We live in an age when invention has never been more abundant and thrilling. Arts and science-based inventions carry us to seemingly vast improvements over the way it used to be.
Egged on by a sensation-cued media, we are all susceptible to involvement in cool and risky business as feeding a vague need to rise above that banality which so readily drags us down. Thus, the flat-out personal consumption and large-scale, nature-damaging factors of this adventure generally come to light as a manageable minus-side of an irresistible plus-side.
Our cleverness not being amenable to the possibility that most of our excitements are overrated and a pathetic excuse for cogent intensity, there is an inadequate commitment to curtailing the despoliation of the environment. As a result, in the past twenty or so years huge numbers of wild animals have been killed, with many species entirely wiped out or reduced to the point of endangerment to total disappearance.
That disconcerting history comprises the irony of vintage graphic designs promoting travel to countries no longer the treasure-trove of wildlife they once could celebrate and profit from. Exotica still obtains–the porn trade, for instance, never more lucrative–but the gift of real wildness has largely disappeared. Our first such blue-chip promotion deals–from the perspective of the present, delusionally–with the once-abundant and breathtakingly gorgeous red-crowned crane, not that long ago very numerous in Japan, Korea and China; but now down to about 2500.
In 1965, the posterist of the work above could imply seemingly infinite cod stocks being just below that tourist-encouraging sea. Now there is nothing left in that regard, to provide a livelihood to East Coast fisher-folk. (In the case of the red-crowned crane, the killer has been habitat obliteration; in the case of the Atlantic cod, reckless over-fishing has reduced the Maritimes and Newfoundland to a picturesque tourist and retirement zone.)
Toronto Zoo. Resting tiger.
A tiger exercising in the Toronto zoo! Hard to comprehend shooting something this beautiful and tearing off its hide. Soon, I expect, they will only be denizens of zoos. The first graphic promotion has to do with the Bengal tiger being an emblem of “freedom.” Freedom to do what?
A map showing by way of the dark red spots what remains of the habitat(with bamboo plants) of the panda. The dark pink indicates the panda population 300 years ago. The very pale pink indicates the prehistoric habitat.
Mother and babies.
The panda’s habitat has shrunk to window-ledge proportions. And rentals of pandas abound in zoos all over North America and Europe.
Though we do not have a vintage poster graced by a panda, we can pose the design question, “What if this creature did not have those fetching black markings over its eyes?”
We all know that millions of North American buffaloes were slaughtered in the nineteenth century. And we all know that a concerted effort to stave off extinction by providing ranges of wilderness has been a solid success. But, in contrast to our dashing 1958 vintage poster, the life and even the physiology of the buffalo is not about free-ranging. Most buffaloes are a mixture of cattle and they’re bred on farms to provide a variant of beef. Only about 12,000 pure bison remain, pocketed in Canada’s Prairie Provinces.
In 1959, when our first vintage poster here was created, the prospect of seeing giraffes on a trip to Africa was a certainty. In 2016, after several years of poaching and habitat loss, the prospect of seeing wild giraffes is slim. Curiously, the decline in numbers of giraffes has not been recognized until quite recently. Somehow, their reclusive nature (in avoiding predators) and their nearly unreal proportions had induced a lax study of their plight, consigning them to an “invisible extinction.”
Our second illustration presciently marks the figure’s body with a hostile world.
The otherworldly look mounted on the zebra of 1959 could be taken–as far as things go today–as a trek into a Twilight Zone from which they may never return, the zebra, like so many other beautiful presences well on-course to be dust-collectors.
Even in 1950, the great McKnight-Kauffer could not resist alluding to the violence toward the animal kingdom intrinsic to a place like sunny Mexico.