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23 July 2013

Living Soil Forum blog – Monday

This first day of the Living Soil Forum has had the simple purpose for participants to arrive, meet, and get a sense of what issues are on the table for this week. As such, it has been only half a day of activities, where participants have met to present themselves and broadly identify and discuss problems and priorities for soil stewardship.

Even though much of today’s focus was on meeting and getting ideas out, I will use this blog post to briefly summarize the four introductory presentations that were held, to let you as a reader get a bit of the same introduction as the forum participants did:

 Summer of Soil co-founder Pieter Ploeg painted a brief outline of the arranger’s view of the soil challenge, saying that although more than 90% of our food comes from soil, arable land the size of 30 football fields is lost each minute due to factors such as erosion, contamination, salinisation and construction on soil surface. The planetary boundaries of nitrogen use and biodiversity loss have already been exceeded by far, and other issues are to follow. Hence, the arrangers see an urgent need for soil stewardship, and has called this forum to take a step towards building a global soil movement run by the stakeholders – i.e. us who eat food.

Dr Vandana Shiva held an inspirational and provocative/thought-provoking speech presenting her experiences of women’s movements’ resistance to large-scale forestry, “green revolution” practices and GMO farming, among other things.

SIANI also got to catch a short interview with Dr Shiva, where she summarised much of this presentation for our online followers.

Another introductory speech by Patrick Holden, CEO of Sustainable Food Trust, mixed personal field work experience and every-day reflections with priorities and hopes for the global level. The narratives went from insights on sweeping one’s yard while realising that the accumulating dust is actually the real-time process of soil generation; to the story of rivers in Zimbabwe turning from constant to seasonal flow since the soil cannot hold water like they used to, and now release much of it in a flow of muddy run-off as the rains come. Such mixed accounts may serve as a presentation of a message: action for soil regeneration is needed at all levels, from individual to national. In Holden’s view, soil is our most finite resource. The change needs to come from people changing their attitudes towards soil, which was anticipated as possible, if we can get a mix of enthusiasm, connection to health, eye-opening chock events, knowledge, and change of the economic climate.

(Edit: At Tuesday morning we also got an interview with Patrick Holden, briefly summarizing his main points with an international focus.)

Finally, Regine Andersson of Oikos was presented through a colleague (being hurt after an accident, but reportedly safe and sound back in Norway). This speech centred on how to reach at a point (in this case about soil stewardship) and how to get it through to the masses: through acknowledging and tapping into existing power mechanisms of politics, business and civil society; through defining the moral authority of your standpoint, and expressing the importance of farmers’ rights for a diverse agriculture.

In Tuesday’s blog post, we will turn our focus to the discussions at the tables of the forum, to give you a bit of insight on the debate taking place here in Järna.

In the meantime, SIANI invites you as a reader to take part of the process with us. If you fancy Twitter, do check out our stream at @sianiagri, or email us at or if you have any questions during the week.

Petter Nordqvist


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