San Francisco Peninsula. The map will be published as a poster in 2018 and be made available through the Peninsula Open Space Trust. By Obi Kaufmann

Covering approximately 1,100 square miles (over 700,000 acres), the land area described on this map holds more than 2,000 miles of watercourse across 67 primary creeks, streams and rivers within 58 watersheds.

A watershed is a geographically discreet zone defined by how the contour of its local geologic morphology (the shape of the land) and its hydrology (the way the water moves across the land) work around a common draining watercourse (creek, stream, river) or aquifer (groundwater).

The dominant land feature across the San Francisco’s southern peninsula, called the Peninsula, is the Santa Cruz Mountains. Separating the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean, the mountains rise to a maximum height of 3,806 feet at Loma Prieta. The Santa Cruz mountains extend across three counties: San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara. The west face of the range is home to the largest, intact and continuous stands of old-growth Redwood forest south of San Francisco. Riparian habitat of this kind (redwood dominant, mixed conifer and bay) is common along steep basins saddling both sides of the northern, coastal-end of the range. Other regular ecological habitat along these diverse, coastal mountains includes Oak woodland, Montane hardwood, coastal dunes, chaparral, coastal sage scrub, Bay wetland, vernal-pool grassland, cattle rangeland and of course the human ecologies of the greater Silicon Valley, coastal communities, Santa Clara Valley and Santa Cruz. The Peninsula is home to nearly one hundred endangered species of plants and animals.

About the Peninsula Open Space Trust

The Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) has protected over 75,500 acres of open space, farms and parkland since its founding in 1977. In that time, POST has developed a proven methodology for successful land protection by purchasing the land and placing permanent protection on it through conservation easements. Once the protection work is complete POST continues to take care of the land in perpetuity.

Land conservation means not only protecting the land, but keeping it in good condition, too.  POST’s stewardship team uses both traditional and innovative techniques for evaluating, prioritizing and caring for open space on each POST owned property. POST’s work ranges from essential maintenance like re-grading roads, fixing fences and managing vegetation for fire control, to ambitious long-term restoration projects that create vibrant habitats for native plants and wildlife. Other examples include invasive weed eradication, developing new trails, reviving river, stream and creekside habitats, and managing productive working lands like ranches, farms and forests.

POST’s scope of work also includes providing assistance with working lands management, protecting natural resources and providing recreation activities for everyone.

Working lands include farms, forests and grazing land. POST projects promote productive use of these lands while protecting and enhancing natural resources.  Recent projects include managed grazing, water infrastructure improvements and selective timber harvesting.

We work in partnership with public agencies and private owners to protect natural resources: the flora, fauna, water, air and soil that exist on all POST protected properties. We raise money through grants and donations to eradicate invasive plants, restore riparian habitats and native grasslands, ensure fish and wildlife passage and prevent soil erosion.

When well managed, recreational activities like hiking, biking, and horseback riding provide people with the chance to build a healthy connection to the land while also protecting the natural resources on each property.  We work with public and private partners to plan and build trails, while protecting the most sensitive environments.

Portrait of the artist Obi Kaufmann at Butano State Park.

Resiliency, a wildlands presentation


By Obi Kaufmann

For the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center

Delivered Saturday 10.14.17, the Armory, Ashland, Oregon

First, thank you, people of Oregon and perhaps some here, people of Northern California and perhaps even others, refugees and emigrants from parts elsewhere. Thank you for having me, a guy who was born and spent his whole life, except for one wild year in Portland about fifteen years ago, traipsing around the California hinterlands and working on simultaneously, a dual career: one, my own art – calligraphy, painting and mapmaking and two, land conservation. I donate my time and money to over two dozen organizations up and down the west who seem to tirelessly hold the line against those who see habitat and wildlands as mere commodity, and I don’t hesitate to say KSWild is one of my favorite. The work that the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center does is close to my heart and I am proud to stand with them again and again on issue after issue – giving voice to the so often voiceless forces of wilderness – standing up for biodiversity, standing for resistance against the endless corporate interests of extraction at the cost of our natural world and family.

