The following call landed on our electronic doorstep and may be of interest to some of our members!
I am writing on behalf of RE-PEAT, a new youth-led organization that aims to draw attention to the ecological and cultural value of peatlands. We work on raising awareness, making connections between different peat-y people as well as political advocacy. We hope that by demonstrating the immense and diverse value of these special ecosystems we can help protect and restore them.
Peatlands – also known as bogs, mires, moors, and fens – are composed of a mass of partially decomposed, “pickled” plant matter (peat). The plant matter is suspended in its path towards decomposition by a lack of oxygen and the acidity of the stagnant surrounding water. Although peatlands make up only 3% of the world’s landmass, they have a huge impact on the global climate. Because peatlands prevent plant matter from decomposing, which would normally convert the organic carbon in the plant matter to CO2, they are the largest terrestrial carbon store. In their natural state, peatlands store more than double the carbon of all the world’s forests combined, even though forests take up 10x as much landmass. Peatlands offer many services to our remarkable planet. They host a plethora of the weird and wonderful plants including the insect-eating Sundew that lives in the Irish bog country. Or the infamous sphagnum moss (peat moss), the most abundant plant in peatlands. They are also home to a multitude of uniquely adapted creatures.
One of our current projects is to influence the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to make better provisions for the peatlands and paludiculture.
To this end, we are collating a document that will be sent to the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) before the upcoming decision. This document will present a wide range of stories to MEP’s prior to the CAP decision and give volume to lots of different voices that are concerned about the future of peatlands in Europe.
In this collaborative project we would like to highlight the vital importance of healthy peatlands, and the need for a transition from drainage-based agriculture. The document will be a collection of individual stories, drawings, poems and images that describe personal connections to peatlands, and point out a variety of relations and aspects that are important to consider in this upcoming peat policy. We also have an idea to create a podcast or video series using the stories from the Peat Anthology, but that is still in the pipeline.
The use of land for agriculture is of course very connected to our use of landscapes and our relationships with our surroundings, what you are working on. We also think it is highly interesting how this has changed, and original landscapes have been altered over the years in Europe, often for agricultural purposes. As a group looking into the way we interact with landscape, and researching how we can do so in a more fair, ethical, and sustainable way, we would very much value your input in this.
One of the major shortcomings that arises in conversations about peatlands and paludiculture is the lack of research and knowledge about how this can be viably pursued for farmers and landowners, which is something you may also already be aware of.
With all this in mind, we would like to invite you to contribute something – this could take the form of a formal written letter, a creative piece, poetry, or even artwork. If you want to contribute something but don’t have the capacity or time to submit your writing, then we can also organise an interview and write something up for you (and have you check it). As a group working from interdisciplinary approaches as well, something drawing attention to this approach would also be very welcome!
Contrasting to the benefits provided by peatlands, in many parts of Europe the peatlands are drained, which means these are lost or compromised. Predominantly, they are drained for growing easy crops such as corn and grass and hosting animal agriculture because the nutrients are easily depleted. Drainage means that the habit changes form and soil becomes hard and unable to take up water, the land also turns from a carbon sink to a very potent carbon emitter – double the CO2 from the aviation industry. This doesn’t even mention the very cultural elements that are lost when peatlands are degraded. History itself is erased, peatlands hold not just the quasi-fossilized plants and animals but also the marks of human history; see poems by Irish poet Seamus Heaney.
Currently the CAP offers subsidies to farmers who practise drainage-based agriculture but does not provide subsidies for farmers who want to grow native crops on restored peat. This autumn, the next policy will be put in place, and come into effect following a two year transition period. This means if nothing is changed there will be a lock-in effect of this type of agricultural practise as the CAP does not provide an economic alternative, and therefore it is unlikely that farmers will switch from this practise. This lock-in would be extremely devastating, especially in regards to climate change, but also for many other reasons. It is our hope that this project can reach the MEPs on a personal level, and on some level challenge the big farming lobbies that push them in the other direction. This is why we are planning on having a final hard copy that will be sent directly to the MEPs, as well as an online document that will also be shared with them. We are aiming to have this project finalised by the end of August.
The final ‘anthology’ will go online, but will also be printed and sent to the MEPs personally.
If you want to be part of the project, feel free to respond in any way you think suits you – it could be a poem, it could be a letter, a video, a drawing, a list of bullet points, you can write in whichever language you would like, and it could be either handwritten or typed on a computer.
If you know anyone else who would be interested in joining this project and submitting their story/thoughts/feelings related to the upcoming CAP, then please put us in touch with them directly.
To submit a piece, please send by email to the RE-PEAT team at: firstname.lastname@example.org