The world is finally waking up to the importance of soil in maintaining a healthy biosphere. Its variability has long been an obstacle to a joined-up focus on its study and protection. Soil nevertheless provides us with the biodiversity we see on its surface, our food, and a global carbon sink. The natural capital and environmental services that soil offers is immense. Society for the Environment (SocEnv) recognised this in its Soils and Stones Report of April 2021.
SocEnv is ideally placed to bring together a wide range of professionals from different environmental disciplines to address the critical global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and global food security. Meeting these challenges relies on a fourth critical element – people. In order to influence policy, public opinion and industry, SocEnv is spearheading a framework for sustainable economic growth by recognising the value of soils and stones.
To achieve the necessary and urgent action at scale, SocEnv is seeking consensus on ten principles that will provide a universal focus for all custodians and users of the land including legislators, developers, consultants, and soils practitioners. The aim is to give soils a quantifiable value that will:
- Preserve, protect, remediate, and enhance natural soils as a living system,
- Present a hierarchy of options for excavated soils, stones and dredgings,
- Make soil a material consideration in all land-use and development projects.
The framework aims to harmonise the regulation of soils and stones, with a holistic approach to guidance and best practice for managing soils across the agricultural, forestry, leisure, and development sectors. It is recognised that this will take time, but with the focus of common principles to drive policy and mobilise the expertise of all environmental professionals implementing solutions, we might yet save our soils.
A further introduction to the principles will be provided at the IES’s upcoming Land Condition Symposium, followed by wide consultation with our network before the principles are finalised next year.