Centro Planta in Palermo

If you bring together university professors of environmental studies and professional plant growers and ask them to look at the land and landscapes of Sicily, you get … PLANTA – Mediterranean Centre for Research, Documentation and Training, formally established in December 2019.

Planta is a centre for study, research, training and documentation located in Palermo and focused on the environment, biodiversity, protected areas, parks, urban green spaces, gardens and the landscape, as well as natural treasures such as ancient trees, herbaria, vegetable gardens and botanical gardens.

“The aims of the Association are to carry out, encourage and disseminate studies connected with native and exotic flora, both wild and cultivated, natural and cultural biodiversity, natural and planted forests, protected areas, parks and urban green spaces as well as the study of archeological sites, gardens and the landscape, in order to develop multidisciplinary approaches to their protection, conservation, recovery, restoration and appreciation.”

Planta wishes to contact other similar national and international organizations in order to create connections between them, building networks in Italy and beyond. Particular attention will be paid to scholars and researchers from both Mediterranean and tropical countries. Planta will also set up high-school and professional training courses in the fields of conservation and biodiversity (both on- and off-site), of cultural and environmental goods and botanic museology.

We would like to wish Planta well in their work and thank the founders for setting up this great initiative.


Further info: direzione@centroplantapalermo.org


SIP Committee in Cislago

The ESG (European Soil Group) has around 60 members, each one of which represents one or more local associations. One of the aims of the ESG is to inform people about what is happening at the European level regarding soil/land/landscape. This Newsletter is the most visible manifestation of this, but to “communicate” we also need to get to know one another better. This is why we have invited ESG members to present their local groups.

First up is the SIP [Save the Landscape] Committee in Cislago.

“Cislago is a Comune with about 10,000 residents, in the province of Varese in the area known as the Basso Varesotto. As a Committee we don’t do anything very special, apart from making life difficult for those who in one way or another want to cover the few remaining green spaces with asphalt and cement.

 We focus particularly on the cases of those who surreptitiously enclose pieces of land with hedges of cherry laurel in the hope of then building on them. In the meantime they put up illegal shacks (with little gardens to distract attention, “in all innocence”) and carry out building work on these pieces of land (which have been taken out of cultivation despite being in the middle of areas of farmland and woodland that are designated, “Environmentally protected”…).

The threats and insults of the owners (who we bombard with protests and official complaints) have not been lacking in recent years.

The agreement of the general population is growing, however, because our actions are not only or mainly repressive, but rather part of a cultural battle to change the mentality of what is “private property”. This basically guarantees to a few people the “freedom” to spoil or obscure the view (by closing off open spaces around towns and farms) with hedges that are essentially WALLS (of cherry laurel) because they are so high, wide, long and dense. People have the right to enjoy views of the LANDSCAPE. For about 20 or 30 years the Town Council has allowed this behaviour, which has led to increased degradation of the landscape and allowed new construction to take place. What it could and should have done is promote restoration of existing building stock. This protective attitude towards unregulated building has also hampered our “cement census”, ie identifying the houses, industrial sheds, shops and other buildings that are empty and unlet.

One of our other initiatives is as promoters of a new farmland/woodland park over several Comuni and more than one province (between the Basso Varesotto and the Basso Comasco, involving 7 Comuni) which would allow us to protect the few remaining Natural Areas.”

For more info, contact Maurizio Cremascoli: salviamoilpaesaggioelaterra@gmail.com


ELASA – European Landscape Architecture Student Association (Matera)

ELASA is a European organization with more than 2000 members across Europe, all of whom are  students of Landscape Architecture. It meets every year for an Annual Meeting and for a Mini Meeting organized by the ELASA students themselves. 2019’s Mini Meeting was held in Matera from 2 to 8 May to coincide with “Matera 2019 – European Capital of Culture”. 25 young people from many different European states took part, and were thus able to experience an area– Matera and Basilicata – whose origins date back more than 9000 years. A leap into the past in order to return to the present, hence the title of the Mini Meeting: Ascending and Descending Landscapes. Continua a leggere “ELASA – European Landscape Architecture Student Association (Matera)”


The European Dimension: Attempts at dialogue

On 5 and 6 November a Forum on Innovation called  “Sustainable Landscapes” took place in London.

