A Peatland Paradigm Shift
Of late, in many places around the world, peatlands have become synonymous with wastelands. They are drained of water to transform them from a "useless" place into a “productive” space. Their disruption and extraction is justified through the logic that they are spaces of nothingness. Within this dominant perception of peatlands, the variety of values that healthy peatlands have are diminished. In this paradigm, drainage or extraction = money, and wet bog = no money. Claiming something to be nothing in order to exploit it, is not a new technique. This is one of the foundations of the colonial narrative.
From this standpoint, de-colonial thinking starts with the recognition that something or someone, who was once considered the object of nothingness by a certain dominant group, is the subject of meaning and value. In this case, through asserting an appreciation for peatlands we can move away from a mindset that monetizes and exploits, and move towards a mode of being that is symbiotic and full of respect. Peatlands are lands of transition; they are the lands between water and earth, life and death, and hold the memories of both young and old. Throughout the yearly cycle, a healthy blanket bog seems to breathe as the mosses expand to the rising water level during the wet months, and contract as the sun evaporates the water off in the warm periods. Yet, when drained of water, this breath-like cycle is lost. Instead, whole areas of peat are compressed and the historic moments that they once contained become flattened memories. If left to erode, these memories can be entirely erased from the earth - as all organic matter stored for millennia is decomposed and sent to oblivion in the atmosphere (CO2) and to deeper layers (all the other minerals).
Through collaboration we want to shape connections between farmers, scientists, local communities, innovators and politicians. This way we want to ensure a just transition away from drainage and destruction of peatlands, towards protection and restoration of both peatlands and the communities that have historically relied on them. We want to facilitate open, respectful and solution-based conversations with all stakeholders.
Peatlands are also spaces of contradiction and paradox. The pickled plant life of peat, which is not-quite-living and not-quite-dead, challenges our perception of being. Thinking about this complexity helps us nurture respect for various forms of existence. In a moment of history where "crisis" seems to be everywhere, through peat we can consider the deep time that is cocooned in its texture. In that space on earth, we are given the opportunity to re-imagine a world out of crisis. And while the weight of the water crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis, unjustly falls on some more than others, healthy peatlands very practically hold the action potential for recovery and protection for all. A peatland paradigm shift is thus radically inclusive and respectful, it is both active and pensive, and it is re-generative. It asks us to re-assess our realities, and re-visit our ancestries, to re-gain a connection to the soil and to the water. It asks us to re-imagine space, time and what it means to be alive.
We want to challenge ourselves, the peat community and others to start re-imagining a different future for peatlands. To go beyond the capitalist and colonial system that many of us were born into and open up our minds for new possibilities. To fight injustices such as racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia, and have an intersectional approach in seeking solutions.