If we ask a soil researcher to explain what soil is, we would probably not understand much of the answer, not because they are being difficult but because they see it through specialist eyes. Yet soil scientists should be able to pass on information clearly, especialy to those whose job is to communicate such as actors, journalists, artists, writers … Unfortunately there is still a big gap in the provision of information and details on the importance of the soil, between university courses on the one hand and little snippets aimed at elementary and secondary schools on the other.
This is why we are featuring an online course with the title Il Suolo è Vita (Soil is Life) which has been created with the specific purpose of explaining the importance of the soil for survival and thus the need to take care of it. The speakers work with and use the soil, but above all they love it. The aim is to bring those who are curious about the soil to an understanding of its complexity, revealing its secrets in order to assess its state of health.
Divided into 9 chapters (with suggestions for practical activities and fieldwork), it teaches you how to make compost and biochar, and to enrich the soil with microrganisms and waste material following the ethics and principles of permaculture. The organisational effort behind it is particularly impressive: it includes over 6 hours of exclusive film and images.
We should stress that this is not a “soil for dummies” course, rather it is aimed at “curious minds” who want to understand the origins of life.
This year’s annual celebration of our planet was marked by hundreds of different events and pledges, including the Climate Summit held by the powerful ones of the earth.
Lots of words which will hopefully be followed by deeds … .
To commemorate this day, launched by the UN in 1970, we highlight the initiative of the Società Italiana di Pedologia and the Società Dantesca Italiana. On 22 April, they presented the writings of Dante Alighieri about the Earth, accompanied by various explanations performed by Riccardo Mei. This brilliant initiative – only in Italian – shows how the writings and thought of the late 13th century are still valid and meaningful today.
La Divina Terra – la Terra e il Suolo nell’opera dantesca Giornata della Terra (Earth Day)
The SIP Forum together with its partner association “Lasolastrada” is organising a webmeeting in English on 28 June (18:00-21:00) with the title: “Soil is Life, is Food, is the Future“. The meeting is included in the list of events of the “All4Climate – Italy 2021” Programme promoting 2021 as the Year of Climate Ambition, @PreCop26ITA and @Connect4Climate using the hashtag #All4ClimateItaly2021. This means it is under the auspices of the Italian Ministry of the Environment, co-organiser with the UK of the upcoming COP26 on the Climate.
The webmeeting will be in three sections: a) identification of soil problems and solutions; b) recommendations for COP26 which will be held in Glasgow, UK in November 2021; c) the emergence of convergences – comparative analysis by commentators not involved in the round table.
The meeting will be attended by representatives from farmers’ associations, organic producers, builders, experts in land law, planners, administrators, representatives of the food industry, and of European and international institutions.
The programme is still in preparation and updates can be found on the dedicated webpage.
The final consultation to decide the programme of the SIP Forum’s working group on the European dimension was held online between 28 February and 7 March. Below is the result of the consultation which will become the GSE’s operative framework for 2021.
For 2021: A) Priority activities: 1) Concentrate on working towards the preparation and approval of a European directive on the soil 2) Develop work, training and study opportunities for young people. B) To be considered: 3) connect with existing European Forums and Groups from civil society 4) collaborate further with groups from other EU member states to create a European SIP Forum equal ranking 5) create opportunities for dialogue between different parties interested in the soil in other EU member states 6) develop the cultural aspect of the soil by involving artists and other cultural figures 7) represent the SIP Forum at international meetings 8) discuss the European debate on the soil within the SIP Forum Additional suggestions can either be included under the 8 mentioned above or are the responsibility of the SIP Forum as a whole and not an individual working group.
C) Organization of GSE a) Priorities: 1) Newsletter 2) Reports on GSE monthly meetings 3) Reports and documents produced or made available
b) To be considered: 4) Specific themed meetings 5) Annual general meeting 6) Website.
D) Additional suggestions § Greater involvement of young people § Increase links with media and social networks
The questionnaire/survey format was viewed as a positive tool for further analyses and decisionmaking.
The complete data from the consultation can be found on the GSE webpage (in Italian language):
There is a clear split between what is needed to save the planet and what is decided by the policies put forward by those we help to elect. Unfortunately basic “common sense” (not to mention those much-abused terms sustainable development and ecological transition) does not enter the logic of political reasoning. Even to talk about ending the old capitalist system based on the unlimited exploitation of natural resources continues to be regarded as blasphemy.
Yet there are some proposals and ideas that allow us to hope for better things. We invite readers to read Recovery PlanET, produced by a large group of people who relied on their own common sense, and already supported by more than 1400 groups and individuals. This is nothing less than a plan – presented in a big online meeting on 6 March 2021 – for emerging from the current social, environmental and democractic crisis. It relies on a few clear directions of travel that involve the foundations of our society, incorporating them in the fundamental concept: creating a society of care in the broadest sense of the word.