We did not take part in the event, and indeed have become rather “choosy” about which meetings, conferences, simposia etc. we take an interest in; but this one is worth a look because both “goodies” and “baddies” attended the Forum.

At the SIP Forum  and the Suolo Europa Group we support dialogue with our  “opponents”, those who consume the soil without showing any concern about what they are doing. Indeed we believe that concrete, sustainable solutions can be created through meetings and dialogue, because these will emerge as a result of the commitment of both sides. Continua a leggere “The European Dimension: Attempts at dialogue”


EESC Opinion on Land Use

There is an old story about a smuggler who crossed the border between two countries every day pushing an empty wheelbarrow. The customs officers stopped him and searched him many times without finding anything amiss. After a long time one of the customs officers told the smuggler he was about to retire, and asked him to finally tell him what he had been smuggling and how. The answer was: “Wheelbarrows, you just have to push them”.

We in the European Soil Group and SIP Forum do not regard ourselves as “smugglers”, but we definitely do push our “wheelbarrow” along every day. It is not empty, but holds our vision to create the European Forum to Save the Landscape and Defend the Land. This is why we continue to try to establish contacts with those who use the soil without any concern about how they are using it. It is not a question of reaching “compromises”, but rather of understanding one another. Documents are piling up in our wheelbarrow that contain the different positions of the various different actors. In describing them we try to underline the most important points, including those which to us seem like weak points. Continua a leggere “EESC Opinion on Land Use”


The importance of defending the land

Ours is not the only Forum that is engaged in matters of the land. The need to come together and to break down the ideological or psychological barriers that lead us to act “alone” has become an urgent necessity. This was the conclusion reached by a group of university researchers and interested individuals brought together in 2015 by the Fondazione Basso in Rome. A series of meetings led to the creation of the “Forum Diseguaglianze Diversità” (Forum on Inequality and Diversity or Forum DD). Officially active since October 2017, the forum held its inaugural conference in February 2018.

Why are we telling you about this?

For two reasons. The first is that we can and must work together (as stated in the proverb at the top of this newsletter); the second is that early research by the Forum has identified land use as one of the most important influences on inequality and poverty  Continua a leggere “The importance of defending the land”


4 per 1000 initiative: Closed-door workshop with potential investors

Last 8 February, the Nature Conservancy, Cornell University and the 4 per 1000 Initiative organised a joint workshop, hosted by the Hoffman Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy. This invitation-only event explored the potential creation of synergies in terms of investment and action on soil organic carbon storage and sequestration. It sought to better understand the results of scientific studies on soil organic carbon to feed into the decision-making processes of the various public and private economic sectors.

This event followed the Chatham House rules, whereby participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker, nor that of any participant may be revealed. Only the final document, summarising the debate, is made publicly available. Continua a leggere “4 per 1000 initiative: Closed-door workshop with potential investors”


… what if citizens decided how to use their own taxes?

A political party has not suggested it. This experience took place in various European cities, and throughout the world, not least Ichinomiya in Japan. The latter originates in the Percentage Law, which was enacted in Hungary in 1996. With this law, local governments call on communities to donate 1 or 2% of their income tax to non-governmental organizations and other similar groups in the community or district.

This citizen participation system of managing the public budget has been adopted in more than 3,000 cities around the world, including New York, Boston, and Paris. There are various types of participatory budgeting. In Paris for example, 5% of the budget is allocated  to construction and repairing of public buildings pointed out by citizens. Residents can propose projects to be carried out with the city’s budget provided. The selection of the projects to be funded is decided by public vote among residents. In this way: citizen’s wishes for how to use public budgets are reflected more directly; participation is increased; and at the same time people are made more responsible towards public goods and needs. In the end, the will to act directly on community-related problems can be found in many other sectors, such as community cleaning, safety patrols, and promoting sport, health and well-being. Continua a leggere “… what if citizens decided how to use their own taxes?”