In a world filled with breathtaking beauty, we have often overlooked the elusive charm and magic of certain landscapes. A cloudy river flows into a verdant Arctic wetland where sandhill cranes and muskoxen dwell. Further south, cypress branches hang low over dismal swamps. Places like these–collectively known as swamplands or peatlands–often go unnoticed for their ecological splendor. They are as globally significant as rainforests, and function as critical carbon sinks for addressing our climate crisis. Yet, because of their reputation as wastelands, they are being systematically drained and degraded to make way for oilsands, mines, farms, and electricity.
In Swamplands, journalist Edward Struzik celebrates these wild places, venturing into windswept bogs in Kauai and the last remnants of an ancient peatland in the Mojave Desert. The secrets of the swamp aren’t for the faint of heart. Ed loses a shoe to an Arctic wolf and finds himself ankle-deep in water during a lightning storm. But, the rewards are sweeter for the struggle: an enchanting Calypso orchid; an elusive yellow moth thought to be extinct; ancient animals preserved in lifelike condition down to the fur.
Swamplands highlights the unappreciated struggle being waged to save peatlands by scientists, conservationists, and landowners around the world. An ode to peaty landscapes in all their offbeat glory, the book is also a demand for awareness of the myriad threats they face. It urges us to see the beauty and importance in these least likely of places. Our planet’s survival might depend on it.
"Adventurous natural history… Swamplands belongs to the John McPhee school of science popularizing, incorporating profiles of on-site specialists into its crisp and enthusiastic explainers. The striking geological process behind the formation of peat gets its due, as do these regions’ extraordinary biodiversity. None of this, of course, makes the world of fens and bogs any more hospitable to people. But by the end of this fascinating book, that seems like a point in their favor." Wall Street Journal
"Part science, part history, part travelogue…[a] rare treasure—nature writing that isn’t pure elegy." Sierra
"His book has relevance to many disciplines – ecology, environmental science, cultural studies, anthropology, history, postcolonial studies – without ever getting bogged down in jargon or discussion of scholarship. Struzik’s writing is consistently descriptive and conversational, so that the reader feels as though they’re accompanying him and his interviewees through isolated landscapes , sharing his sense of wonder." Economy, Land & Climate Insight
"Struzik writes with immediacy and a sense of awe, bewitching readers with the unexpected beauty of peatlands." Booklist
"A powerful, impressive feat of popular science that is vitally needed in an era of climate change."
"Few books attempt to do what Ed Struzik’s latest book, Swamplands, does so well: taking the reader knee-deep into an ecosystem that few ever think about, let alone possess the desire (or nerve) to travel to, or rally around…. Swamplands is a timely cry against the ongoing consequences of draining wetlands for farmland and commercial development, and of stripping peatlands for fuel and fertilizer."
"Timely and enchanting disquisition on the many facets of peat...ultimately this is a book that stands apart for its playfulness and curiosity, for a sense of wonder that does not yield to despair or grief." Literary Review of Canada
"By exposing and exploring the varied influences on swamp management, perception, and evolution, Edward Struzik contributes a key resource that is highly recommended for any collection strong in ecological systems analysis."
Donovan's Literary Services
"I would wholeheartedly recommend Swamplands to anyone interested in reading auto biographical accounts, learning about undervalued and little-understood landscapes, or examining human interactions with the natural world…. It is packed with expedition anecdotes, scientific facts and insights into human history, and there is no doubt that you will finish Swamplands both more knowledgeable and more appreciative of these boggy landscapes."
"Swamplands was a wonderful glimpse into the amazing world of peatlands. I was most impressed that the book took a more diverse look at peatlands by incorporating the stories of the different types of peatlands and peatland organisms. In addition, the reader is informed of abundant factors that have led to peatland degradation and their historical context." Restoration Ecology
"Despite of their miasmatic origins, peatlands will continue to be deeply interwoven in human history, and books like Swamplands are crucial for shifting gears in the way society sees, understands, utilizes, and ultimately preserves these important habitats."
"Swamplands is engaging because Struzik combines firsthand observations from fieldwork with those of peatland scientists to distill key functions of these areas plus the stress brought on by human misuses and climate change. This makes the issues more concrete and less abstract."
Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
"Struzik has journeyed into the little-known world of swamplands and returned with a richly detailed, beautifully written, cautionary tale of a climate superhero in crisis. For anyone concerned about global warming, wildfires, water shortages and conservation, Swamplands is a poignant reminder that some solutions are right at our toe-tips. For peat’s sake, read this book!" Sarah Cox, author of 'Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand Against Big Hydro'
"Expect to encounter the unexpected in this science- and story-rich book. Most unexpected will be your new fascination with bogs, fens, moors, and marshes—those folklorically dark, pestilential environments. Edward Struzik and a procession of eccentric-yet-wise characters turn old, deprecating notions on their head and reveal fabled wastelands to be vital wonderlands." Jack E. Davis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea and The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America's Bird'
"Hiking and paddling into swamps, bogs, and fens large and small, Edward Struzik takes us into hidden and watery peatlands. We need to know peat. Struzik’s the expert to lead us." Deborah Cramer, author of 'The Narrow Edge'
"This amazing book is as rich and multilayered as swamplands themselves. You won’t be able to stop reading as you discover these remarkable, hidden places—critical habitat for myriad birds, mammals, insects, and plants, and essential for the health of our entire planet." Jeffrey Wells, Vice President, Boreal Conservation, National Audubon Society
Introduction Chapter 1: The Great Dismal Swamp Chapter 2: Central Park Chapter 3: Peat and Endangered Species Chapter 4: Tropical Peat Chapter 5: Ash Meadows, Ancient Bogs, and Desert Fens Chapter 6: Sasquatches of the Swamps Chapter 7: Peat and Reptiles Chapter 8: Mountain Peat Chapter 9: Ring of Fire: The Hudson Bay Lowlands Chapter 10: Pingos, Polygons, and Frozen Peat Chapter 11: Tundra Beavers, Saltwater Trout, and Barren-Ground Grizzly Bears Chapter 12: Portals to the Otherworld Chapter 13: "Growing Peat" Conclusion
Notes Acknowledgments Index About the Author
Swamplands as Untapped Climate Solutions: A Look to the Hudson Bay Lowlands
Thursday, 16 December 2021 - 1:00pm
Swamplands such as peatlands, bogs, fens, marshes, and swamps have been demonized and dismissed as dismal, unhealthy “wastelands,” with little ecological value. But these underappreciated ecosystems are home to many rare and newly discovered species They also play a critical role in mitigating floods, filtering water, slowing wildfires, and regulating climate change. These ancient peatlands have cooled the planet for thousands of years. If the world’s peatlands are disturbed and degraded as they have been in many parts of the world, they will release rather than store carbon, accelerating the warming that is already taking place.
The Hudson Bay Lowlands comprise one of the largest intact natural peatlands left on the planet. Some parts of this vast region store 4 to 5x’s more carbon than the equivalent area in the Amazon Rainforest. Currently, there are more than 17,000 active mining claims held by 18 companies and individuals in the Lowlands known as the Ring of Fire.
The Omushkego Cree, the Indigenous people who have lived in this area for thousands of years, know the importance of these ancient peatlands. The Mushkegowuk Council, the senior representative for 7 First Nations in the northern James Bay and Hudson Bay region, is working on a conservation plan for part of the Lowlands. The National Audubon Society, Wildllands League, and other nonprofits are working with them to make that happen.
Join the conversation to better appreciate why we should preserve our peatlands. Learn how the Mushkegowuk Council of Hudson Bay Lowlands are leading in understanding and communicating the importance of these globally significant sites in the face of many competing interests.
Peatlands cover around 4% of the earth and yet they store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests. But these remarkable landscapes are being systematically drained and degraded, with peat burned for fuel and bogs, fens, swamps and marshes destroyed to make way for oilsands, mines, farms, hydroelectric projects, and soil conditioners. If the world’s frozen peatlands continue to thaw and release carbon, these ecosystems will accelerate climate change rather than mitigate it.
Effective solutions to the conservation of these lands does exist and can even be done relatively inexpensively as scientists in Great Britain and the European Union are demonstrating. But the path forward in North America requires government support, industry partnerships and public engagement. In this presentation, Edward Struzik, journalist and fellow at Queen’s University’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy, will engage the audience around the vitality, diversity, and resilience of peatlands. Struzik will share elements of his global journey as he explores the often-overlooked landscapes. He’ll explain why we need to take peatlands more seriously and how we can do that.
Attendees will also receive a 30% discount code for Struzik's new book.
Swamplands: Tundra Beavers, Quaking Bogs, and the Improbable World of Peat
Wednesday, 23 March 2022 - 1:00pm
During this time of human population growth and expansion, we must understand our history and acknowledge the ancestral and unceded territory of all the Inuit, Metis, and First Nations people that call this land home. This recognition is a renewal of our commitment as a society to cherish and listen to the traditional knowledge of Indigenous people. We bring together all who are concerned about the future of our lands.
Wetlands are special places because they are home to diverse wildlife, including many rare species, and they provide a variety of ecosystem services for our communities. Wetlands function to trap sediments, store carbon, purify and absorb water, and prevent localized flooding. The Wainfleet Bog is one of Niagara Regions most ancient peatland ecosystems that is in need of restoration. Wetlands provide our lands the ability to cope with a changing climate. It is our responsibility to give back and protect these important places for future generations
Please join us for a webinar on the topic of wetlands and their recovery! This webinar features Swamplands author Edward Struzik as the keynote speaker and a panel of experts to address audience questions.
Swamplands in the Yukon Context: Knowledge and perspectives from author Edward Struzik on the role and status of peatlands
Wednesday, 13 April 2022 - 12:00pm
Journalist Edward Struzik’s recently released book, Swamplands: Tundra Beavers, Quaking Bogs, and the Improbable World of Peatoffers a look at wetlands around the world – from the Arctic to the Mojave Desert. This SCOPe webinar will offer the audience a chance to hear what he’s learned in his adventures, and about connections of this work to the Yukon context. The role of peatlands in carbon sequestration and as crucial habitats for a diverse range of flora and fauna are among the topics to be explored. A question and answer discussion with the audience will follow the presentation.