Fen, Bog & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis

During her career, Annie Proulx ("Brokeback Mountain"; The Shipping News) has been rightly lauded for her boundary-pushing short fiction, evocative novels and the ways in which she grounds readers in the landscape of each narrative. With Fen, Bog & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis, Proulx more directly engages the landscape, crafting a work of nonfiction that explores the often ignored, neglected or decimated parts of the world. Her argument, solidly built, is that peatlands, which should have been seen as the rich and generative resource they are, deserve careful preservation and protection. Instead, humans have systematically destroyed most of them, choosing the short-term benefit of arable land over the long-term reality of a future on this planet.

If that sounds dire, perhaps it should. Proulx, however, is not inviting despair. Well-researched, the book dips into scientific terminology and detailed histories likely unfamiliar to many. Proulx guides readers through those more academic explanations, knowing their exploration may be bittersweet. In describing her early experiences exploring a swamp with her mother, she reflects, "I came away from that wetland sharing my mother's pleasure in it as a place of value but spent years learning that if your delight is in contemplating landscapes and wild places the sweetness will be laced with ever-sharpening pain." This book is for readers who delight equally in wild places and in knowledge, and it will perhaps inspire them to protect even the muddy, boggy swamps of this world. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

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