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Peter Warshall – Tribute

Updates and links to tributes and memorials about Peter.

June 6th, 2013 — Northern Jaguar Project remembers Peter Warshall. This is a great read about his work with my aunt and Jaguars.

June 9th, 2013 — Central Coast Bioneers remembers Peter Warshall.

Two Things

My tribute to Peter, written April 30, 2013

My uncle, Peter Warshall was a great naturalist and a wonderful uncle. He was a beautiful, unassuming man who worked his entire life to make this world a better place. As a small child, I saw him as a silly man with fun magic tricks, great jokes and someone who always had time for little ones at family gatherings. As a teen, I saw him as an interesting adult who ‘got’ me and remembered what it was like to be a teenager. As an adult, I saw him as brilliant, compassionate with many wise and fascinating stories. PeterPeter had this wonderful ability to meet you where you were. I never felt “talked down to” and I always felt that he valued my opinion and thoughts. He was always kind, compassionate, honest, clear, and authentic. Whether he was telling a story about an animal or the draft board, I was interested in what he had to say.

Warshall EspinitaOur last conversation came on a day when Peter was at the end of a round of treatment. He was not feeling well, the chemo was really intense. We talked about death and dying. He shared with me that he felt that the pain was teaching him about disconnecting from his body. That this experience was an opportunity to be glad for death. I feel honored to have been on the receiving end of those thoughts. Peter apologized once for being so morbid and gloomy, but when I told him I was fine with it and it was okay to share it with me, he went deeper.

Like a true yogi, in his last days, he “went in.” He became unresponsive. I choose to believe that he went deep into meditation to prepare for his last great work in this body: his passing. Peter was laid to rest in Paradise Cemetery outside of Portal, Arizona. His grave is flanked by two juniper trees. He was lowered into the earth on a beautiful afternoon, Sunday April 28, 2013. His coffin was made of cardboard, decorated by the children that he loved and that loved him back, the children placed pine cones, feathers, juniper branches around him, my father gave him money for the boatman, and of course a bottle of bacanora (tequila from Sonora) was placed inside.

Peter Warshall, PhD. bio:

Peter 1970Peter has worked for more than 40 years on conservation, biodiversity protection, and community development projects in Africa, Latin America, and North America for the United Nations, USAID, various conservation groups and businesses, and Native American governments. Peter’s multi-faceted areas of expertise include natural history, natural resource management, environmental impact analysis, and conflict resolution and consensus building among divergent interest groups. He is an expert on the Madrean Sky Island archipelago as well as the endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel. He has worked for the Point Reyes Bird Observatory on migratory bird habitat conservation, and as an elected official, Peter pioneered the conversion of sewerage plant effluent into a bird sanctuary. He has served on the board of directors of the All Species Foundation, Sky Island Alliance, Scientists for the Preservation of Mt. Graham, RES (anthropology), Tallberg Foundation (Sweden, sustainability), World Innovation Foundation, and is a member of the Global Business Network. Peter received a B.A. in Biology and a Ph.D. in Biology and Anthropology from Harvard University. He received a Fulbright scholarship for studies in mammalogy (Ecole de Medicín) and Anthropology (Sorbonne). He edited the environmental sections of the Whole Earth Catalog and its magazines from 1973 to 1996. He has also been instrumental as co-director of Bioneers’ Dreaming New Mexico initiative.


One of the views from Cave Creek in Portal, Arizona. This is where Peter spent his last few days.
One of the views from Cave Creek in Portal, Arizona. This is where Peter spent his last few days.
This is the home that Peter and my aunt built in Portal, Arizona
This is the home that Peter and my aunt built in Portal, Arizona
One of the views from Cave Creek in Portal, Arizona. This is where Peter spent his last few days.
One of the views from Cave Creek in Portal, Arizona. This is where Peter spent his last few days.
One of the views from Cave Creek in Portal, Arizona. This is where Peter spent his last few days.
One of the views from Cave Creek in Portal, Arizona. This is where Peter spent his last few days.

Warning: Below is a picture from the graveside. While you cannot see anything, some people may find this upsetting.

Peter's final resting place in Paradise Cemetery. What a beautiful day.
Peter’s final resting place in Paradise Cemetery. What a beautiful day.
Under a shroud of flowers and prayers, Peter is laid to rest.
Under a shroud of flowers and prayers, Peter is laid to rest.

30 thoughts on “Peter Warshall – Tribute”

  1. Rose, this is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your experience of this lovely man with us, both the personal and the larger picture of what a special being he was. I am moved to read of the very end of his life, and your family’s beautiful honoring of his life and his passing – so loving and conscious.

  2. Thank you Lucia. He touched a lot of lives – many people were unaware of him and the ways in which he changed lives.

  3. Rose,
    Thank you for sharing your story of the man your uncle was. What a blessing for you to have had him in your life.

