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Newsletter n. 75

16/09/2020

1.EXPERIENCES: Food Education

2. NEWS FROM THE SIP FORUM: 

3.NEWS ON THE SOIL AND EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS: 

4.WE ARE NOT ALONE!:   

English

Food Education

This Newsletter has always stressed the importance of using public structures to improve the diets of individuals. We have reported on tried and tested examples from European countries in which the canteens of schools, hospitals and workplaces use organic produce from the local areas where they are located.

We are therefore pleased to report that the Emilia Romagna Region has decided to invest 5 million euros in the period 2020-2022 in food education in school and college canteens, with the aim of using zero food miles organic produce, based on the Mediterranean diet, as well as reducing food waste.

This is an important initiative that chimes with the more complex strategy of improved use of agriculture and recovery of the values of the land. In addition to the organic canteens, the programme envisages information drives and the promotion of organic food in schools, as well as work experience activities of farm work through Open teaching/learning farms. This is a summary of the features of the new three-year programme of food education approved on 23/06/2020 by the Emilia-Romagna Legislative Assembly:

  • understanding of farming and the land, appreciation of rural culture and local traditions
  • the activities of teaching farms, as cornerstones of education in agrifood consumption in the area
  • the Open farms initiatives
  • participation on farms in the FAO’s World Food Day in October
  • support for generational change in farming, improving access to training including online, so that more people, especially young people, can gain the qualification of ‘teaching/learning farm worker’.

It is hoped that school students will then acquaint their parents and families with the principles of healthy eating and farming activities more generally. This “reconciliation” will help bring people closer to the land, enabling better understanding of the soil and of the values of local land.

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SIP Forum: Indispensable elements in a European soil directive

Internal research has started in the SIP Forum on the future proposal for a European Soil Directive expected before the end of 2021. The GSE [European Soil Group] has initiated a consultation in various phases, the first of which was the gathering of ideas to be included in the directive. This has led to a large number of suggestions with which to carry out the initial analysis.

For now the following have emerged as essential elements of the new directive:

Democratic Control / Participation

  • Act swiftly to combat illegal building and illegal soil use, based on participation and monitoring by volunteers and other interested parties.
  • Encourage democratic participation in the planning process by citizens and their organizations.

Education

  • Encourage scientific understanding of the soil and ecosystems through environmental and social courses integrated into school curricula.

Guiding Principles

  • With the soil, the “time” factor cannot be compressed.
  • It is essential to use soils in function of their type of land capability and to avoid and prohibit any action that brings with it a change in the land capability.
  • Complete halt to any further soil sealing from 2030.
  • Social function of  private property.

Actions

  • Carry out actions to reverse over-building and soil sealing and renaturalize the soil.
  • Make censuses of building and infrastructure obligatory.

We ask all our readers to take part in this drive for analysis and to send us their ideas and comments at suolo.europa@gmail.com. The submissions will be analysed by the whole of the GSE.

If anyone would like to take part directly in this study/analysis process, they should let us know at suolo.europa@gmail.com in order to be included in the study group.


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Local Territorial Associations: Friends of Cuirone

Cuirone is a community in the Municipality of Vergiate (Varese) in the northern part of the Lombard Park of the Valle del Ticino.

The Amici di Cuirone non-profit group was set up in 1987 by Giorgio and Miranda Ostini to promote research into and understanding, conservation and appreciation of the local area through the study of its environmental, historical, architectural, artistic, archeological and linguistic heritage in the form of the cultural, material and spiritual assets of Cuirone and the Vergiate area.

Over the years this ambition has taken concrete form with the creation of a Laboratory for the study of the area, as well as exhibitions and publication on the development of the area and its community with the aim of raising awareness among the public and educational institutions. The group has also published comments on documents relating to the administration of the area – from the old Planning Documents (PRG) to the more  recent Area Management Plans (PGT) – which suffers from the disorganized model of industrial/commercial/infrastructure development that has afflicted the province of Varese and Lombardy more generally since the 60s.

Cuirone has nevertheless remained a well-preserved little town, characterized by renovated farmhouses and dairies built of thick stone, flanked by vegetable patches and gardens, surrounded by woods and large areas of farmland that make it well suited to the new and more sustainable models for the cultivation and use of the land. 

