Newsletter n.93


1. TIME TO GET ANGRY!: No more war!

2. NEWS FROM THE SIP FORUM:                      

3. NEWS ON THE SOIL AND EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS: EU Soil Directive – The dance has begun … but where’s the music?

4. WE ARE NOT ALONE!       


No more war!

Images of the war in Ukraine are showing us the most dreadful human, social and environmental destruction it is possible to imagine. War is an abomination wherever it takes place and should never be or have been used as a means of coercion or conflict resolution. Never means never. Every one of us can and must act to the best of our ability, bearing in mind the declaration made at Mauthausen concentration camp in May 1945 by the surviving prisoners:

“… Peace and freedom are the only guarantees for the happiness of people of every nation, and the reconstruction of the world on a new basis of social and national justice is the only way towards the pacific collaboration between states and peoples. After having obtained our coveted freedom and after our nations have obtained freedom with armed struggle, we wish

to: conserve the international solidarity of the camp in our memories and to derive from it the necessary lessons; follow a common path; the one of freedom – indispensable for every population, of reciprocal respect, of collaboration in the great work of constructing a new world that is free and just for all. …”

Responsibility for what is happening also falls on us as individuals. We failed to get angry enough at wicked, absurd and inhuman behaviour. The list of injustices that have occurred since 1945 is a long one, and it includes nations, populations, specific groups and individuals. We have got used to it, we have looked away, we have deliberately forgotten. This is why this section of the newsletter is calling on everone to react, not to give up, not to accept defeat. In any case we will get the “bill” and if we fail to act it will be even higher, for us and especially for those who come after us.


The ESG Newsletter

With the winding up of the European Soil Group (ESG) we are moving closer to the end also of this monthly Newsletter. It has been a useful communication tool that over the years has attained a certain visibility and a faithful readership. The statistics are interesting: on average, every month, between 300 and 400 people visit the ESG’s website, with about double that number of views (with the highest number of visits occurring mainly around the time of publication). In addition, more than two thirds of the visitors are not Italian. Our most regular readers are from the US, followed by Germany, Belgium, as well as Singapore, Canada, etc. These figures illustrate the positive impact of the Newsletter both in Italy and internationally.

So why stop then?

In 2015, when we started out, publications on the soil in Italy and throughout the EU were few in number and almost all specialist in nature. There were hardly any that dealt with the European dimension of the soil / land / landscape. Today there’s a plethora of publications and websites talking about these matters, almost all of them giving the same information about European data, decisions, and policies. In practice, hardly a week goes by without a debate, discussion, or document showing what is happening on the soil at the European level. Perhaps a kind of press roundup would be more useful than our Newsletter.

There’s another reason why we are stopping, though: this Newsletter came into being to make a “non-expert” audience aware of the importance of the soil. We do not think we have succeeded in this: our articles are seen as interesting, but suited to an audience that is already aware of the issues and takes comfort, in a certain sense, from reading them. Our biggest disappointment is that we have not succeeded in attracting, or at least provoking the curiosity of younger people, who use other ways of communicating that are based on media that are more suited to stimulating action than to analysis or reading.

In other words, we have realised that our approach is obsolete.

This is why we would rather stop here, taking the expressions of understanding, approval and appreciation of our work as an invitation to change.

All those involved in producing the Newsletter will continue working to protect the soil.

By taking a step back we hope to allow younger people to take direct responsibility for protecting the soil, in their own way and through their own methods.

Of course we will always be ready to give them our support if we are asked.


International Convention for the elimination of the war industry

Let’s return to the Green New Deal for Europe, whose 2nd edition was published in December 2019. We remind readers that the 90+ page document is available in a downloadable PDF. The document recommends a total of 85 political actions, of which we would like to highlight number 52:

“Negotiate a new International Convention for the Elimination of War Industry to free countries around the world to invest in the fight against climate damage.”

What does this aim mean?

“Finally, the largest consumers of oil in the world are military organisations through the vehicles of war in the air, on land and at sea. The EU must use the Open Method of Coordination with member states to stop all unnecessary military equipment movements. The EU must also be aggressive in its Common Foreign and Security Policy in preventing wars and the conditions that give rise to war, by negotiating a new International Convention for the Elimination of War Industry. This will aim to reduce government military budgets in order to fund the humanity’s fight against climate damage”.

Is this utopian? On the contrary, it is what is most needed for the very future of the EU.



REPowerEU is the European plan to break EU dependency on Russian gas, and to find freedom in EU energy choices. This is the plan announced, with harsh words due to the war in Ukraine. The main aim should be to protect those who are struggling to pay their energy bills, the most exposed households and businesses.

