Dispatch from Cape Horn: LA Director Jesse Carmichael

Walking and reading the land in Sub-Antarctic Chile is at once familiar and completely new for me.
Growing up on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains I have walked above tree line, backpacked in relatively untouched places, and learned to read the rocks and rivers to find my way home. I am at home in the backcountry and the mountains and forests bring me peace. Yet the landscape of Austral Chile (Magallanic – Sub Antartica Region) reveals itself to be a new version of wild magic. Deep slate blue water, grey and white mountains shrouded with clouds, pearl colored light that remains past 10 pm, dark green deciduous and evergreen forest with ne’re a conifer in sight, most decorated with the most bizarre and wondrous lichens, epiphytes and fungi…Darwin’s Bread, Old Man’s Beard…
After a flight south from Santiago to the port town of Punta Arenas, I traveled the rest of the way via ferry (30 hours!) first along the southernmost portion of the Strait of Magellan and then onto the Beagle Channel which is the waterway that separates Tierra del Fuego (Argentina) from the series of small subantarctic  islands – My destination being one of the southernmost islands, Isla Navarino and the city of Puerto Williams. The channel is named for the boat that brought Darwin into direct contact with the place that would inform his theory of evolution. I join students, professors, philosophers, journalists and artists to trace Darwin’s path – and come into direct contact with a pristine landscape in order to recover parts of ourselves that we have lost along the way, as we become more and more disconnected to the super-organism that is our earth community.
Views from the ferry included, sharp fang like peaks, glaciers like giant ice waterfalls descending to the channel from the tops of the mountains, echoing all the other waterfalls, all making their way home to the sea. Once on the island – walks in the Omora Ethnobotanical Park have revealed miniature forests containing over 700 types of moss, 400 types of lichens, in shapes and colors I have never seen before and I am constantly in awe of. Cold rain and cloud forests with a mix deciduous and evergreen trees such as Nothofagus pumilio (Lenga) and Nothofagus Antarctica or Nirre – a species of Antarctic Beech sometimes adorned with small edible fungi – a staple of the Yahgan, the First People of this Magellanic region.
I made this journey to understand the roots of Biocitizen: To meet Ricardo Rozzi who, with my mentor Kurt, conceived our school and a new type of methodology for teaching ecology and the conservation ethic. Here’s a picture of Ricardo at work in the Omora Enthnobotanical Park, showing people “the miniature forests of Cape Horn“.

Field Environmental Philosophy describes our way of learning – the way we walk, read, and care for the land and creatures we encounter…where ever we go. And it was here, in Puerto Williams, on Isla Navarino, on the ancestral lands of the Yahgan people, that our movement of Biotic Citizenry was born. And as I walk with the students who are are studying the how and the why of ecological philosophy  – we all must continue to remind ourselves what is at stake in the era of the human impact or the Anthopocene:
Life itself.
“It’s at the cusp between what is known and is being discovered that our lessons begin. For it is there that we not only think but feel the subject as an emotion that becomes a memory we can’t forget, and that we want to return to for insight and energy”
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