The solution to integrated sustainable land use management and planning is under our feet.
Soils are a heavily fragmented ecosystem, both naturally and politically. The English NPPF debate highlighted the huge void with the general understanding of soil by policy makers and those who lobby them. Soils which are currently highly valued, because of their agricultural potential have a weakened holistic value because of the resulting landscape and above ground biodiversity. Our poorest soils, contaminated post industrial soils may actually in reality be the most financially various microorganisms, Fungi and enzymes that have adapted to remediate the soil.
Soils turn all current policy decision making, all proposed land use management ideals on their head.
And they have a weak voice, because those few animals that directly live in soils, even the enigmatic mole are hated by many. Our daily abuse of soils is perpetuated most in the urban garden landscape where, whether you are an organic gardener (over enthusiastic composting) or a lawn fanatic (destroying any soil macro fauna which leaves a visible deposit no matter how small on the turf surface) the soil is being subjected to management which irreversibly changes the underground environment.
We need little reminding about the importance of soil; it is the most powerful and tangible link between all landscapes, ecosystems and Sustainable Development as a whole. Soils are ignored because it is an undesirable element to most people, (perpetuated daily by household product advertising) and soils are far too complex and diverse to attempt to reverse this attitude by education alone. We need legislation.
The ongoing work by the EU to try to establish a Soil Framework Directive has resulted in some incredible online resources, but the efforts to get the directive into legislation, will continually be halted due to the possible connotations to the agricultural and development industries. This is not to criticise the farming community – indeed the knowledge of farmers with regards our soil was vital, but their voice is shamefully absent from much of the SFD process. The NGOs don’t seem to be too bothered either despite it underpinning all that they do including the Soil Association who have alienated themselves a fair bit by advocating porcine homeopathy and a slightly over zealous approach to organics. It has been left to practitioners and scientists to keep banging the drum.
What we need is as much exposure about soils and the micro organisms that keep it alive as we can get. We need a strong lobby voice for soils, particularly in non agricultural areas. We need a valuation system for urban and peri urban soils, which is quick and easy for practitioners to use.
And we need to know that soils beyond the shores of our countries boundaries’ are as important to us as our own soils. We have to force governments to look outside of their isolated positions with soils as they should for all natural elements because soil is the last and only resource we have left in Europe of any future worth, it is the bedrock for a sustainable future quite literally and protecting a countries economic growth by blocking the vital legislative protection by way of the SFD is not only selfish to a nauseating extreme it is failing our children and their future food supply massively. That is not sustainable, even in the weakest definition available. This year when so many EU countries face drought and we all will suffer from the resulting price hikes for basic commodities as well as a hugely decrease in the ecosystem services provided by natural elements dependent on soil, it is frankly insane we are not concentrating more on protecting soil.
And with climate change and the chasing in packs of every possible funding that come by way of carbon credits and other initiatives – we cannot lose sight of the fact that the greatest store of CO2 on the continent of Europe is SOIL and we are allowing tonnes of it to wash away daily due to easily prevented malpractice.