On the group’s initiative, Cuirone has been included among the “Places of the Heart” in the census carried out by the F.A.I. [Italian Environment Fund] since 2010, and in 2012 came 2nd in the province of Varese and 9th nationally in the village category.

Since 2011 the Amici di Cuirone have been the local group for the Municipality of Vergiate in the national SIP Forum.

Part of the work of the Association is located in the studio of Giorgio Ostini, an artist who liked to call himself a craftsman. This small productive space continues to fly the flag of creativity, hosting shows of works by other artists. It is open to anyone who is interested in the multifaceted work of Giorgio himself as well as the initiatives of the group he founded.

For more information, contact:

Miranda Baratelli Ostini amicidicuirone@gmail.com http://www.cuirone.net/

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GNDE – Civil Society. Relief, Recovery, Reform

The GNDE analysed the crisis produced by COVID-19 in the EU and listed the following selection of policy recommendations derived from the Blueprint for Europe’s Just Transition that can help steer us towards a response that is just, democratic and sustainable.

Relief:

  1. Adopt a European Health and Care Standard that raises the bar for decent health and universal social protection provision and directs resources toward regions that fall below this standard, to begin rebalancing health and care outcomes across Europe.
  2. Adopt a Care Income (CI) — based on the recognition of the necessity of the activities of caring, which are often undervalued or invisible in our societies and overwhelmingly performed by women — especially mothers. The CI would compensate activities like care for people, the urban and rural environment, and the natural world. It would protect both those working on the frontline of the pandemic and those struggling to support their families under quarantine.
  3. Fund a major buy-back programme for vacant housing stock. Social distancing is a privilege that is not available to everyone. With 38 million vacant homes around the continent, Europe can provide shelter for all who need it. 

Recovery:

  1. Fund the green transition by mobilising a coalition of Europe’s public banks — led by the European Investment Bank — to issue green bonds to raise at least five percent of Europe’s GDP in funding that can be channelled into the Green Public Works. 
  2. Abandon the dominant model of public-private financing that sees public money subsidise private profit. The gains of public investment must remain in public hands.
  3. Invest the money raised through a new public agency — the Green Public Works — that puts investment decisions in the hands of communities and generates millions of new jobs in the green economy.
  4. Ensure that all new jobs are based on a three-day weekend or four-day working week with lower overall working hours — with increased possibilities of remote working. These jobs must provide workers and communities with democratic control over their workplaces. And they must be local — ensuring that all European residents can earn fair wages in their communities.

Reform:

  1. For all EU institutions, switch to a Genuine Progress Indicator system of accounting rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — abandoning the dogma of endless growth in favour of a metric that shows the health of our societies and the natural world.
  2. Introduce a new Regulation to clarify that the European Central Bank must prioritise employment, social progress and environmental protection as part of its mandate.
  3. Extend the ECB-mandated freeze on share buybacks and dividends to investors until banks have divested of all fossil fuel assets.
  4. Fund a Green Solidarity Network to unite twinning and cooperation arrangements between municipalities, regions, farmers, and communities — enhancing horizontal information-sharing and political decision-making across the continent.
  5. Establish the Green Horizon 2030 research and development programme, and ensure that any technologies or techniques developed under the programme are open source and devised in collaboration with other countries to support the emergence of sustainable economies across the globe.
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GNE (European Commission). ENVI Opinion on the European Investment Plan (SEIP)

On 27 July 2020 the European Parliament’s ENVI Commission presented its “Opinion” to the  EP’s Budget Commission on the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan – How to finance the Green Deal.

This is a procedure in which a number of EP commissions (ENVI, AGRI, TRAN, CULT, …) present their positions, which should then lead to a common position of the entire EP. We are focusing on the ENVI Commission because their proposals are clear and leave no room for misunderstanding.

To summarize: the investment plan presented by the European Commission in January 2020 must pursue and finance investments that “do no harm” to the environment or to people, and restore the “polluter pays” principle. Investments must be based on the  “Taxonomy” which enables the identification of non-damaging procedures to provide the private sector with the advice and means needed to carry out sustainable investment.

ENVI calls on the Commission to come up with an ambitious proposal to review the different amounts allocated to the SEIP and its sustainable investment strategy, in order to take into account the investment needs for climate adaptation or for other environmental challenges, such as biodiversity, and to consider the public investment needed to address the social costs of the transition and the costs of inaction.

Both texts repay close attention.

