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The Last Judgment – Invert the process

International agreements, especially those relating to the climate, create an obligatory frame of reference for all states that are parties to them. Inaction and failure to observe these commitments are obvious to everyone. The huge demonstrations, the movements of young people asserting their right to a sustainable future, scientific reports warning of catastrophic consequences, appeals from academic communities: all of these have done little good. The world of politics is resistant and in many cases deaf to such appeals. Who is responsible for this failure to act? Governments and politicians come and go, but no one takes responsibility for the choices that lead to the inaction that continues today.

Some organizations and individuals have analysed the problems around responsibility: we have the data on a social and environmental crisis that limits normal and generally recognized human rights (to life, health, work, a future); we know the causes of this crisis; solutions have been suggested by scientifically proven research and studies. So if a State has not taken the necessary decisions to halt the deterioration, then its government is legally as well as politically responsible. Continua a leggere “The Last Judgment – Invert the process”

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Show your stripes

It is not unusual these days to see someone wearing a piece of clothing carrying the image of what looks like a kind of coloured barcode. The first thing you notice is that the columns range from a pale blue to an ever more intense shade of red. The idea came from Ed Hawkins – a researcher at the University of Reading in the UK  – who decided that this was a good way to display the increasingly worrying data on global warming. Ed took the average annual temperatures recorded around the world between 1850 and 2018 and placed them next to each other in columns, colouring them blue (for the coldest ones) and gradually through the different shades to deep red for the hottest ones. This produced an image similar to a barcode, in which we can take in at a single glance the significance of the increase in global temperatures.

What is important here is not the data per se, which anyone can find in the information provided by national weather centres. The striking thing is the realization that in the past few decades there have been no “cold” years. In other words, we can easily see that the world is burning. The technique and methodology were repeated for all the areas and countries for which data exists, and were made publicly available from 17 June 2019 on this website .

Not all areas of the planet are heating at the same rate, but if we look at the image for Italy, for example, we can see that the situation is extremely critical. We have been stuck on crimson for almost a decade. We are heating faster than other countries.

In the meantime, the images are spreading: they have been discussed in the media, reproduced in newspapers and used at many conferences. They have even been adopted by the world of fashion to produce t-shirts, bags and other items.

 

 

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Planet A® Appeal “Land Matter Planet – Quality of the soil for the health of life”

Participants in the Planet A® session held 27-28 June 2019 at Chalons en Champagne in France with the title “Land Matter Planet – Quality of the soil for the health of life“, drew up and signed an appeal to those responsible for decision-making in Europe. We are reproducing it here in its entirety because of its importance. In addition to various office holders in the 4 per 1000 Initiative, the lead signatory is Rattan Lal, professor of soil science and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2007 to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

LIVING SOILS, A GLOBAL PUBLIC GOOD

“Preserving and restoring terrestrial ecosystems, including soils and forests, by ensuring their sustainable management, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity”: This is one of the 17 sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. For us scientists, observers and cultivators of land and soil, the focus on soil is a vital imperative. Continua a leggere “Planet A® Appeal “Land Matter Planet – Quality of the soil for the health of life””

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Our forests, forest fires and climate change

The media is full of stories about the woods in the summer, then forgets about them for the rest of the year. In reality woodland and forest fires are destructive events that have recently assumed catastrophic proportions. In 2017, 65 people died in Portugal; in 2018 it was the turn of California and Greece, with hundreds of deaths and many properties destroyed. Italy too has seen huge fires that fortunately have not resulted in deaths: in one night in September 2018 more than 1200 hectares of woods and olive groves burned on Monte Pisano (PI) with the destruction of 12 houses; in 2017, 273 hectares of pinewood burned in Marina di Grosseto, along with 26 cars, right next to campsites and houses.

