For years, the degradation of the land due to human neglect has been plain for all to see. The warning calls of experts, researchers, scientists have been in vain. Even hundreds of deaths, now indeed thousands, have not been able to stir our consciences, and above all those of our political representatives. Everything is subordinated to profit, while it is left to volunteers and their groups to carry out “good deeds”. We believe the outer limits of mystification and disinformation have now been reached.
The inconsistent behaviour of powerful politicians makes the senseless behaviour of individuals understandable. If a minister acts irresponsibly in relation to the environment, why should a local official be any more careful? And so we get endless new roundabouts and link roads, and to hell with the works needed for waterways and forestry to protect the soil. Landslides and landslips, flooding, hail storms with stones the size of walnuts, cloudbursts, temperatures reaching and surpassing 40 degrees (and with increasing frequency 50), destructive winds… all these are regarded as “isolated incidents” rather than the result of an economic system and neglect that are no longer tolerable. No longer tolerable, that is, not for Nature, which will always be able to defend itself, but for us humans, who will be brought down by our own stupidity.
Until now this section of the Newsletter has been dedicated to Experiences: positive examples that we can study, adapt, and copy. From now on it will be called “Time to get angry!” and will set out what is going wrong, with concrete examples.
The Round Table held on 28 June set in motion a process of analysis and a production of ideas that will need further work. The work of transcribing the contributions has started, and should be completed by the middle of September. Then will follow the preparation of recommendations for COP26 which will be sent out for comment and analysis.
Readers of this Newsletter will be invited to send in their comments.
Some readers have asked us to create an Italian version of the minutes of the Round Table. Unfortunately we are currently unable to undertake this task as we are busy with preparing recommendations and texts to be published in English. If a group of volunteers would like to undertake the translation, however, we would be very happy to work with them.
Below are the links to the complete recording of the Round Table on YouTube and to the videos made available by the event “Soil is Life, is Food, is Future”:
We have been asked what we think of the periodic relaunch of the idea of building a bridge across Straits of Messina. First of all, we find it strange that the minister Enrico Giovannini was the person to relaunch the idea. We recall that Giovannini was one of the founders of and then spokesman for ASviS (the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development). Now, we are not asking if the bridge is “sustainable”, but we do wonder if the bridge will meet the priority criteria for the protection of the environment, and we find our answer in Pillar 5 of the Green New Deal for Europe which we summarise below.
“The Green New Deal for Europe creates public prosperity in place of private wealth, substituting consumption for what really matters for Europe’s communities.
The Green New Deal goes well beyond a job guarantee. It raises the standard of living across our continent in numerous ways, from investments in health and education to investments in arts and culture.
By reclaiming unused homes for public use, the Green New Deal will address the crisis of housing insecurity that has left so many people homeless or at risk of eviction.
By rewiring Europe’s energy grids, retrofitting homes with good insulation, and providing clean, public transportation for all, the Green New Deal will reduce the cost of living for all households.
By reversing biodiversity loss and eliminating pollution, the Green New Deal will allow all communities to enjoy clean air, fresh water, and local nature reserves.
And by investing in a more sustainable economy, the Green New Deal will reduce the number of hours we work each week and provide more space for community engagement.
In the process, it will help build resilience for communities at the frontlines of the climate and ecological crises.”
The Green New Deal for Europe suggests giving a central place to the care economy, public services and participatory democracy, instead of the current obsession with economic growth and the finance-based economy.
Keeping these sentiments in mind, try rereading the declarations reported in the media about the relaunch of the feasibility study for a bridge over the Straits.
A new project has seen 5 very different businesses operating in very different sectors commit to ecosustainable consumption: they are Decathlon, Lego, L’Oréal, Renewd and the Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt. The purpose of this project, called the “Green Consumption Pledge Initiative”, is to encourage businesses to commit voluntarily to the green transition.
“The Green Consumption Pledge is based on a set of five core pledges. To join it, companies commit to ambitious actions to improve their environmental impact and to help consumers make more sustainable purchases. They have to take concrete measures in at least three of the five pledge areas and they need to prove their progress with data that they then make public. Each pledging company will work with the Commission in complete transparency to ensure that the progress is reliable and verifiable. The five core pledge areas are the following:
Calculate the carbon footprint of the company,
Calculate the carbon footprint of selected flagship products of the company,
Increase the sale of sustainable products or services within the total sales of the company or its selected business part,
Commit part of the corporate public relations expenditure to the promotion of sustainable practices,
Ensure information provided to consumers in relation to the company and product carbon footprints is easy to access, accurate, clear, and up-to-date.”
