Aquatic Resolutions is a long-term investigation into the accumulation of peat; the dispossession of land and dislocation of peat, elements, and people; and the anthropogenic (re)accumulation of things. It is an exploration into the ordered division of water from land, and resistances to that division, as well as the potentiality in peat-forming wetlands, both for their capacities and provocations. It asks: What forms of resolution—not a simplification but instead a melting or loosening in the spirit of the root verb solvere—, might we attend to, not as a return to a past (from re meaning “back”) but as a commitment to decolonial and queer futures?
Anthropocene flattens human influence on global climate into something so universalising it erases both culpability and modes of survival. On the contrary, anthropologist Marisol de la Cadena’s ‘anthropo-not-seen’ evokes a process by which beings and relations that do not align with the division of humans and non-humans are both forced to comply with it and at the same time resist compliance. The not-seen echoes scholar Macarena Gómez-Barris’ ‘submerged perspectives,' practices and knowledges that open up possibilities for living otherwise. The not-seen and the submerged are operative concepts for this study, demonstrating the human is not merely, as Anthropocene suggests (anthro-po being Greek for man), a Western bourgeois ‘excluding and accumulating subject’, neither is the human separate from nature, but rather existing in and through relation.
Video of the West Mims fire as it burns east of Honey Prairie on April 26, 2017
On April 6 2017, lightning sparked the West Mims Fire in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (hereafter the Okefenokee), a treasured (1) 7,000-year-old, 430,000-acre blackwater wetland in southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida, and headwater of the St. Marys River and the Suwannee River. Nearly half of the region was experiencing drought when the fire began. (2) The swamp’s peat—organic matter that accumulates faster than it decays as a result of anoxic conditions, up to 15 feet thick in some parts—became susceptible to smoldering. The fire burned for over two months and consumed 152,000 acres.
Drought conditions in the region brought fires that burned in and around the Okefenokee in 2007 and 2011 as well; the 2011 Honey Prairie Fire burned 64% of the refuge (300,000 acres) while fires during 2007 burned 72% of the refuge (550,000 acres). (3) The Atlantic Coastal Plain (ACP) of the Southeast U.S. (hereafter the Southeast) is home to more wetlands underlain by peat where severe fires have raged in the last decades, including the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (hereafter the Great Dismal) in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, as well as the Croatan National Forest and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge of northeastern North Carolina.
Toward a MA Research Architecture degree (2021) at Goldsmiths, University of London, this report poses a shift in understanding peatlands with the intention to strengthen the campaign to protect the Okefenokee Swamp and its inhabitants, neighbors, and heritage in the face of damages posed by the Twin Pines Minerals, LLC titanium mine. Instead of speculation for heavy minerals, I am interested in a speculative reimagining of the swamp.