Tonight’s theme is resilience and I’ve quite a yarn I could chew, whether we are talking about circles radiating out from the personal to the interpersonal, the transpersonal, to the bioregional, to the network of larger living systems that all hold each other in the basket of life our beautiful globe enjoys. Immediately though, I am drawn to pause at the human toll, as residents of the west, that we’ve endured this past year and continue to endure. I am moved to mention this, and what I am speaking about is of course – fire, because right now my home-region, San Francisco’s Bay Area is currently suffering California’s October flame, and it is certainly common ground for us as neighbor states to commiserate there upon. For those of you who may still be working on recovering from either September’s massive fires, or I am sure many of you remember the Buzzard Complex Fire near Burns in 2014 at almost 400,000 acres – or maybe, being here in Ashland you remember the Long Draw Fire in 2012 to our east at well over 500,000 acres – or the Biscuit Fire of 2002, perhaps the fire most associated with the area of land KSWild concerns themselves with, again at over 500,000 acres – or maybe the Chetco Fire at about 200,000 acres, both deep in the Siskiyou and Klamath Mountains and Kalmiopsis knot. To those of you affected by those fire, I am sorry – you are resilient, and I freely dedicate my words to you.

I could give this talk every year. It comes with the territory, doesn’t it? Our land speaks in fire and that language is evolving. If you listen too much to the media, or the president, you begin to think that Chicken Little may have been right – between the hurricanes and the fires, our nation takes it hard every year from both cardinal directions. And while it is true that something unprecedented is happening at scale from the regional to the global – that all systems are being directly influenced by a myriad of human factors from fossil fuel to population – it is also true that the west has never known stasis in these matters and that by a certain kind of knowledge, a knowledge I refer to as a primary agenda in my Field Atlas: a geographic literacy, I posit that it is not only an inner-kind of peace you can make with all this horribleness, but that there are real solutions there too that come when the citizenry shares a common reference, even a common reality based on the ebb and flow of nature’s resources and shaping forces.

The California Field Atlas has been out now for about a month and my wife Alli and I have been dragging our happy little dog Gordy all around the Golden State on an incredible book tour that I can only begin to describe as, as least as gratifying as it is intense. I see so many people’s eyes light up when it dawns on them what this book is – I see so much thirst for this nature-first kind of story. Especially in these days of political miasma, when people are so easily triggered by everything on both sides of any national or regional issue, there is a certain kind of peace that comes from rooted-ecological thinking and pattern-making across thousands of miles and thousands of millions of years. This book and the kind of dialogue it affords and inspires, warms the human heart to its own resiliency by reminding us that we are from the natural world and it is to the natural world we always return.

I am most commonly asked three questions about how and why I wrote the California Field Atlas. The first is did you do both the illustrations and the writing? And when I answer yes, the second question usually follows: how long did it take you? And then the third question is usually either, depending on how deep a thinking person they are – did you write this in the woods? A surprisingly common question to which the truthful answer, no, because while I have spent most of my life walking the backcountry of California, I did need a computer’s help in this huge effort – usually comes as a disappointment. What was your inspiration or why did you write it at all?

Last year, when I was still writing the thing, I was announced as the winner of the San Francisco Foundation’s Phelan award for California Literature, and at the awards dinner I met Gary Snyder – shown here at left. Gary Snyder, and for those of you who don’t know it, wrote among other great works: Mountains and Rivers Without End – a most-interesting and poetic treatise on the resiliency of the mountain forest chains that extend both inward and outward alike. Anyway, I won the award, I think more than anything because it was being published by Malcolm Margolin of Heyday Books out of Berkeley – Here I am also with the artist Tom Killion, who is a huge inspiration of my work. Standing there with Gary, after he reviewed my work and looking up asked me “But Obi, what is California?” Now that is a question. I am glad that I had a modicum of wits about me when I could only reply after taking a deep breath “well, to me Gary, right now California is both Heaven and Hell.”

