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Keith Schofield

Sex and the Canopy

Posted from: LBA Research centre, 2 hrs north of Manaus

During one of the Seven Days, God decided to get to grips with planting trees. He spent most of the morning sprinkling a few here, and planting a few there. He covered most of the world with them. Then He looked at Wales, and decided to make it even more beautiful by fiddling a bit with the coastline around Pembroke. On his way over, he dropped the half-used packet of assorted tree seeds all over the Amazon. Hence the Amazon has more than its fair share of trees - in fact, one hectare of the Amazon contains more species than the whole of the North American continent.

Now this whole area is under massive scientific scrutiny. Scientists from all over the world are here. Bruce joined one called Allessandro to learn more of the importance of this region with respect to global warming and its effect as a carbon sink. Two wonderful tree climbers ('arbonaughts') were brought over from the UK to help Bruce and Allessandro climb to the top of the tallest tree in the area to see the jungle from above the canopy and do an experiment overnight from their lofty position.

I think I was 13 when I first saw a photograph looking over the canopy into the sunrise and imagined I was there. About 100 metres from Bruce's 'emergent' tree was a scientific tower built of scaffolding. I took one look at it. I'd rather climb the tree. I'd rather eat my right leg than climb that tower. It must have been at least five miles high and about six feet square.

Keith looking scared
Keith considers the relative merits of climbing the tower or eating his leg

After about an hour, Zubin and I were looking down on the canopy and deciding which bit of foot to put onto which bit of scaffold when I saw Bruce. He was up his tree in a special hammock, swinging over the canopy and trying to help Allesandro get into his. Seeing all of the ropework and dangly things attached to Bruce I decided that the tower was for me after all.

Bruce hanging from a tree in a harness
Bruce swings around in the canopy

Things became less dangly as I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of the procreative. Having just emerged from the canopy floor with its young rampant growth heaving heavenward - vines intertwining, locked in the sinuous embrace of lustful survival - I saw the result of all that rapacious effort in the form of a blanket of huge trees as far as the eye could see. The canopy rested as the new day brought wisps of mist and a timeless peace.

It brought the inevitable mozzies, and I was forced to wear my new mozzie weapon in the form of a body suit sewn with a double layer of silk. I had it made in Manaus. The only silk available was a leopard skin print. It worked. Not a single bite. Maybe the mozzies just ran away laughing - no energy left for biting. The crew certainly did. So I filmed Bruce up a 50 metre tower, in his hammock as he awoke rubbing his eyes and taking in the most awesome of views - in my leopard skin suit and feeling the rampant vibes of the canopy.

Bruce and Alessandro continued with the experiment in the most dangerous conditions under the watchful eyes of James and Ollie, our tree-climbing experts. Always amazed at Bruce's tenacity and honesty - Zubin and I filmed him for most of the morning from our precarious perch - and learnt of the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming and the importance of this fantastic eye-stretching jungle on the planet. I on the other hand was also feeling the rampancy of the canopy in my leopard skin suit. Time to come down.

View of the top of the jungle canopy
The view from top

We arrived back in Manaus to be welcomed by our millionaire party boy Tony - who had plans for us. He took us to an open air 'rave' by the public swimming pool. Here is where the real Manausians partied. Here amongst 600 or so young twirling Brazillians we became engulfed in the rhythm of the region. We danced in puddles - and it was here that I learned more of the 'Brazilian Way'. People came here to dance. I've never seen dancing like it. Sinuous steps and moves learnt from the womb. Intricate steps and eyes transfixed in another place. Total dance. The last time I saw anything like this was at a smoky tango club in Buenos Aires and I was spellbound then.

Here the urgency was as gripping as the atmosphere. All entwining and swirling to a beat that was totally involving. All I could do was watch and see the pink dawn slowly break over the city skyscrapers. All this entwining and twirling reminded me of the forest. This was just the same. I imagined being on top of those skyscrapers looking down on the canopy of Manaus.

This is truly a city of the jungle. Down on the floor - the urgency and rhythm, the entwining and dancing - straining to achieve the rampancy of the canopy. I never believed as a teenager, looking into that photograph, that this would be so special and involving. An unbelievably important place, to be protected through the education of those it belongs to. To be nurtured by us all. I will never forget the canopy and its unique environmental role in the future of our planet. It is under threat. We are all responsible. What a privilege to be a part of the message.

The canopy. A very, very special place to be.

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