Forest fires are an ecological factor, especially in the Mediterranean (where 95% of fires in Europe occur) whose vegetation has developed adaptations that help it recover more quickly after the event. The depopulation of mountain areas in the last 50 years has led to an abandonment of woodland management, with accumulations of wood and, above all, ever decreasing maintenance of the land, and especially of open spaces. In 5 years the wooded area of Mediterranean countries has increased by 1.8 million hectares (for further information here) replacing pastures, meadows and cultivated areas. Fires with natural causes (not much more than 1% in Italy) are vastly outnumbered by those with human causes, including those that are started deliberately. The increased frequency of fires leads to lower capacity to recover (resilience) on the part of the woodlands. To this worrying picture we must add climate change (see here): the increase in temperatures, the changes in rainfall and in the direction and strength of the winds lead to more frequent and more intense fires which are increasingly difficult to control. Continua a leggere “Our forests, forest fires and climate change”

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Assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is often in the news. We hear much less about the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). This too is an intergovernmental organization set up in 2012 to provide politicians all over the world with an assessment of the state of biodiversity and ecosystems based on scientific data. Its ultimate aim can be summed up in a few words: the preservation of the natural environment for future generations.

We are mentioning it here because in its plenary session in March 2018 the IPBES presented an exhaustive report on the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The collection and analysis of the data and the preparation of the report took 3 years and the work of hundreds of experts from 45 different countries. Subdivided into geographical regions, the report provides the most up-to-date snapshot available of the state of biodiversity and ecosystems. At the same time it sets out the measures that can be taken to avoid any further deterioration in natural conditions. Continua a leggere “Assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia”

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NEWS ON SOIL AND EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS: Estonian Presidency at the EU

The Estonian Presidency at the EU has been making efforts in drawing people’s attention to soil and its use as a component in European life and politics.

On 28 September, it launched a debate on soil with an interesting document which casts light to the problem with the following title: ‘Three square kilometres soil destroyed every day in Europe .

On 4-6 October, a High Level Conference as part of the EU Council Presidency entitled ‘Soil for sustainable food production and ecosystem services’ took place in Tallinn.

The main conclusions of the conference focused on 4 main themes:

  • Policy measures: the need for a strategy at EU level to indicate priorities and measures each EU Member State must implement;
  • Climate Change: the Paris Agreements did not recognize the role of soil in carbon accumulation – even though the 4 per 1000 Initiative was mentioned – therefore specific actions are demanded in and by all Member States, which must however take national and regional differences into consideration;
  • Soil data: it is important to increase the use of soil data in the entire EU, and at the same time harmonize soil measures in order to have a limited number of indicators denoting changes in soil quality, especially for farmers;
  • Communication and awareness raising: each Member State must encourage and create more awareness on the importance of soil for life among the entire European population.

These conclusions point to a specific direction to be followed. However they are not binding and are purely based on the good will of EU Member States.

Will the following presidencies act on what was said in Tallinn?

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The Italian Climate Network Onlus – “School Project”

In the ‘Experiences’ section we tend to report on initiatives which may inspire readers to take similar action. We illustrate practices which have led to interesting results and that could be adapted to other contexts by the reader. When there is a will, there is a way.

In this issue, we would like to draw your attention to the Italian Climate Network Onlus (ICN), [Onlus = Non-profit organization of social utility], which operates in the field of education. Italian Climate Action, an Italian partner of 350.org and member of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe (www.caneurope.org), is entirely run by volunteers (see picture above) who strive to raise both individual and collective awareness on climate change and defining adequate measures to counter one of the biggest challenges our century is facing. Continua a leggere “The Italian Climate Network Onlus – “School Project””

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A time for conferences

a) European Commission – Green Week 2017 and EU Development Days 2017-06-30

The “differently young people” (alias over 60 years old!) will remember how back in the day, in Italy, on urban public transport there used to be signs saying ‘Please do not speak to the driver’.

Those who took part in Green Week 2017 organized by DG ENVI of the EU Commission – from 29 May to 2 June – will confirm that nobody was allowed to “speak to the driver” there either, or better “speak to the representatives from the Commission”. The driver keeps on “driving” whilst passengers must sit on the back and talk amongst themselves, even though they may have interesting news or experiences to share with all and in particular with the “drivers”.