  4. I am so grateful to have seen Peter during his last visit to Bolinas. We had a wonderful conversation about the cosmos and the sacred place waiting for each of us in a life of service filled with passion and inspiration. Peter always seemed so self-contained and open-hearted at the same time. He was a man who had found his silence, rooted in the profound personal relationship with the earth that he had carefully crafted all his life. He brings me yet another example of why we never need fear death as long as we are burning the candle brightly from both ends. As the saying goes, life is more about depth than length…. and that tap root reached the center of the loving heart… and made it much easier for us to grow… thank-you Peter…we will continue where you left off…………..

    1. That is beautiful John. Thank you for sharing that memory. It exemplifies how he was, always. I never saw him stray from the truth of who was. What an example to have!

  5. What a beautiful tribute, Elena Rose.
    Thank you. Peter was indeed what he liked to study; a rare bird. It must be comforting to know that he rests in a place that was so close to his heart.

    1. Ha ha, yes, a rare bird indeed. He told me that Cave Creek was one of the best bird watching destinations in Arizona. Next time you come out for a visit, I highly suggest heading down there.

  6. “Peter had this wonderful ability to meet you where you were. I never felt “talked down to” and I always felt that he valued my opinion and thoughts. He was always kind, compassionate, honest, clear, and authentic.” So true!!!! I think everyone who met him, came away with something to keep; very least ….his fabulous smile and laugh.

  7. Thank you for this sweet tribute, Rose. Meryl and I were fortunate to reconnect with Peter in Tucson last month. His spirit shined through his weakened body those last weeks, and he sparkled as we reminisced of times spent many moons ago on Alaska’s north slope, the Mohave desert, and good old Bolinas. He was at peace. Though fleeting, our lives are fuller and saner for those times spent with Peter.

  8. Rose- thank you for the lovely tribute to your uncle.

    Peter was a dear friend–and we were very lucky to have him speak 6 months ago at our seminar series at Long Now.
    His video is here:

    You may want to take a look at it at some point. It’s wonderful to see and remember Peter doing what he most loved to do— teaching us all about the many wonders of nature.

    -Wishing you and your family all the best in this time of great loss-
    Ryan Phelan and Stewart Brand

    1. Ah yes, this is a great video. I have mixed feelings, since I know how sick he is in that video.
      But, thank you for sharing! Everyone should watch.

  9. Rose — I can’t thank you enough for how you have shared Peter with us at this time.
    I was just remembering playing softball with Peter as kids every evening after supper during the summer of ’59 at Camp Rising Sun. How the arrow of time flies. Years later on the Point Foundation Board I was in awe of his insights as editor of our Whole Earth Magazine. He always found new ways to touch you deeply.
    I’m glad to have had a little sweet time together at Bioneers last fall when Peter came by and visited with Ty and Miyumi and myself during lunch. I have pictures if you ever wish to have more.

  10. Rose —

    Peter was indeed, in Global-Business-Network parlance, a “remarkable person.” I’ll never forget the GBN “learning journey” on rafts. As I wrote in an early edition of Wired, “It’s quite charming to be rafting down the Rio Chama in northern New Mexico on a GBN expedition in which you’re pulling an oar next to Joe Traub, a pioneer of the science of “complexity,” or launching a pirate raid/water fight against the boat of Pamela McCorduck, an explorer of hypertext — a new medium that allows her to represent memory as a dynamic, complex system. All the while, Peter Warshall, the ecologist, is describing the complexities of the wilderness through which you float….”

    Somehow, it all seemed to fit together. That was no small part of Peter’s genius.


  11. I am not surprised Peter has a beautiful, thoughtful, yogi, niece. I think that everyone and everything he touched is better for it. I really am going to miss him being on this earth. Seeing Peter & Diana even when he was sick was really special. I really loved all of our mutual friends also and all of his projects thast I knew about. When we walked on Santa Monica pier with Jon McIntire Peter drops the info that he did a big project there. I had to laugh when I realize you were talking about him being on the Bolinas Waterboard when you said he was an elected officials (he was a natural). He did so much for us and every time I walk on the sewer pond land I think this is a good and lasting thing. It is surprising how many varied people and things he touched.I also loved his humor a lot. thank you for sharing this. I was feeling bereft.

  12. Rose:

    Peter was an occasional member of our Mt. Tam hiking group… mainly a bunch of old Grateful Dead back-stagers and familiars. We hiked the mountain on beautiful cloudless California paradise days, chatting, arguing, and generally loving one another and the beautiful world around us.

    Peter, of course, was the botanical/environmental guru of the group, except for the occasional challenge by Jon McIntyre, of course. We would stop in some shady spot for lunch and the totally uncoordinated feast would emerge from the collection of backpacks. Just amazing… and delicious… and so memorable.

