As we have mentioned in previous newsletters, the SIP Forum Gruppo Suolo Europa (Europe Soil Group) is taking action to achieve two objectives: dialogue between the various actors that use or are involved in the soil; and synergies between the various voluntary associations in civil society whose main focus is not on the soil.
In order to achieve the first objective it is necessary to break down prejudices and fixed positions in order to build mutual respect at least, if not complete trust. The second is frequently blocked by the structures of those voluntary organizations themselves.
Both these objectives are hard to achieve and require time. We are reminded that in order to be sustainable the concept of “time” must be respected and cannot be artificially “compressed”. This is illustrated by the failure of the attempt to collect a million signatures for the people4soil European Citizens’ Initiative, which perhaps failed to take account of this fact.
What is it that makes an NGO or a voluntary organization unable to cooperate with another organization? Many reasons, starting with a lack of funds and staff, and then there is the fact of being dispersed into many small and medium-sized organizations that are hard to connect and coordinate, despite modern communication methods. There is also the voluntary and precarious nature of these bodies, which leads to a continual turnover of managers and staff. If we then consider the economic crisis and the resulting lack of employment opportunities, we realize that volunteering is often an alternative to unemployment.
The main aim of the voluntary organization is therefore frequently simple survival. Often subsidized from scarce public funds it must, in order to survive, engage in highly visible activities that bring both general consent and financial support. Thus, it is difficult for an NGO engaged in health to also be engaged in culture. And yet both of these depend directly or indirectly on the correct use of the soil.
This crude summary applies both to small and local organizations as well as to large national and international ones. Despite all these difficulties, it is thanks to this galaxy of voluntary organizations that in the EU we still succeed in preserving those values that lie at the heart of the European enterprise: peace, solidarity, the protection of the environment. Furthermore, when all these movements work together, they quickly succeed in getting significant results. One example is the battle in recent months over glyphosates.
So how should we proceed in relation to voluntary organizations in order to defend the soil in the EU?
Some say it should be left to specialists. We do not agree. Up to now, academics, researchers and scientists have not succeeded on their own in breaking through the wall of indifference that surrounds choices made in relation to the soil. Neither have environmental organizations, while at the forefront of the fight, succeeded in reversing the ways in which soil is used and subjected to financial speculation.
Therefore, it remains for non-specialists and the organizations that represent them to take direct action. This is why we need to explain clearly the reasons why the soil is in danger and to indicate the actions that need to be taken, because nothing less than the survival of humanity is at stake.
So what are we suggesting?
We suggest contacting the various voluntary organizations and proposing to them a collaboration based on mutual respect and the creation or sharing of mutual tools of information. A kind of common forum where we can exchange ideas, experiences, and actions and facilitate encounters, debates, participation, twinning…
In other words, we are suggesting acting as a farmer would act: weeding the ground so that we can then sow and grow crops. The whole thing must be based on patience and respect for others and for the environment, and above all for the nature of time.