What does the plan consist of? This is how it was presented by the Commission’s executive Vice president Frans Timmermans:

REPowerEU “is based on two tracks:

First: we will diversify supply and bring in more renewable gases. With more LNG and pipeline imports, we can replace 60 bcm of Russian gas within the next 12 months. By doubling sustainable production of biomethane we can replace another 18 bcm, using the Common Agricultural Policy to help farmers become energy producers. We can also increase the production and import of renewable hydrogen. A Hydrogen Accelerator will develop integrated infrastructure and offer all Member States access to affordable renewable hydrogen. 20 million tonnes of hydrogen can replace 50 bcm of Russian gas.”

“In parallel, we must accelerate our clean energy transition. Renewables make us more independent, and they are more affordable and reliable than the volatile gas market.

So, we need to put millions more photovoltaic panels on the roofs of our homes, businesses, and farms. We must also double the installation rate of heat pumps over the next 5 years.

This is low-hanging fruit. By the end of this year, almost 25% of Europe’s current electricity production could come from solar energy. In addition to this, we need to speed up permitting procedures to grow our on- and offshore wind capacity, and rollout large-scale solar projects. This is a matter of overriding public interest.”

So it took a war for people to take decisions that could have been taken years ago, and have been called for by so many, including environmental movements and the young people of Fridays For Future … .  



The GIEC / IPCC Report

The IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was published on 27 February 2022.  The text is extremely clear and its conclusion unequivocal: we can no longer afford to delay the necessary measures, nor choose interim measures.

“This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human societies and integrates knowledge more strongly across the natural, ecological, social and economic sciences than earlier IPCC assessments. The assessment of climate change impacts and risks as well as adaptation is set against concurrently unfolding non-climatic global trends e.g., biodiversity loss, overall unsustainable consumption of natural resources, land and ecosystem degradation, rapid urbanisation, human demographic shifts, social and economic inequalities and a pandemic.”

“The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

More details on the risks we are facing and the solutions needed can easily be found just by reading the Summary for policymakers. Unfortunately we suggest the answer to the question “will our politicians listen to what the report suggests?” is the famous phrase attributed to Albert Einstein Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe“.


EU Soil Directive – The dance has begun … but where’s the music?

The journey has begun that should lead to the drawing up of the new European directive on the soil before the end of 2023. The path to be followed is a winding one, full of “potholes” and even “ambushes”. The Commission has restarted the “dance” with a public consultation (16 February – 16 March 2022), on the general principles illustrated for an impact assessment on “Soil Health – protecting, sustainably managing and restoring EU soils”. The texts are available in all EU languages.

What is the Commission trying to do with this action?

“The Commission wants to ensure that the general public interest across the EU is well reflected in the impact assessment and the proposal for a soil health law by collecting feedback, ideas, information and opinions including policy briefs, studies, data on the drivers and the extent of the problem, costs and impacts, policy objectives and options.”

So why do we call it a dance without music?

Following the launch of the Strategy we expected discussions, meetings, debates, assessments, initiatives relating to the text for a directive; for us that is the music for this dance.

Collecting feedback, ideas, information and opinions from all and sundry on what has already been done with regard to the Strategy seems to us to be just continuing to circle around the problem, reducing the time available for the various actors involved to put their case. It is no longer acceptable to mark time: the conditions need to be created for a dialogue with those who are preparing traps and tricks. Last June the SIP Forum showed in its small way that dialogue between different interlocutors is possible.


Electricity from the soil (Spain) 

It is hard not to be amazed by revolutionary ideas.

We know that it is possible to create electricity from fruit and veg, even though it takes a considerable quantity of, say, oranges, to power a small lamp. But to take a pot of earth covered with grass or plants and be able to turn a circuit on and off by touching it … well, it just doesn’t seem possible.

And yet … this is what the Spanish firm Bioo has done. Starting from the principle that biotechnologies can be used to find innovative solutions, they have developed sensors (in a project financed by the European Commission) to create precision agriculture that is capable of producing energy from the soil by using its bacteria and vegetation. In this way they have created a bioreactor that is capable of “extracting” energy directly from the soil.

A “box” of soil with its vegetation, 10cm height – 20 cm depth, can produce 100ms 28W discharge/day. Every discharge is automatically re-charged by the soil every 24h in-field.

This happens independently of humidity, temperature and pH, and even the wireless communication system. Put simply, this technology provides a biological battery fed by the soil. That is possible thanks to the Bioo’s microbial fuel cell, powered by organic matter and fertilizers.

So in practice: if we have in our homes a plant pot full of soil, 40 by 40 cm and 25 cm deep, we get an Energy Output 20Wh/year per m².

As well as being interesting from the scientific point of view, the project is important for its technical and commercial approach. The 9 research groups that developed the bioreactor and the related technology have not sought to protect their invention; rather, they are open to further developments and applications. The project has already been awarded recognition and prizes at both the European and international levels.