    Fly high Peter…

  13. I have known and loved Peter as a member of a moving flank of friends in time. I grew up on Marlborough Road ; Peter and his sisters on Rugby. The road twisted and turned. His stories were of R & B, Levi-Strauss, Bateson, primates, female lines of kin-ship. His laughter over jokes like a bell rings in my ears. My condolences to his family both sisters their children and all the many who loved him. I last saw him at Spirit Rock for the Memorial Service for another long term friend Rick Fields. There are so many memorable incidents with Peter. I will miss that ever potential getting back together to laugh to talk: walk and notice everything is what he leaves as the lesson

  14. Overheard while the box painting was being accomplished – “I am going to paint a Jaguar on Peter’s box! He’ll be happy to see it when he wakes up!”

    What an astounding day.
    All bases covered –
    Buddhist chant, holy water, Kaddish said, Indian lore, Chinese offerings, masses of Juniper, gallons of Tequila, the birdsong, the creek, the cliffs, the breeze, sunshine and all the love for this amazing man and his wonderful family.

    So many thanks.
    Kitty Okamura
    and the family of Arthur Okamura

  15. Peter and I shared so much. We are both anthropologists, both ecologically-focused, both radical. We did many projects together and he was a frequent guest on my environmental radio program. We hung out in Brooklyn and CA. When my daughter was 7, she joined us on a rafting trip. Each morning Peter and Liz would take a walk discussing what they found – tracks, feathers, leaves, whatever. He treated her ideas with careful respect and she has grown into (at 27) a person committed to understanding nature. She remembers that trip to this day in great detail.
    I loved Peter. We could talk about anything in a learning frame, never competitive, never one-upping. Your comments brought the Peter I knew to the only life that matters, impact on others. Thank you.

  16. Rose – Thank you so much for this remembrance, this honoring, this window. You are blessed to have had him in your family, as we have been in his larger family.

    I met and knew Peter in Bolinas through countless facets of water, and continued to seek his knowledge, wisdom and stories after moving to Petaluma. He was always extraordinarily generous, both of information and spirit.

    I do deeply miss him, even as his impacts and guidance continue through the generations. He was truly a river guide, for all species of rivers.

  17. Peter was one of the most remarkable people i have ever known and I have a long list of such people. I loved him and he showed love to many of us. No one I know had the gift of seeing the natural world with such vision, grace and humor. To walk through nature with Peter listening to him tell the story of every plant and animal along the way was truly wonderous and made it all sing. All of us were far better for having been a friend and spent time with Peter. I will miss him.

  18. Peter touched so many of us. I loved him for his Bioneers contributions and his Commonweal Bolinas family spirit. THank you for capturing him so beautifully and for embodying his love of his Circle, his belonging to us and to the Earth. A deep bow of gratitude for his Being among us.

  19. Peter had more work to do for us all, it will be hard to fill that space, but what an inspiration he will always be. He keeps watch through the Jaguar. Thank You Peter

  20. Lynn O'Hare Berkson

    Oh, Peter – I hear your laugh! Come back to see the chupaflores at the aloe flowers, the jasmine and frangipani petals scattered by the wind, and the busy ants, determined to cart it all away – and everyone who knew and loved and will miss you – always.
    Ti abrazo.

  21. Peter Warshall was a great man, warm, intelligent, interested in everything. He let my family and I live in his Sausalito houseboat in 1999 for a month, and he always encouraged my ecological/musical explorations…. He will be missed but his spirit and inquisitiveness should still stay with us.

    always the mountains, David Rothenberg

  22. A fine tribute leavens the sorrow at hearing of the death of an old friend. I had the pleasure of working with Peter at the Whole Earth Catalog / CoEvolution Quarterly in the 1970s, and was most impressed by both his encyclopedic knowledge and his fine character.

    Later he very kindly hosted me in Tucson in the 80s when I was in process of moving to the Southwest. I ended up in Santa Fe, and had heard he was visiting here in recent years, but due to my own chronic illness never got around to looking him up.

    As noted above, “Peter was one of the most remarkable people i have ever known”, and one of the Earth’s greatest friends. He will be missed by everyone who knew him, human and otherwise.

  23. Hannah Sara Zeller

    Thankyou all for sharing my brother’s impressions on this world. I was blessed to be his little sister receiving his love, teaching
    me and sharing his worlds until our ways parted..but our hearts and souls are one.
    If anyone would feel inclined to share more with me, I would be grateful to know more..
    stories, moments, poems,pictures. Only the early morning light and birds singing comfort
    and sweeten my aching heart, friends listen
    and hug hoping it will help the hurt pass.
    May all of us learn to listen and see each other
    and the natural world with deep gratitude and
    patience and compassion as Peter did.

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