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Peat, bogs, and the Irish imaginary

Peat extraction in Ireland is at once an ecological catastrophe that destroys a piece of the country’s heritage as well as a tool of economic sovereignty that frees Ireland from depending on foreign coal. The industry has also provided good jobs for energy workers. “Bogland,” William Atkins’s article in the July issue of Harper’s Magazine, is an attempt to untangle a thorny contradiction: that “even despoliation can look like an act of largesse in certain circumstances.” In this episode of the podcast, Atkins joins Harper’s web editor Violet Lucca to share more details from his journey through the bogs of Ireland. They discuss the odes to peatland penned by Seamus Heaney and Tim Robinson; the journalistic ethics of travel writing; and the litany of crazy things lurking in the bogs’ depths.

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July 2020

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