To Gary’s point, California doesn’t exist as a static thing, a discreet system like a garden or a zoo – there is no element of domesticity there to be detected at all, still, despite even the 21st century veneer, this concrete jacket that we’ve successfully and assuredly momentarily imposed across the west. It remains a living thing, resistant to disease, even if that disease is in human form and wishes to too quickly alter its way and its means – for it will defend itself from the interloper and burn us off like a fever defending the body if we are not careful.

So what does being careful mean? Well we are clearly still working that out and I’ve got little as far as prophetic answers go. But I do have a heading. I can discern orientation in these woods. Being careful, in whatever social system, is always about being respectful. And being respectful is about being able to read the situation of any given community, and being able to read the normal workings of that community. There is a ritual to all ecological workings and that ritual uses living systems that disclose to us clues about when and where to step.

You might have noticed, I use that word a lot: living, or the act of being alive. It is core to the character of the natural world I describe in my book – that all, natural systems are living systems and deserve an emancipated rebirth from the old human paradigms of utility and extraction without reciprocation and gratitude. If you get this point, you see why I left roads and other such things out of my book. This is what the Klamath River will look like in 1,000 years long after our concrete dams have returned to the dust and silt from which they were made. That blue line cutting through those mountains is the line we should learn from – that is the line we should understand.

When you being to accept my assumption that all, natural systems are alive, they being to make a bit more sense and human activity and contrivance begins to make a little less. And I am not shy about it when I say yes, even systems of fire are living networks based on ecological regimes – ecologies that are both adaptive and dependent on it for succession, proliferation and health. I would be remiss to not mention that for over 15,000 years, indigenous cultures of the west have understood how fire regimes may be mitigated over grand swathes of topography. And it is of course in our best interest to again consider the urban/wildlands interface in that regard, as far as prescribed burning and settlement, along with an intimate and practical understand of how invasive botanicals alter the regime in any give locale.

It is my core belief that when and if we can learn, and come to a common vocabulary, a vocabulary robust with respect and acknowledgement, we may yet just survive, as a species, our adolescence. Perhaps then we can trust each other enough to not only begin the conversation about how our continued residency in the west might extend for not only another hundred years, but maybe another thousand or even ten thousand years.

To conclude, I thought I would end with a quick Gary Snyder poem – one that gets to the beating heart of what it means to be counted among a truly sustainable community, or at least one that wishes to be so – this is from “Mountains and Rivers without End” and I like to think that maybe he wrote it in some beautiful moment deep in the Klamath Know, perhaps in the Marble Mountains or the Trinities… it is called “Old Bones.”


Out there walking round, looking out for food,

A rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack

Plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,

            Barely getting by,


No food out there on dusty slopes of scree –

Carry some – look for some,

Go for a hungry dream.

Deer bone, Dall sheep,

            Bones hunger home.


Out there somewhere

A shrine for the old ones,

The dust of the old bones,

            Old songs and tales.


What we ate – who ate what –

            How we all prevailed.  

Indigofera Jeans x Coyote Thunder collaboration

Indigofera Jeans x Coyote Thunder collaboration

Personality and place comingle in the latest offering from Indigofera jeans. Working for over a year with California artist Obi Kaufmann, the Stockholm-based outfitters are proud to present a capsule line of rugged men’s apparel that blurs the line between equipment and clothing. Designed for the poet-adventurer at home hiking both the Sierra Nevada Mountains or on San Francisco’s foggy beach, this new collaboration blazes a new trail, balancing a wilderness soul with an urban-ready vibe.

In this line, informally called the “California Hiking Series,” Indigofera continues their trademark obsession with craftsmanship, quality, simplicity and functional design in every piece and in every detail.

photo by Standard & Strange, Oakland California, 2017

Obi Kaufmann, author of the forthcoming “California Field Atlas” (to be published by Heyday Books, Sept. 2017) lends his art and inspiration to this project, which includes a complete trail-ready outfit for the aspiring naturalist who is just as at home studying wildflowers as he is  sipping whiskey down at the honky tonk.