Any company from the non-food sectors, as well as companies in the retail sector selling both food and non-food products interested in joining the Green Pledge, was invited to contact the European Commission before the end of March 2021. Thus, six more companies joined the project and were fully incorporated in June 2021. This initial pilot phase of the Green Consumption Pledge will be completed by January 2022.
We are used to seeing panels of experts who, at the request of governments, institutions or international organisations, produce detailed and specific reports on the most diverse subjects. These reports are often hard for laypeople to understand, sometimes even wilfully obscure.
But what happens when young people request a technical scientific report?
Every week the young people of Belgium’s Youth for Climate hold climate demonstrations. As long ago as January 2019 they sent a letter to researchers and professors in Belgian universities with a request to carry out a very specific study:
The most recent European elections saw a considerable number of green MEPs win seats in the European Parliament. Along with the regular demonstrations by citizens of all ages inspired by the young people of FridaysForFuture, the call for a Europe that pays attention to environmental concerns became a European political priority. The response was the launch of the Green Deal for Europe.
Since then we have witnessed a succession of European initiatives, presented with sonorous words and liberal use of the term “sustainable”, but which empty the true essential aims of change of meaning.
We have stressed many times in this Newsletter how distant this is from the urgent needs of the environment. We are obliged to return to this theme in relation to the Climate law formally approved by the European Parliament on 24 June. A single figure tells us everything: the climate law will be the European driving force for climate neutrality by mid-century and will set in stone the EU’s target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The initial proposal was for 70%, a target that has already been negotiated downwards…
We have to wonder why, despite the support and concerns of the European peoples, (not to mention the environmental disasters), we continue to see continual compromises that reduce the chances of real change. The usual response is: “something is better than nothing”. But here lies the real mistake: hoping that by accepting not much we can still bring about improvements. As the young people of FFF keep telling us: the house is on fire, the fire is spreading, and neither a glass nor a bucket of water will be enough to put out the flames.
Furthermore, we are governed by people who do not fully understand the meaning of the words environment, ecosystem, climate change, soil. And it’s not even their fault … how can an expert in physics and robotics, like the current Italian minister for the ‘ecological transition’ (ex ‘minister for the environment’), be expected to understand the arrangement of “vacuums” in the soil?
So perhaps we should start from this particular point: elect European groups of environmental experts with the power to preventively veto proposed legislation. The role could be given to the European Environment Agency, but unfortunately that body lacks the necessary authority because its members are not elected.
This team of elected environmental experts would have just two tasks:
assess the compatibility of proposed laws, regulations and infrastructure projects with environmental limits, at the request of committees, associations or groups of citizens;
publicly inform and educate politicians and officials who make incorrect or misleading statements about the environment.
What do our readers think? We would like to hear your suggestions, observations, ideas, critiques and comments.
Take some “maverick” farmers who practise regenerative farming, add some switched-on chefs and their customers, mix well with openminded artists, cultural practitioners and environmentalists, and you get SOILMATES. This is the recipe used to create this nonprofit initiative in Belgium.
“Starting from the assumption that fertile soil is the key to preserve all life, Soilmates’ goal is to create awareness by giving a visibility to the soil. Through artistic performances and culinary experiences they invite people to awaken their senses and to step into the unexpected world of the hidden half of nature.
SOILMATES are people willing to think holistically about the web of life. Their aim “is to create a paradigm shift in which the living earth becomes the center of the culinary and artistic experience, rather than the chef, the artist or the farmer. The soil becomes the subject.”
Healthy soil is the basis for healthy farming and for highly nutritious food full of rediscovered flavours and smells that allow us to enjoy again foods and products that are precious both to us and to future generations. The initiative, which was started by a number of well-known chefs, has expanded rapidly, gathering new members and supporters. This has led to the creation of food training days in different areas of Brussels.
The Days are dedicated “to the transmission, sharing of knowledge and reflection around the living soil.” It will not be a question of “boring” presentations of more or less scientific themes but of various talks, artistic performances and workshops on the life hidden in the soil. An 8-hour programme never seen before, creative, poetic and daring, dedicated to our relationship with the SOIL.