Here is a short section from the introduction: “The pages you are about to read – a first, important step but not an exhaustive one – attempt to show a different perspective: not just criticism of what exists, not just the defence of a right or a common good, but a challenge for a different kind of society, which sets taking care against predation, equitable cooperation against competitive solitude, the “us” of equality and difference against the “I” of domination and uniformity. For this reason we start with an ecofeminist reflection as an interpretation and a new paradigm for the ending of the profit-based economy and the construction of a society of care.In these pages you will find analyses, suggestions and concrete proposals. It is the job of all of us to convert them into actions, struggles and social mobilisations.
The future is too important to be left in the hands of the financial markets.”
Their proposal aims to bring together the energies of and create synergies between environmental movements and volunteer organisations which continue to act in a haphazard manner. Disputes among organisations, groups and committees are a sign of vitality and a recognition that there are many different strategies and sensibilities. The common aim must, however, remain the protection of the environment, including the human environment. This means staying united and not wasting resources, experiences, sacrifices. Organisations that operate at national and European level are in difficulty locally and vice versa. We can all complement one another if we make an effort to listen and understand.
The moment has arrived for XR, FFF (Fridays for Future), GNDE and the EEB (European Environmental Bureau) – to mention just a few – to come together in one great movement capable of making “common sense” the guiding principle of our society that is currently bent on self destruction. We don’t need a single leader or guide, we just need to come together to declare our right to an eco-compatible future.
It might seem that this new strategy signifies a shift into a higher gear for implementing the Green Deal. It is not.
In his presentation and defence of the strategy, the Commission’s vice president Timmermans declared:
“If we step up work on adaptation today, we can make sure the EU and the planet, are much better prepared for the unavoidable changes we will face tomorrow. We need to do it immediately,” adding that the EU has to “avoid the worst and prepare for the unavoidable”.
Climate adaptation is about preparing for the inevitable impacts of climate change – more frequent storms, floods, droughts, fires and heatwaves – which will continue even if the nations of the world cut their emissions.
We can find these same eloquent words in many of the speeches given by various politicians over recent years. The end result is that the policy of small steps has not changed environmental degradation; on the contrary, it has driven it to catastrophic levels. When the house is ablaze, you need immediate and drastic action to remedy the situation.
This is why environmental organisations and civil society have criticised the strategy for not setting out clear and binding targets that can block the causes of climate change. EU bodies must stop relying on committees of “experts” who simply discuss among themselves in order to find points of compromise, always at the lowest common denominator, rather than finding a level of development that is compatible with the limits of nature and the environment.
An important report has appeared from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Production Systems (IPES Food) and the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group). Their paper analyses the current agro-food situation and launches the Long Food Movement, on how to transform our food system by 2045.
‘Long Food Movement’ refers to the collective activities and umbrella strategies of civil society and social movements – from grassroots organizations to international NGOs, from farmers and fishers’ groups to cooperatives and unions. The idea is not to get everyone on the exact same page, but to help them to assemble their separate pages into a powerful plan of action towards 2045. Organizations would remain diverse and independent, even as their strategies are increasingly aligned. Without food movements playing a leading role, we find it hard to envisage anything like the scale of food system change that is required. However, civil society and social movements cannot do it alone. They will need to apply constant pressure on governments to act in the public interest, as well as working with political parties, scientists, businesses, foundations, and many others. Collaboration does require time and energy, and that’s why developing low-cost, high-impacts modes of collaboration is one of the four key transformation pathways of a Long Food Movement. The idea of a Long Food Movement is to enhance connections and information flows between different struggles, not to replace one with another. Foresight around the planned expansion of an agribusiness commodity chain, or the rise of new bio digital players, could be what helps rights defenders stop a resource grab in its tracks. The biggest shocks of recent years (e.g. mass extinctions of species, wildfires) were predictable and predicted – not in date and detail – in parameters and probability. We know that hurricanes, floods, and droughts are followed by epidemics and famines. Every large-scale natural disaster can reasonably be assumed to entail economic shocks and political upheaval. We cannot predict the future, but we can and must be ready to act when largely foreseeable events (what we call ‘Grey Swans’) occur.
Technological innovations are central to the civil-society-led transformation described in this report, from small-scale drones for field monitoring to consumer apps for true cost accounting and new tools for instantaneously decoding negotiating texts.
The report warns about the agribusiness-led strategies driven by new corporate giants (from data platforms to private equity firms) who are teaming up with multinational agribusinesses to disrupt and extract value from every node of the food system, as well as shutting down democratic governance.
The report is available in English; French and Spanish versions are being prepared.