In addition to the clothes themselves, a sumptuously-illustrated blanket based on the paintings of Obi Kaufmann’s #trailpaintings called “Old Man Coyote” is complementing the collection and being simultaneously premiered.

(from left to right): Pontus, Obi, Mats, Kari and Fredrik of INDIGOFERA

The European debut of the collection will occur at Selvedge Run in Berlin in January. The North American debut will take place at Desert & Denim in Joshua Tree in February, 2017. Wholesale orders are currently being considered with a September 2017 ship date.

Obi Kaufmann posts his work as @coyotethunder on Instagram.

The Best of Outdoor Retailer

I don’t like things. Stuff generally bores me. Last week, I was at Outdoor Retailer, at the center of stuff designed to sell the idea of having fun in the outdoors. I could continue on this line of cynicism – about how this monstrous consumerist society is at odds with the often hollow, rhetorical cry within the industry, of a greener vision and an environmental ethic – but I won’t; there are a handful of excellent companies who are tirelessly presenting unique quality, design and style. Here I present a few of my favorites – I took the attitude when coming up with the list, to choose the portfolio based on one item per category, as if I was building my own new toolbox of gear and clothing. These items I could and would use in my own lifestyle. -Obi

FROST RIVER – The Campfire Tent
PALOMINO – Black Wing Pencils – Japanese cedar pencils of unparalleled quality
TOPO DESIGNS – the new design for the day pack
GOAL ZERO – the Boulder 100 Briefcase – The next generation of power
FILSON – The short lined cruiser work jacket
MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR – The new design for the Ghost Sleeping Bag
MULE – The new branding of the Allett ultra-slim wallet
PARKS PROJECT – putting their money where their mouth is
DUCKWORTHCO – sheep to shelf – rancher owned wool
VASQUE – The granddaddy, my own 1,000 mile boot at right and three brand new Vasque boots pictured at left


Processed with VSCO with a9 preset


Malcolm Margolin on the River

Malcolm Margolin proves again and again himself as a beacon to all manner of creative genius. Earlier this week, he gathered a cadre of so many remarkable souls from around Northern California and beyond to join him on the South Fork of the American River for an evening and a day of camping and rafting. I was honored to be among the invited. What ensued was a flurry of love, light and networked connectivity that surely comes around only once in a great while.  What follows is an collection of my photos from the trip, along with a reference-biography to each of the marvelous characters in each photo. I was unable to get pictures of everyone, so I’ve included their bio at the end, as one was written for each member of the expedition. In fact, it was Malcolm who asked us all, in order to speed along the introductions, to pen our own and then he edited them all. After the photos, I conclude with some other key facts and features regarding the man who I am so honored to call a friend as he is certainly also to me, a hero. – Obi

The South Fork of the American River near Lotus
My portrait of Malcolm Margolin – Obi Kaufmann
Malcolm (at right) presides over post-lunch story time. Pictured from left to right above (not all listed)

Stephanie Sy-Quia. Stephanie has recently finished college in England, majoring in English Literature. Born in Berkeley but raised in France and the UK, she is currently writing a book about luminaries of the Bay Area.

Toby McLeod. Through the Sacred Land Film Project, which he founded in 1984, Toby has worked intimately with indigenous communities throughout the world. He has walked the narrow line between the political need to gain support for native land rights by publicizing the power and beauty of indigenous spiritual practice to the world at large on one hand and on the other hand an awareness of native sensibilities about exposing dearly-held sacred rituals to outsiders. More than a list of films and awards—however many and prestigious they may be—the respect, gratitude, and affection with which indigenous people throughout the world have for Toby is the true measure of the heroic work he has done.

