The politics of soil

04 January 2024, Martin Doeswijk

I am deeply concerned about the current political turbulence amidst of the social challenges we face. And I am not alone. Straight after the general elections, the Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds wrote an interesting letter to the House of Representatives on behalf of a number of environmental organisations, stressing the need to invest in nature and addressing topics that are relevant to us personally and professionally. The letter is a clear call to action, regardless of the next cabinet’s political affiliations. Because nature is neither left-wing nor right-wing.

That brought me to my own professional area of expertise – soil. And I wondered, if soil is neither left-wing nor right-wing, does it mean soil is a-political? To answer that question, we need to look at the various benefits that soil provides in civil engineering and geotechnical applications. Soil has a fundamental role in the design and construction of our buildings and infrastructure. Take load capacity – how can the weak soil that we have in the Netherlands bear the load of the structures we design? And what about the type of foundation system we choose? The ground is a determining factor in the stability and sustainability of our infrastructures and buildings. And lastly, soil plays a role in ground water management, it is essential to preserving water in times of drought and to preventing flooding.

There is no doubt that soil is important in our line of work. Healthy soil offers benefits which we can use to our advantage. That is why it is crucial to create awareness in parliament and both public and private sectors about the importance of healthy soil. There are various ways to achieve that, for example through education and information programmes, by involving policy-makers, by working with companies to promote sustainable soil management practices and by campaigning for political awareness, as the Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds did in its letter.

We all benefit from healthy soil. The ground beneath our feet may not have political affiliations, but it should have a vote.

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