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Suggestions for changing behavior. Improving the energy efficiency of factories

The technology exists to enable small, medium and large factories to become energy-independent and self-sufficient. It is therefore a question of making this simple request obligatory.

Until now those involved have resisted, with reason, justifying this by the high cost of transforming these places. With targeted subsidies and the current programmes of incentives planned by the EU, among others, these objections fall away. The public incentives placed at their disposal can be recouped through the savings in energy costs that the industrial structures will benefit from. In addition the industrial buildings, once covered with solar panels and appropriate wind turbines  (there are already turbines just a few metres tall with many “sails”), will be able to put an end to the occupation of fertile soil and land that is currently and shamefully covered with panels and turbines. We often fail to take into account the soil consumption in the areas needed to build this infrastructure and the means of access to it.

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Caring for the soil is caring for life Interim Report of the Soil Mission Board

In one of our previous Newsletters we described the  ‘Missions’ into which the EU’s Horizon Europa research project is divided. We focused in particular on the experts involved in the Soil Mission Board.

The Board has produced an interim document Caring for soil is caring for life which is awaiting analysis and comments. The subtitle is more than clear: “Ensure 75% of soils are healthy by 2030 for healthy food, people, nature and climate: interim report of the mission board for soil health and food.”

Here is the introduction, which summarizes its content, in its entirety.

“Caring for Soil is Caring for Life” is the title of the mission proposed by the Soil Health and Food Mission Board. The mission’s goal is to “ensure that 75% of soils are healthy by 2030 and are able to provide essential ecosystem services”, such as the provision of food and other biomass, supporting biodiversity, storing and regulating the flow of water, or mitigating the effects of climate change. The target corresponds to a 100% increase of healthy soils against the current baseline. This interim report sets out the vision and the blueprint to reach this ambition through a combination of research and innovation, training and advice, as well as the demonstration of good practices for soil management using “Living labs” and “Lighthouses”. To be successful, the mission will also improve the monitoring of soil health and the pressures acting on them, mobilise investments, and encourage changes in policies. The mission will be a joint endeavour by stakeholders, researchers, policy-makers and citizens alike that will put Europe on a path towards sustainable land and soil management as part of a wider, green societal transition.

The report seems to indicate a way of “squaring the circle” as regards the soil. Starting from an analysis of the current situation creates a frame of reference that indicates a path to be followed. The authors deliberately avoid using technical language that is incomprehensible to non-specialists, rather making it abundantly clear that there is no time to waste, that action is needed now, and showing how this can be done. Thus research becomes the  “universal joint” that allows the needed change to be gripped and guided. How? The Board explains it through 7 precise aims to be reached by 2030. They are:

  • Land degradation including desertification in drylands is strongly reduced and 50% of degraded land is restored moving beyond land degradation neutrality.
  • High soil organic carbon stocks (e.g. in forests, permanent pastures, wetlands) are conserved and current carbon concentration losses on cultivated land (0.5% per year) are reversed to an increase by 0.1-0.4% per year. The area of peatlands losing carbon is reduced by 30-50%.
  • No net soil sealing and an increased re-use of urban soils for urban development from the current rate of 13% to 50%, to help stop the loss of productive land to urban development and meet the EU target of no net land take by 2050.
  • Reduced soil pollution, with at least 25% area of EU farmland under organic agriculture, a further 5-25% of land with reduced risk from eutrophication, pesticides, anti-microbials and other contaminants, and a doubling of the rate of restoration of polluted sites prioritising brown field sites.
  • Prevention of erosion on 30 to 50% of land with unsustainable erosion rates.
  • Improved soil structure to improve habitat quality for soil biota and crops including a 30 to 50% reduction in soils with high density subsoils.
  • 20-40% reduced global footprint of EU’s food and timber imports on land degradation, through strengthened international cooperation and trade regulations and carbon tax.

All clear and straightforward? The real work starts now. As far as the researchers are concerned, the Board has shown how to involve actors and individuals through the creation of open labs directly on the land (so-called Living Labs) and with the launch of reference experiences (Lighthouses). Conscious, however, of the difficulty of achieving the 7 targets, they point out the need to involve all the parties involved in soil use and have launched a campaign of discussion on a dedicated site called ‘Get involved!‘ where everyone can leave their own suggestions.

The difficult path to follow has been set out and the Board has started out along it. It is now the task of all of use to accelerate it and put it into action by the end of the year.