Howard Fox on Dante’s endgame in the Amazon

In reading The Dipper’s Acclaim and other essays again in the last fortnight, I am making distillate of a vision of John Feehan’s inspirational text and how it moderates mine. John has of course four major books Slieve Bloom, Laois, Bogs of Ireland and Farming in Ireland, in addition to his spiritual reflections on Laudato Si. This last book has been our recommended reading at the Corracloona Old School, Kiltyclougher, in County Leitrim, this week.

This latter book concern is the ecological conversion from the Augustinian to the Franciscan view of nature. The land use conflict and extinction turmoil that this change in philosophical guidance is attempting to moderate is devastating, as seen by soy and beef farming and the fires set in the Amazon on 10th August 2019, Dante’s endgame. The destruction of nature is the financial crime of the millennium.

The taxonomic tools we have for understanding the organization of nature is won by studying the morphology of species alive in the Amazon and nature everywhere in the global forest. We have had scholars of Brazil like Vainio in 1890 and Cacares 2011. Now she is organizing a lichen congress in Brazil in 2020 with the blessing of the International Association of Lichenologists’. These scholars have set a framework for the comprehension of the Amazon from the perspective of the genera and species of lichens on tree bark, intellectual insight showing that the Amazon is tractable and not to be feared. Lusophone literature on the Amazon shows the cultural abuses against nature have at least half a millenium’s lead in.

Taking the townland of Corracloona on the lakeshore of Upper Lough Mac Nean in North Letirim on the shore road between Glenfarne and Kiltyclougher where I am currently installed as a lichen studying hermit, I want to explore some insights on these topical concerns in my usual way.

Consider the lilies

It is not complexity rather the elegance

of plant parts, their veining and their form

That provides us with a congruence of consanguinity

Units of composition, order and harmony

That reveals our wonder in

The taxonomic aspiration for species

Consider the lilies

A bog myrtle and a sedge

Myrica gale and Carex panicea

The utricles in September

Transcending inference and analogy

A hopeful contemplation for the future

New to science once, but from nature first,

Predicted in another place

Open to another mind

Genetic readings of a plant part

A synapomorphic insight

in our vigil on life.

Ask not what you can do

The leap of recognition

A signal of joy

Of an encounter

With a specimen

Of a species

Known from literature before

New to us, admitted to our skeptical reality.

The extinction of micro-habitats of species

In the Amazon inferno

and across the masai warrior

plains of the pale of Ireland

Is the crisis and war of our time

Cast this injunction

In the extinction rebellion

To temper the flames

We apprehend you

Slow you with a sample

Of nature herself

The latin binomial

Of a novelty

only encountered in nature

Fathomable facets

Of a townland

A hopeful contemplation

for the future

Beyond the inferno

Forest bureaucratically dismissed

as farmland

the financial crime

of the millennium.

Howard Fox

5 September 2019

Resolve

Begin with one voucher packet
see what is within
this sample provokes a section
to test the monotypic genus proposed
Black fur perhaps Cystocoleus ebeneus.
Move to the stereoscope
fresh water for the droplet
a scalpel to extract tissue
for the glass slide, positioned
and ready to cover.

On to the microscope stage
with light, filters and condenser to set
to see the anticipated filament forms
with lenses x100, x400 and x600
to magnify the anatomy to verify
the characters we need to have to get to species.

Doubt at identity now assuaged
and voucher rationally boxed morphologically
the result is ready to add to the record
ready to move on to the next specimen.

Resolve happens sample by sample,
one every so often
a quarter of an hour or more
allowing you the time it takes
to validate, verify and test.

This black fur looks by eye no different
to the temperate species
that visual recognition provoked.
Our tropical montane saxicolous sample
with the evidence that we have
gets classified the same
a result that takes decision, resolve and passion
to create this identification,
a botanical mythology for an island.

A check on the literature shows that
it has been seen in the tropics before
by Thwaites probably in Ceylon
Back in the 1840s,
so while new in Saint Lucia,
it is not so unexpected.

This full time occupation of mind and eyes
walking a landscape screening for thalli to sample
of species that look the same,
close to the truth
kept for future science testing methods
so that novel differences, if any, may be discerned
with continuously advancing science,

This is our method to induce
a latent curiosity in the rock faces
and tree trunks and leaves around,
scholarship transferred,
one entity at a time,
to build botanical knowledge
for a developing society
combating colonial oppression,
to get to biodiversity conservation
by passing the utilitarian view of nature
that gets in our way of conserving life.

Howard Fox
6 June 2019