On the 13th January the Global Soil Partnership hosted a webinar focused on soil governance. At its peak, the webinar had over 600 participants, dialling in from around the entire globe! Rather impressive.
One of the key speakers of the webinar, Dr Harald Ginzky, an environmental lawyer based in Germany, shared some ideas about how to achieve sustainable soil management through soil governance on a national level:
- Understanding the baseline context and the processes in action is fundamental to the making of decisions about where to go and what to do next.
- To begin to govern soil first requires recognition of soil as a natural resource greater than “dirt”, and recognition of the ecological and social functions of soil. Only from there can strategies for maintenance, enhancement, compensation, or obligations be determined.
- Multidisciplinary acknowledgement. Other sectors need to recognise soil aspects and how their industry impacts upon soil, for example, in mining, industry and infrastructure.
- Legal standards. Implementing legally binding standards on soil threats such as compaction, erosion, loss of carbon and flooding. Clear definitions and instructions for implementing and enforcing legal standards would be required.
- The successful management of soil resources will be supported by clear tenure rights, access to land and control of foreign investors.
- Effective institutional settings and arrangements. Responsibility must be clear.
- Community involvement. Soil research and governance is not just for scientists and politicians but for anybody with an interest in the soil. Access to information and public participation are key to universal awareness of the issues and threats faced by soil.
- Act now! Awareness of environmental issues is generally on the rise, in particularly, climate change, but why not soil? From primary school talks to PhD theses, anybody and everybody can act now to help preserve a soil resource.
- Lest we forget. A wealth of work and research has already been undertaken and it would be at our peril to disregard or forget progress that has already been made. We can look to the past to build on the future.
There are hurdles to overcome and obstacles to the development of legislation specific to soil, including the potential for hindering agriculture, endangering economic development and lack of competence in measuring, monitoring, advising and enforcing. When the world is in turmoil and Brexit fresh in our minds, perhaps this is an ideal time to investigate legislation. Disturb the regime, not the soil.