Some readers have written to us about our opposition to the construction of a bridge over the Straits of Messina. Let’s be clear: our opposition is not based on the view that it is “impossible”. The world is full of examples that show it is technologically possible to build in earthquake zones or in conditions that are even more extreme than those between Sicily and the Italian mainland: in Japan, the US, south east Asia. We are opposed because a bridge over the Straits can in no way be considered a priority. In our view the economic reasons that are given are unjustified, starting from those relating to transport, where sea transport should be given priority over road. We wrote about this in the previous newsletter, but some have asked what we mean by “priority”.
Rather than giving a definition, let’s try a concrete example.
Favignana is the largest of the Aegadian islands off the northwest coast of Sicily, but the same arguments apply to any of the islands around Sicily or the rest of Italy.
Seen from the air, Favignana resembles a butterfly: two plains joined by a central hill. With 3000 or 4000 official inhabitants, the island was self-sufficient and renowned for tuna fishing and its tuna processing plant, a building with an ancient and glorious history. Today (together with the other two main islands of Levanzo and Marettimo) it is a Marine Protected Area, and a mass tourist destination, with 45-50,000 visitors in the summer, rising as high as 70,000.
One by one the traditional economic activities were abandoned, starting with tuna fishing and processing. Farming, once as important as tuna, has been drastically reduced: the island now depends on supplies that arrive by sea. Land that was once productive has been given over to tourist accommodation and in effect tourism, which is mainly concentrated in two or three months in the summer, has become the only source of income.
These are the recommendations that came out of our Round Table on 28 June 2021. The full record of the meeting is expected to be ready in November.
We were able to have an open and constructive discussion that permitted the emergence of a new paradigm for preserving soils based on the following points:
Soil Policy is a key political issue that needs binding measures
Soil policy: there is no more time to lose and we cannot be patient. As a reference point for many other countries in the world, we need an EU policy on soil, where the equation climate justice = social justice must lead the future discussions.
Soil is a key policy issue: unfortunately, land use is frequently not related to the soil’s characteristics. The soil must become a key political issue, as such it must be considered in the choices that consider comparatively the potential uses in the planning and drafting of future regulations.
Binding soil measures: there is an urgent need for binding concrete measures based on scientific data [They already exist as “voluntary” measures (FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management)]. Binding measures must be used also to channel investments.
Decent jobs and living conditions in agriculture
Decent jobs in agriculture is a theme directly linked to sustainable soil management as indicated by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It includes immigration and immigrants’ integration (no slavery), decent working conditions, gender equity, and child protection.
We have been asked to repeat the aims of the GNDE. We would stress that we regard the GNDE as a great Forum in which the energies to bring about radical change in European environmental and social policies converge. Below is a short explanation.
“The Green New Deal for Europe is an international campaign for a swift, just, and democratic transition to a sustainable Europe. Founded in April 2019 by DiEM25, the Green New Deal for Europe campaign aims to unite Europe’s communities, unions, parties, and activists behind a shared vision of environmental justice.”
“Fighting for a swift transition away from fossil fuels that protects frontline communities, empowers workers, and redresses Europe’s historic role in resource extraction around the world.”
This is possible through four key steps:
Crafting a shared vision
We are building a broad coalition of citizens, research organisations and civil society groups to contribute to a shared vision of Europe’s ecological transformation.
Building People Power
We are training a generation of activists to organise their communities, grow our movement, write for a public audience, and advance our shared vision in diverse communities across the continent.
Building Political Power
We are mobilising to disrupt business as usual, deploying our people power to advocate for our shared vision on the streets.
A report on the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and its impact on Green Deal, Farm to Fork, EU Biodiversity Strategy, was published by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) on 11 August. Its title is “Modelling environmental and climate ambition in the agricultural sector with the CAPRI model”. In synthesis, it analyses the impact of the CAP reform with respect to selected environmental indicators, production, income, prices.
“The report presents a modelled scenario of an ambitious implementation of the CAP reform proposals to measure the effects on EU agriculture including four quantitative targets put forward in the F2F and BDS strategies already reflected in the recommendations of the Commission to the Member States on their CAP Strategic Plans. These targets were selected as the ones with the greatest potential to affect agricultural environment and production. Moreover, those are the targets to which the CAP can provide specific contribution.
The analysis includes a reduction of the risk and use of pesticides, a reduction of nutrient surplus, an increase of area under organic farming, and an increase of area for high-diversity landscape features. The impacts are modelled under three scenarios. One is a status quo scenario assuming no change in the CAP compared to its implementation during 2014-2020. The other two scenarios include a potential implementation of the CAP post 2020 legal proposal targeting these objectives, both with and without the targeted use of Next Generation EU funding.”
Advertising is the soul of commerce, and at the same time can draw attention to new possibilities and solutions that do not yet exist. We are referring to a new technology based on deep geothermal energy that has recently been presented in Europe.
We are accustomed to speak about geothermal energy at a depth of a few dozen meters or about the capture and transformation of hot geothermal springs. The novelty comes in a technology tested by Canadian researchers that captures thermal energy from depths of several kilometers. The idea developed out of studying the technologies used in fracking to extract oil and gas from bedrock. According to the Canadians this new technology allows thermal heat existing at great depths to be channelled towards turbines that transform it into energy, but energy that is clean and non-polluting, and potentially inexhaustible. In addition, it would not be subject to the vagaries of the climate, like wind and solar energy. The problems connected with the drilling and channelling of thermal heat sources seem to have been resolved.
Will new fertile soil be consumed? The website says not, and indeed that the activity could be concentrated in decommissioned urban areas. Will it have to be seen to be believed?
If we were to trust the words that are being spoken right now about the environment, the climate and the soil, we would think we had gained the right to a wonderful world, and that the powerful of the earth were defending it with all their physical and economic capacity.
The reality is right in front of our eyes, however. Fortunately there are still those with the energy to fight for a fairer world, a healthier environment, and an inclusive society. The young people of Fridays For Future (FFF) have resumed their demonstrations, Extinction Rebellion (XR) are back on the streets, associations and groups are trying to make themselves heard. Th e “wind” must continue to change.
In our May Newsletter we wrote about Loaf – a community bakery with an environmental conscience
We return to it to show how human connections can significantly change the way we live and produce.
Loaf’s Members visited Mill Farm near Worcester, which the owner Jonathan has been farming for over 50 years. But in the last few years he’s had to radically rethink how he approaches farming.
The farm, inspired by the work of the South West Grain Network supported by Loaf, started growing heritage wheat varieties. The main aim is to re-imagine the food system where small-scale regenerative farming systems are producing nutrient-rich, tasty food in healthy soils, re-building short supply chains, and a new grain economy that is full of personality and traceability.
One way to keep a farm alive is to get clever, creating a sustainable environment for better crops to grow without exhausting the land — from crop rotation to conserve the land, to wild flower areas to encourage pollinators, to making big decisions about what to grow and what to not grow. Mill Farm has won awards (Winner of the Soil category – Champion of the Farmed Environment) for its conservation efforts and for having mindfully chosen to invest in the land, protecting the environment, and conserving it for the future.
It was inevitable that Loaf and Mill Farm, sharing the same principles, would establish close links that go way beyond simple economic interests. Both desire a great product that honours the grain and the land it grew on.