Peter Wiley. A San Francisco writer and publisher, Peter retired as chairman of Wiley Publishing in 2015, but remains involved in his family’s business. Peter served for many years on the boards of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, the University of California Press, and the Library Advisory Board at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He was one of a collective of activists who founded a political review called Leviathan in the 1960s, also working as an editor and writer at The Bulkhead, an anti-war broadsheet distributed globally to GIs during the Vietnam War. Peter started a newspaper column called Points West with his co-author, Bob Gottlieb. Gottlieb and Wiley authored two books on the American West. Peter went on to write three more books including a history of the San Francisco Public Library and the National Trust Guide to the History and Architecture of San Francisco and served as lead writer and editor of Knowledge for Generations: Wiley and the Global Publishing Industry, 1807 to 2007.

from left to right: Marty Krasney, Penda Toure, Bridget Huber and Esailama Diouf

Marty Krasney. Marty directs the Dalai Lama Fellows, an organization he created in 2010,  to train enlightened leaders for the next generation. Before that, he was the first director of the Aspen Institute Seminars, the founding president of American Leadership Forum, executive director of The Coalition for the Presidio Pacific Center and program director of the National Humanities Series. He serves on the board of Heyday Books. He also writes fiction, and—beyond institutional affiliation—his social grace, wisdom, irrepressible playfulness, and love of a good party have made him a welcome and beneficial participant in many and diverse aspects of the Bay Area’s cultural and political life.

Penda Toure. Penda is visiting from her native Senegal. Multilingual in European and West African languages, She has been engaged in the processing and distribution of shea butter, derived from an African nut and valued from ancient times to the present for its cosmetic, medicinal, and nutritive properties.

Bridget Huber. Bridget is a writer and radio producer living in Berkeley, but originally from Maine. She’s best known for her work in food production, environment, and science. She’s written and made radio for Public Radio International, The Lancet, Al Jazeera, the Nation, the California Sunday Magazine and NPR, among others.

Esailama Diouf. Esailama began her professional career as a performing artist with Diamano Coura West African Dance Company in 1989 based in Oakland, California. As a scholar—she has a PhD—she has lectured throughout the United States and conducted long–term teaching and performance residencies in India, South Africa, Barbados and Trinidad-Tobago. She is the Founding Director of Bisemi Inc., supporting African-derived cultural artists and serves on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA), the Silicon Valley African Film Festival. She is also a former board member of Good Work Network, an organization helping minority- and women-owned businesses start, grow, and succeed by providing business development services.

from left to right, (perhaps a better bicture of) Marty Krasney, Nettie Hoge and Julie Mushet

Nettie Hoge. Nettie has many years experience in nonprofit and government administration. She is currently on the board of Heyday, serving as co-chair and guiding it through a period of transition. Recently retired from the California Department of Insurance, where she was Chief Deputy Commissioner, she describes herself as “a bureaucrat who found the door to freedom and won’t look back.”

Julie Mushet is the Executive Director for World Arts West in San Francisco, where she has directed hundreds of world dance and music events over the past 15 years, including the annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. She began her career in the arts at Cal Performances while a student at UC Berkeley, where she graduated with a Natural Resources/Conservation Resource Studies degree and organized campus Earth Day celebrations.

Ed Bernbaum and Marcia Donahue

Ed Bernbaum. A mountain climber and trekker, Ed has scaled challenging peaks in the Himalayas and around the world. He is also a scholar of comparative religions and lectures widely on the relationship between mountains and human culture. He has worked with the National Park Service and is active in seeking World Heritage status for a multi-national area of the Himalayas. His book, Sacred Mountains of the World, won a gold medal from the Commonwealth Club and was the basis for a Smithsonian Institution exhibition. A few months back, Ed’s son, Jonathan, died in Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire. To honor Jonathan’s memory, as well as the memory of others who died in that tragedy, Ed is creating an organization, Vital Arts, to fund safer work/live spaces for artists.

Marcia Donahue. Marcia, ‘sculptor and devotee of flora,’ moved into her house on Wheeler Street, Berkeley, 37 years ago. Here she created a backyard garden of lush, jungle-like plantings with a pond. Several breeds of chickens run through the garden, and everywhere one finds sculptures of various materials that delight the eye and refresh the mind. This oasis of joy, playfulness, and beauty is open to the public on Sunday afternoons. It is a place of pure enchantment.

