Deltas are increasingly taking the limelight as vulnerable, disaster-prone spaces in the forefront of climate change. Since the turn of the century climate change has fundamentally altered many global, regional and local policy agendas. The current debate on climate brings an apocalyptic message for those regions at the intersections between river and sea. The (disputed) “Anthropocene” label functions in these debates as an indicator of how humans figure as culprits. The dominant image is that humans make deltas sink.
But the image of drowning deltas simplifies a richer, exciting picture of human, environmental, policy and technological dynamics that together make the delta on the edge of land and water. Delta rivers deposit silt and sand, forming highly fertile lands, which in turn attract human populations who make these wetlands into their habitats. In many deltas around the world, and in geological terms incredibly rapidly, “wetland natures” are thus being transformed into agri-cultural and urban cultural spaces. In recent years, such transformations have typically unfolded through engineering projects, concretizing the modernist belief that nature is distinct and distinguishable from society/culture. Delta technologies typically facilitate divisions, distinguishing ‘good’ water from ‘bad’ (good water benefiting domestic and agricultural life, bad water causing destructive flooding and waterlogging), fresh versus saline.
The introduction of infrastructural works have inevitably brought unforeseen, major consequences, such as biodiversity and cultural loss and accelerated land subsidence, endangering the fertile characteristics that made them the interesting places to live in in the first place. These effects have sparked, in some circles, a reconsideration of what deltas are, questioning the very separation and control relation between nature and culture, and how deltas are to be dealt with.
This special issue captures the study of the (socio-eco-techno) dynamics that make deltas in different corners of the world. It investigates and interrogates how Deltas are subject to and interacting with: (1) technologies/infrastructure; (2) knowledge and planning; and (3) policy mobility and networks.