Special issue on soil by the National Rural Network

The National Rural Network programme is a tool for development projects of the European Union for the rural world. In Italy it is cofounded by the European Commission, via its European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policies. The national rural network (Rete Rurale Nazionale – RRN in Italian) is present in every Italian region. Its work also involves publishing a magazine that, from 1 September, has a new name and typeset: it is no longer Pianeta PSR (in English: Planet PSR) but RRN Magazine. Published on a quarterly basis, its topics are related to rural development policies.

We are drawing your attention to it because the first number of this new edition is entirely devoted to soil. It analyses many different aspects and different viewpoints, international perspectives, saline soils, etc. It does not aim to point out solutions from an academic point of view: it pragmatically shows reflections and potential aspects to be developed further. It is a tool which deals with issues related to soil and rural development: the magazine is around 60 pages long.

This can be downloaded for free from the link to be found at the bottom of the RRN website .

Annunci

Other European State Experiences: Bialowieza forest in Poland

We often hear of individuals and associations standing up to large multinationals. Not only do the latter despise life protection, they also attack activists or associations by fining them or claiming extortionately high compensation. There are many reasons why private companies do this, the primary one being to “scare”, and buy time making their counterparts be constantly under pressure. And when – despite everything – their counterparts do happen to win the battle, they are then made weaker and isolated.

This is currently happening in Poland. The Białowieża forest is in the East and holds a highly rich and unique biodiversity. It is considered to be the last primary forest of Europe, hence the presence of national and European laws “protecting” it. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site. The current Polish government is destroying this protection. Backed up by the excuse of defeating the level of wood-boring insects in the first, the government has ordered to cut down over 50 000 trees, many of which are over a century old. On a summon by the European Commission (EC), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ordered the Polish government to cease the action, however authorities have ignored all appeals made by researchers, academics, NGOs, UNESCO, protesters and now the ECJ too.

Militants are currently patrolling around to protect the forest, using non-violent means, and collecting all proof of damage. These people must endure any form of oppression including threats, reports, and physical violence. A solidarity committee was created to stop them from being completely isolated: it needs signatures and messages of encouragement from all over Europe. Anyone interested can do so via WeMoveEU site.

Do not think this kind of support is “useless”. Try and remember the appeal, the time when several environmental groups were taken to Court by the Canadian company Produits Forestiers Résolu. They asked for 300 million dollars due to a loss of earnings caused by fines for their unsustainable practices in the Canadian Boreal Forest. Any civil society action is clearly being shut down. On 16 October the Federal Court of California rejected the company’s claim. The judges’ message is clear: the Canadian company must abandon the case and respect population rights, which would guarantee the survival of endangered species.

Those who supported civil society in Canada – even with a mere signature – can feel glad, but must not drop their guard! The ways multinational companies are overthrowing those protecting the environment are neverending.

It is important to know we are not alone, and it is even more important to say this to volunteers who are fighting for the Białowieża Forest.

Goldman Prize to Uros Macerl (Slovenia)

In past newsletters we have mentioned the Goldman Environmental Prize, awarded by the Goldman Foundation (US). Every year the prize is awarded to environmentalists, one for each of the six geographical regions of the world. It is also called the Green Noble Prize.

This year the European winner was Slovenian Uros Macerl. After years of legal battles, thanks to his good will this farmer managed to close down the cement factory managed by French company Lafarge. Industrial waste constituted a ‘potential threat for citizen’s health’. Highly loved by environmentalists, loathed by his opponents, this 48 year old farmer has been devoting his work to organic farming and agriculture. His battle began over 15 years ago, but his battle and victory will not have been possible without the support of the environmental protection group Eco-Krog.

First of all it became clear that the entire valley was choking on pollution, due to a cement plant, a glass factory and a carbon power plant. These enterprises were providing hundreds of jobs, however the air was becoming less and less breathable, fumes were constantly covering the valley and snow was often black due to combustion dusts.

In 2002, Lafarge purchased the century old cement plant, and in a year the level of benzene (a carcinogenic substance) increased by 250%. In 2012 high rates of human cancer incidence, and spontaneous miscarriages among farm animals were found. The pollution data allowed Uros to prove this unsustainability. The cement industry did not respond, and resumed its activities without worrying about its effects on the population and the environment. In 2009, the farmer had already taken legal action against the cement factory a small area of his land had been included in the perimeter reserved for plastic and rubber incineration by the factory.

After years of hearings, in 2015 the European Commission took Slovenia to the European Court of Justice, saying the factory was (quoting) ‘potentially dangerous for citizens and their health’. In March 2015, the Slovenian government therefore ordered the cement plant to cease its cement production.

Uros’ opponents recognised an improvement in the environment and the return of birds and animals considered disappeared, raised concerns regarding the loss of jobs and the economic downfall of the area.

But jobs must not be an alternative to good health. Blackmail related to creating infrastructure for local communities (recreational centres, sport teams, medical structures …) to compensate for damage due to a polluting industry should not be allowed.

Finally, Uros Macerl’s experience shows that large industries and financial capitals can be forced to comply with laws, or … to close down.

Young European Farmers

One of the stereotypes regarding agriculture in Europe is that farmers are usually older people that work their fields without perspectives for the future. The conference ‘Access to land for farmers in the EU’ held last December confirmed this data but at the same time indicated the causes for which young farmers have huge difficulties to access land. Let us start from the present picture: 45% of EU farmers are less than 55 years old, and 6% are younger than 35.

Who are the farmers of this 6%? Can we rely on their ideas, perspectives, and ambitions? In other words, can we still have hope for European agriculture? Continua a leggere “Young European Farmers”