Claire Greensfelder and Faith Cushman

Claire Greensfelder. Claire is a lifelong environmental activist who has worked at an executive staff level or as a consultant with Greenpeace and over four dozen other NGOs. She seems equally at home, effective, and good humored whether working with international organizations at the center of world power or local grassroots groups cobbled together for a limited goal. She presently serves as Policy and Organizational Consultant to the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative and to the international, multi-media exhibit—“Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change.”

Faith Cushman. Worked as a Registered Nurse for 35 years, ICU, Public Health , and then various pilot projects at Kaiser the last 20 yrs of my career.  First went rafting in 1978 and have loved rivers and rafting ever since.

Dale Djerassi and Mark Dubois

Dale Djerassi. Dale Djerassi is a founding trustee of the Djerassi Resident Artists program in Woodside, California. The program was created by Dale’s father, Carl Djerassi, after the death in 1978 of his daughter, Dale’s sister, Pamela. Dale has been active in sustaining this program and expanding it into one of the premier artist residency programs in the country. Dale is also on the board of the San Francisco Film Society. He is an accomplished film director and producer. Among his best known films are Oil and Ice, and Koko: The Talking Gorilla.

Mark Dubois. A leader in the environmental movement, Mark was co-founder of Friends of the River (1973) and the International Rivers Network (1974). He was International Coordinator for Earth Day, 1990. A defining moment in his life, a deed that put him on the front pages of newspapers around the country, came in May, 1979, when he temporarily stopped construction of the New Melones Dam by finding a hiding place on the Stanislaus River and chaining himself to the rocks. The river has been his teacher, and the lessons he has learned from decades of rafting and advocacy work are imbedded deeply in his mind and heart, worked into his very muscles. “This rafting trip was his idea, a great and unexpected gift to me and to all of us.” – Malcolm Margolin.

me. Obi Kaufmann

Obi Kaufmann. Poet, artist, and naturalist, Obi’s monumental 600-page California Field Atlas, now at the printer, is due out from Heyday Books in September. Working out of his Oakland office, Obi does paintings on commission, volunteers for a number of land conservation organizations, and illustrates for several magazines and research organizations. Deeply knowledgeable about California, he characterizes Lotus and the South Fork of the American River as “two of my favorite, most precious moments in all of California’s grand portfolio.”

Ralph Benson

Ralph Benson. Ralph has had a long and productive career in land conservation. For 12 years he served as executive Director of the Sonoma Land Trust, and before that he was with The Trust for Public Land for 25 years. He served on the board of Save the Bay, and was board chair for many years. He has also served on the board of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Ralph is currently working on a Chile/California Conservation Conference, which will bring Chilean conservation leaders to California this September, with a follow-up meeting in Santiago early next year.

Lenore Goldman and Ralph Lewin

Lenore Goldman. A native of Detroit and a former resident of Santa Fe, Lenore has a strong background in the arts—especially dance. She’s lived in Berkeley for 25 years, working for a number of cultural and social justice organizations as a consultant on strategy, capacity, and impact. She’s currently on the Steering Teams of Indivisible Berkeley and the campaign to save the West Berkeley Shellmound site from development. For the last half-year she has been working with Malcolm to create a new, post-Heyday organization (California Institute for Community, Art, and Nature) to further and expand his vision.

Ralph Lewin. After many years with the California Council for the Humanities, Ralph took the post of Executive Director of The Mechanics Institute in 2014. With a splendid collection of books, old and current, the Mechanics Institute is the oldest lending library in California. Its chess club has world renown, and for many years it has had a history of dynamic programming for members and the general public. Under Ralph’s guidance, the historic building now houses some of California’s premier literary institutions, and rather than sink into venerability and live in its past, the Mechanics Institute has taken on a quality of freshness, innovation, and vision.

