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English Wetland Immersions

Encountering, Slowing, Navigating, Imagining in Terrestrial Water Worlds

Mary Gearey

Abstract

Hark—the Tiddy Mun, lurching from the murk. Beware Will-o’-the-Wisp, seducing benighted travelers into the swamp. Hear the padding of the Black Shuck. The incumbents of moors, marshes, fens, and levels mobilized their extra-territorium poaching, smuggling, distilling, arms caching, and rough justice activities unimpeded through perpetuating imaginaries of fear and anxiety. Disorientating wetland mythologies and folklore still resonate today within our contemporary cultural and literary narratives of these paludal spaces. This article explores how these uncanny representations compromise wetlands’ future protection. Wetlands’ carbon sequestration, floodwater storage, and biodiversity properties contribute significantly to climate change adaptation strategies. Yet delinquency, vandalism, fly-tipping, and arson in these waterscapes evidence continued contemporary human disregard. Empirical findings from the WetlandLIFE project show the diverse ways in which these narratives are being shifted toward a “nowtopian” framing, to encourage people to use and value wetlands differently, to prevent further degradation of these complex, vital, and unruly landscapes.