The very platform for Green Week broke apart over the past two years. A place of encounters and discussions, where over 2000 participants were the most important ‘entity’ of the “green” week, has now turned into a meeting with generic, recycled and fruitless statements being uttered and merely listened to. There used to be debates with thousands of people exchanging ideas, proposals and experiences. All spaces of the location, including corridors cafés and refectories, were a whirlwind of discussions and exchanges. Even the various representatives – the Commissioners, and civil servants – were urged to listen to concrete experiences, and “self-celebration” was very rare. Those attending would at the end of the day feel enriched with the ideas and contacts made.

Now all is dispersed all over Europe, and this means the “drivers” are always present – without any real confrontation, but simply issuing the same statements as ten years back, and that will have the same validity in ten years time – to show that European environmental policy and research are responding to the demands of investments and economic productivity.

But should it not be the opposite? Shouldn’t investments and the creation of jobs necessarily have to be compatible with environmental policy choices?

Unfortunately the result of Green Week 2017 was losing credibility on European environmental protection, even though the EU was set as an example worldwide for its environmental policy! As we await for different “drivers” and for the Commission to respond to the all-the-more urgent expectations coming from European and overseas people, it took that alien of a newly elected president of the United States for us to realize how the EU is at the forefront in all aspects of environmental protection. It is thanks to him and his refusal that on 11 and 12 June the Ministries of the Environment of the G7 met in Bologna to renew environmental protection efforts and climate-change combat, confirmed/signed by the other six participants and the European Commissioner for climate change.

The abovementioned is a “cry of pain”, but not of powerlessness. Whenever the Commission is willing, it is able to decently organize events based on real and constructive participation. An example of this is the EDD17 – European Development Days 2017 (7 and 8 June) – entitled Investing in Development: two full days with around 8000 (eight thousand!) participants, over 120 debates and conferences, with a Global Village placed in the middle of the venue. Soil also received a great deal of attention with stands and conferences of the Joint Research Centre, the CIRAD (Agricultural Research for Development), and the 4 per 1000 initiative.

b) The Global Soil Week 2017 and CONSOWA

Global Soil Week (GSW 2017) was held in Berlin from 22 to 24 May 2017. After the ones held in 2012, 2013 and 2015 this was the fourth meeting on soil organised by IASS-Potsdam (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies) jointly with the IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development).  This year the event focused on ‘Catalysing SDG[1] Implementation Through a Soil and Land Review’. Around 300 participants attended three thematic workshops to explore the following topics: ‘Sustaining and upscaling achievements of sustainable land management (SLM) initiatives’; ‘Right to (defend) land: strengthening accountability at the local level through thematic reviews’; and ‘Protecting land resources for shared prosperity.’

There are five key messages to work on, and present to the highest political authorities:

1) Increase investments in sustainable land management and responsible governance. It will be critical to design investments and monitor them in line with international human rights-based instruments, such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, and internationally accepted environmental and social safeguards;

2) Make the entire production chain sustainable and change consumption patterns which have an impact on land degradation both locally and in other parts of the world. High-consuming segments of society have a particular responsibility in this regard;

3) Enhance spatial planning and adopt territorial approaches to address the rural-urban continuum in an integrated way that contributes to food security and the sustainable and the integrated management of natural resources, such as the land-water nexus; as well as to improving regional value chains to offer better opportunities for the youth.

4) Improve land rights and land tenure, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups, and acknowledge that vulnerable populations are rights holders, whose rights need to be upheld. This implies adopting specific measures to protect civil society, since human rights are under pressure from the shrinking space for civil society; and

5) Build a bridge between SDG 2 (Zero hunger) and SDG 15 (Life on land) to ensure food security through avoiding, reducing and reversing soil and land degradation to achieve SDG target 15.3 on land degradation neutrality, and sustainably managing landscapes for people. Entry points for this are community empowerment, and high-quality and accountable extension services that embrace the youth and open data access.

If GSW is able to act as a link between the academic world, civil society and the political world, the conference in Lleida, Spain (12-16 June) allowed for scientific comparisons between water and soil conservation specialists. We cite it because it is the first world conference, which gathered researchers and technicians for both soil and water, entities currently at risk due to climate change difficulties. The main aim of this conference, the acronym for which is CONSOWA (1st World Conference On Soil And Water Conservation Under Global Change), is to create sustainability on earth via soil and water conservation.

[1] SDG: Sustainable Development Goals