Jim Quay, Felicia Herron, Clare Dubois and Mark Dubois

Jim Quay.  Jim was for twenty-five years the Executive Director of the California Council for the Humanities. His tenure was marked by a number of significant public programs, many of them seeking to better understand what it means to be a Californian. Since his retirement, he has worked to facilitate meetings, run retreats, and lead discussion groups for the Center for Courage and Renewal.

Felicia Herron. Felicia manages the environmental stewardship program at the Djerassi Foundation. Sponsoring one of the most distinguished artist residency programs in the country, the Djerassi Foundation offers artists of many genres a retreat at their extensive and spectacularly beautiful ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Born in San Francisco, raised in La Honda, with a degree in environmental conservation and restoration ecology from Sonoma State University and with a special interest in California natural history, permaculture, and mycology, Felicia takes great delight in her role at Djerassi.

Clare Dubois is the founder of TreeSisters, a feminine nature-based organization inspiring the world’s women to take shared leadership around tropical reforestation.  And, an aspiring whitewater boater. (Next to her husband, Mark Dubois).

Athena Bonneau, Fletcher, Claire, Bob Cushman, Ralph, Sarah Mitts, Colin Carpenter, and Penda

Athena Bonneau. A youthful Native American visual artist from eastern British Columbia, with interests in drawing, printmaking, and sculpting, Athena is visiting the Bay Area, where she is doing an internship with the Cultural Conservancy. She is the granddaughter of the well-known and widely respected Okanagan artist, author, and political and cultural activist, Jeanette Armstrong.

Fletcher (river guide)

Clare Greensfelder (see above)

(standing) Bob Cushman.  “I started rafting in the late 70s shortly after moving to CA from New England. My first real trip was on the Stan, and I joined Friends of the River the week after that trip.  After 40 years of rafting and retiring from running my own mortgage company, I now spend time as a board member of FOR trying to save the rivers that have given me so much over the past 40 years.  My wife and I live on the river in Lotus, travel a lot, and spend time with our 2 sons, their partners, and 3 grandchildren.”

Ralph Benson (see above)

Sarah Mitts. Sarah works for Earth Island Institute, helping the nonprofit activist organizations that Earth Island sponsors with guidance, communication, managerial, and accounting matters. She brings to her job great zest and experience, in the U.S. and abroad, in grassroots community organizing.

Colin Carpenter is a builder, river aficionado, musician, and father. He is fortunate to live in Point Reyes, where he shares his (magical) home-made tiny house with his partner and their 3 year old son. He feels most alive on the river, in the mountains, and in the midst of musical collaboration.

Penda Toure (see above)

(not pictured):

Bill Somerville. Known for his radical approach to grant-making, Bill created the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation in 1991 to test new ideas. In his book, Grassroots Philanthropy, he urges program officers not to relate to the world through cumbersome procedures, applications, and reports, but to get out of the office, visit those people and organizations they would like to fund, and get to know applicants personally. Now over 80, he is uniquely grounded in the specificities of place and people. A native of Berkeley, he has lived in the same house all his life. He is also the father of Frank Somerville, a Bay Area television celebrity.

Caren Quay. Caren recently retired as Communications Manager of Kaiser Permanenti, Northern California, where she had worked for 40 years. She has spent the last several months engaging with family, seeing friends, and practicing yoga. She and Jim Quay have been married for 55 years.

Susan Moffat. Susan is project director of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative at UC Berkeley, a program that studies global cities through the lenses of the arts and the humanities as well as architecture and urban planning. She had previously worked as a journalist in Asia and Los Angeles. She is currently spearheading a campaign to create an “Art Park” at the old East Bay landfill site known as the Albany Bulb.

the flotilla getting towed to days’ end on the impressively full Folsom Reservoir.

An interview with Malcolm Margolin from Bay Nature Magazine, July 2016. (click on each  to enlarge)

My collection of books by Malcolm Margolin.

The East Bay Out

The Ohlone Way

The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin

Become a member of Friends of the River today.