One million signatures to stop land take and soil degradation: this is the minimum target of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) ‘People4soil’, launched 22nd September 2016 in Turin, the Italian city hosting ‘Terra Madre’, the global Slow Food event on good, clean and fair food.
“The proposal of a soil framework directive was withdrawn in May 2014 after an eight-year-long opposition by a blocking minority of Member States, in spite of the evident lack of European policies and national regulations to guarantee an adequate protection for soils” – say Marta Messa and Damiano Di Simine, the representatives of the citizens' committee running the People4soil ECI – “after the failure of the European institutions, now it is the citizens’ turn: with our signatures we will be able to bring the soil back on the European political agenda!”
A first result has already been attained by People4Soil promoters, i.e. the astonishing number of organisations supporting the Initiative: currently 350 organisations, based in 26 EU Member States, are involved in the network and committed for the campaign (full list available on www.people4soil.eu). This is a clear evidence of the existing awareness of the soil threats amongst scientists, farmers, consumers, environmentalists and urban planners. Sealing, erosion, organic matter decline, biodiversity loss and contamination are affecting soil availability and productivity.
Soil is food. Land take in Europe is the major threat to fertile soils: every year 1000 sq km are sealed by concrete and asphalt surfaces, the equivalent of approximately 500 football pitches every day! The delay of EU institutions in issuing regulations for soil protection is in embarrassing contradiction with the relevance that the EC, from its very beginning, accorded to food sovereignty and security. Today millions of hectares outside Europe are intensively exploited to supply food and fodder for the European market, often with deep impacts for indigenous farmers.
Soil is the cradle of terrestrial biodiversity. Besides providing a habitat for the below-ground biodiversity, soil is essential for the survival of most above-ground species. Today, land use changes and intensive agriculture are the main threats to the European habitats and species, and it is estimated that nearly a third of Europe’s landscape is highly fragmented by buildings and infrastructures.
Soil is health. Soil pollution can heavily affect human health, by contaminating the food we eat and the water we drink. Throughout Europe almost 250,000 sites are contaminated, and despite this EU doesn't have a coherent remediation program and a common scheme to prevent soil pollution.
Soil is our future. Soil is a key element of the climate system, since it captures huge amounts of carbon: the European soils contain an amount of carbon equivalent to the CO2 emitted by transport, heating, industry, energy sectors in Europe over 40 years. Healthy soils display many essential functions in mitigating and adapting the effects of climate change, such as floods, heat waves and droughts.
A European Citizens' Initiative is a formal request to the European Commission to propose a legislation on soil protection. The citizens' initiative has to be backed by at least one million EU adult citizens, which can sign the petition through the official website. The petition has a duration of 12 months, from 12 September 2016 to 11 September 2017.