Friday, September 5, 2008

"Black Rhinoceros" - robertsloan2art

TITLE: "Black Rhinoceros"
ARTIST: Robert A. Sloan
EBAY ID: robertsloan2art

Why I’m using my creativity to save the rainforest...

I have several reasons. Let’s start with the coldest. I’m a living breathing mammal, a creature that would like to go on living and breathing. The lungs of the planet are the rainforests and oceans. Keeping them safe and producing oxygen means I will go on breathing, that my grandchildren will, that my own species isn’t rushing down the path to extinction.

I’m a science fiction writer. Let’s say we do as human beings figure out some technological solution to ensure our own survival, and my descendants wind up eating processed yeast in monolithic steel and concrete hives on a hyper-overpopulated Earth -- just us and our symbiotes, our domesticated species and the parasites we can’t get rid of. I wouldn’t want to see that future come because I am also a painter and a writer.

I want to know there are wild places in the world that no one goes, that belong to ocelots and pumas and tapirs. I want to know there’s something in the world that isn’t mapped, tabulated, counted and owned. That not all living creatures are property of some human being or other.

Some of the humans that live in rich wild places, hunter-gatherer cultures, call other species peoples. Baboons, pumas, birds, rhinos, are all peoples of different habits -- beings seen as owning themselves, not as property of humans. Buying land to protect some of these peoples from the encroachment of other humans is something they don’t need to understand. They will live well in their land.

I am deeply religious. My Earth-centered spirituality leads me to revere Mother Gaia... and to integrate that spiritual view with what some interesting scientists have said about a Gaia Hypothesis. This world’s entire ecosystem can be viewed as one organism, a being that is all genders and species at once, the sum of all that lives. If Gaia is healthy and thrives then we, all of us that are part of her, thrive too. I want to walk in beauty. I want to walk lightly with a small footprint in her bounty, avoiding the waste of so many first world lifestyles.

I often use recycled drawing paper or supplies from renewable sources like shortlived cotton and linen plants. I order things online instead of driving to stores. Our household consolidates errands and we rarely use the car. We did this before gas got that expensive because it made for less waste. When I get packages I reuse the packaging to pack up things I’m sending. We leave a lot less trash than most and enjoy life just fine, often saving money too. Every habit change makes a difference and they’re usually self rewarding.

In nature everything is recycled. No matter what falls or breaks or dies it becomes food for something, for mushrooms and scavengers, for plants and completes the cycle. I find this beautiful. There are molecules in my body that used to be part of a puma, an ocelot, a tapir, a hummingbird.

As an artist I love these creatures. I have personal favorites. My totem is a cougar. Pumas are cougars by another name. My totem lives on this land and knowing my brother is free down there is a joy to me. I love all cats. Ocelots are beautiful cats, they belong in their trees in their territories. I used to think it was a little selfish to love the top predators so much... until recent science proved that top predators are key to an ecosystem’s health. When pumas and ocelots have healthy territories, everything else in their range flourishes. Everything stays in balance.

I chose the animal I did to represent all endangered species by remembering where my species came from. Every American child grows up on African animals. My two year old grandson has blocks with lions, rhinos, elephants and giraffes on them. The Black Rhinoceros is severely endangered, all these animals are. Yet they are so deeply embedded in Western culture that they eclipse all of the big impressive animals of our own continent! You don’t see alphabet-book Moose and Wolf and Eagle nearly as often as Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Lion.

I think this is because our species originated in Africa. I think these are the animals we evolved to live near, to hunt and to avoid being hunted by. The world of our roots will be gone forever if we let the big animals of Africa go extinct. Generations of children may look at schoolbooks of centuries past and know their contents are as vanished as the dinosaurs -- and wonder why we didn’t stop before it was too late. I chose the Black Rhinoceros so that my grandson’s grandchildren would have rhinos on photo safaris, to know the world of our past is alive in the present.

Rhinoceros, puma, ocelot, lion, giraffe, cheetah, shark... all of these are part of who we are. In an ecosystem, diversity is stability. Diversity is flexibility if there’s a climate change or a natural disaster of any kind.

If we halt the destruction, we halt our own destruction as well, of soul as well as physical terrain. Humane answers and green technologies exist. The way to save the Earth is to begin with what’s in reach, what I can do as an individual. So I live green and give what is best of mine to give -- representational art. I painted this rhino the way a beaver sets a dam. Art is what only humans do. I am happy to create something that helps save the animal peoples. Rare ants, plants and beetles will survive because as an artist I love the rhino, orchid and puma.