What researchers are saying – the EASAC Report

We have often referred to soil researchers as “Cassandras” whose warnings, like those of the Trojan princess, are ignored. We have also pointed out that researchers are to some extent to blame for not communicating effectively with different audiences. This gap could potentially be filled by a recent report from a significant number of European researchers. The report was produced by EASAC –  the European Academies Science Advisory Council. It was officially presented on 26 September in the splendid setting of the Palace of the Academies in the Royal Palaces complex in Brussel. The title of the report is  “Opportunities for soil sustainability in Europe”.

The report is the work of a multidisciplinary group of European experts. It deals with the implications for the soil of recent scientific research and gives a snapshot of the current situation. Its aim is to identify possible solutions to be integrated into political choices and decisions in order to assure soil sustainability in Europe. Continua a leggere “What researchers are saying – the EASAC Report”


SIP Forum: one step at a time

We reported in a previous newsletter how the SIP Forum’s draft law became a proposal in the Chamber of Deputies on 23 March. It did not stop there: in July the text was presented to the Italian Senate. The SIP Forum therefore now bears a growing responsibility. It would be a mistake to think that the “game” is over and that the text will swiftly obtain its final approval. Given that it has not been possible over the past 20 years to get a law passed against soil consumption, it will not be an easy task to gain approval in a short space of time for a law that puts in place solid foundations for the protection of the soil and establishes a radical change in the way building and large construction projects are conceived.

At the same time it would be a mistake to think that this draft law applies only to Italy.  It is worth remembering that a proposal for a European directive on the soil was discussed for no less than 8 years  (2006-2014) – without ever being approved! Although it was far from revolutionary, the proposal set out the path that needs to be followed in order to safeguard the soil for future generations. Since that proposed directive was withdrawn we have been in a vacuum that could allow whatever emerges from the Italian “door” back through the EU’s “window”. This is why we must consider immediately whether the text of the Italian draft law as it stands should be put before EU bodies and institutions in order to extract from it the principles of a new EU directive. Continua a leggere “SIP Forum: one step at a time”

…. Let’s get started

As we have mentioned in previous newsletters, the SIP Forum Gruppo Suolo Europa (Europe Soil Group) is taking action to achieve two objectives: dialogue between the various actors that use or are involved in the soil; and synergies between the various voluntary associations in civil society whose main focus is not on the soil.

In order to achieve the first objective it is necessary to break down prejudices and fixed positions in order to build mutual respect at least, if not complete trust. The second is frequently blocked by the structures of those voluntary organizations themselves.

Both these objectives are hard to achieve and require time. We are reminded that in order to be sustainable the concept of “time” must be respected and cannot be artificially “compressed”. This is illustrated by the failure of the attempt to collect a million signatures for the people4soil European Citizens’ Initiative, which perhaps failed to take account of this fact.

Continua a leggere “…. Let’s get started”

Food production without soil

Some of our readers have posed the following question: “Why should we worry about the soil when the future of food production will be in factories/farms located inside buildings that are closed off and very tightly controlled?”

This question is not intended to provoke; rather it reflects a reality that is growing more concrete by the day. You just need to watch this three-minute YouTube video showing productive ‘vertical farms‘ that have been created inside industrial warehouses. These closed sites contain huge metal shelving units or purpose-built structures on which grow plants without soil, with special mechanisms that distribute to the roots of the plants misted water containing all the substances they need to grow. The water ‘irrigates’ the reusable cloth made from recycled plastic on which the plants grow, while the light comes from special lamps; there is no risk of pests or diseases. In addition the sites are easier for people to work in (the shelves can be raised and lowered automatically so they are at the right height) and the whole thing is controlled by sensors connected to computers running the necessary programs. These structures are located not on Mars but in the centres of our cities, allowing the products to be distributed with almost no food miles. Continua a leggere “Food production without soil”

The students of the Uccle European School (Brussels)

Parents send their children to school so they can learn. Teachers generally want their students to understand and absorb what is shown to them. The greatest satisfaction, however, comes when students surprise us with their fresh ideas.

On 5 December 2017, the SIP Forum organized an event with the title “Soil is life!” at the Italian Cultural Institute in Brussels with the aim of raising awareness of the soil’s importance for all human beings. Teachers at the European School of Brussels arranged for some of their students to attend the event, in order to stimulate their interest in this complex subject. Their involvement led immediately to increased understanding that extended well beyond the evening itself. Continua a leggere “The students of the Uccle European School (Brussels)”

Third Online Assembly of the Soil Europe Group (SEG) – 10 and 11 February

On 10 and 11 February, the third online assembly of the SIP Forum’s working group Soil Europe took place. This is merely a virtual meeting, as it takes place via email exchange. We asked participants to confirm their attendance by merely checking their computer or tablets and react to the issues raised.

We believe we have acquired expertise in the area, given that the previous two assemblies took place in the same format.

The working programme called for in last year’s assembly had a multi-annual nature. Aside from reviewing results of the defined actions, this year’s Assembly reviewed and updated the programme for the year 2018. The final document of the Assembly is being finalized and will be available in the next Newsletter.

For more information about the outcomes of the 2018 SEG Assembly, please contact suolo.europa@gmail.com

European social dialogue for sustainable construction

Last year, the Soil Europe Group on behalf of the SIP Forum was developing contacts and urging institutions to organize meetings and dialogues with institutional and social actors who deal with soil. Some of the counterparties underlined that the debate was already taking place and that representatives of civil society and those from construction companies had already published some guidelines.

Our counterparties were referring to the Communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament and the Council Strategy entitled “Strategy for sustainable competitiveness of the construction sector and its enterprises” (COM/2012/0433 of 31/7/2012). They also meant the “BROAD – Building a Green Social Dialogue”, a research project financed by the Commission. Continua a leggere “European social dialogue for sustainable construction”


International and particularly European institutions are experts in creating incomprehensible acronyms. In the past for instance, the DGs of the European Commission were indicated with Roman numerals (DG XII stood for research, DG VIII for cooperation and development, and so on). This changed to using full names, such as DG Environment, DG Research and Innovation… however the idea has always been to use acronyms which could be understood by insiders: DG ECHO, DG EAS, EEAS…

It therefore should not come as a surprise that LULUCF means “Land use, Land Use Change and Forestry”. This is also the title of an EU proposal for regulation – currently being discussed at Parliament and Council – on the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry into the 2030 climate and energy framework (COM(2016)0479) . Continua a leggere “LULUCF”