Give the soil a voice

26 November 2021, Martin Doeswijk

5 December is World Soil Day, when governments, businesses and citizens across the globe are called upon to proactively do their bit towards encouraging soil health. Besides being a fantastic initiative, World Soil Day is also extremely important

The ground connects us. We build on it, develop infrastructure, dredge and create nature reserves. Extracting or recycling raw materials, combating subsidence or reinforcing dykes often entails getting our hands dirty, perhaps in a figurative sense too. Indeed, you might say that we are taking advantage of the soil’s generosity on a daily basis.

 But are we giving anything in return? Whoa! The evidence can be found in the ‘EU Soil Strategy for 2030’ published on 17 November 2021: 70% of the soil in the EU is unhealthy and under considerable pressure as a result of unsustainable land use, climate change, pollution, overexploitation and loss of biodiversity.

Together with Margot de Cleen from Rijkswaterstaat, I presented a top 10 list of actions to ‘return the favour’ during the international AquaConSoil conference. I am keen to share the following solution with you: Give the soil a ‘voice’ when formulating policy and making decisions.

Did you know that New Zealand has made a nature reserve, a river and a mountain legal entities in order to protect them from exploitation and destruction?

How can we tackle the problem? By giving the soil a voice in important societal issues, such as climate adaptation, energy transition, food production, urbanisation and circularity. And by adopting an integrated approach in the policymaker-client-implementer chain, by making the soil’s voice count for something in the decisions we make and by adding value.

Which is why I am adding to my list of demands that all of us be generous and treat the soil the way it deserves to be treated, and not just on 5 December.

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