International Soil Day
The importance of soils and the dangers posed by soil sealing cannot be overstated. This should be remembered not only, but especially on today, December 5, International Soil Day. Because every day in Austria surfaces in the size of approximately 14 soccer fields are sealed - among other things for industrial estates on the green meadow, shopping centers or roads. But soils are not only vital as agricultural land for ensuring our food production, they are essential for biodiversity and bind CO2.
"Soil protection is climate protection," emphasizes BOKU Rector Eva Schulev-Steindl. With its research, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna contributes across disciplines to the conservation of domestic soils, but appropriate legal frameworks are also required," says Schulev-Steindl.
What these should look like - also in an international context - was discussed by the participants of the "International Soil Law and Governance Conference", which was organized on October 20, 2022 by the Institute of Law of BOKU together with Clim:Law Graz, the Research Center for Climate Change Law of the University of Graz and the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA). Patricia Kameri (United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP]), Dirk Messner (UBA), Jiayi Zhou (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [SIPRI]), Andrea Vettori (European Commission), Robert Wabunoha (UNEP) and Li Lifeng (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO]) discussed the importance of soil protection in times of multiple global crises. The panel agreed that the major challenge is to bring existing knowledge about the necessary changes into implementation. The appropriate legal measures must be put in place at global, regional and local levels. It is a mandate of politics to protect the soil with laws, he said.
In June, at the BOKU Soil Protection Conference "Stop the land gluttony", scientists from the DACH region explored the question of how orderly spatial planning and development can contribute to protecting soils from sealing. After all, the municipalities responsible for zoning are in a field of tension: every new construction project consumes land, but at the same time brings in urgently needed revenue from municipal taxes.
Many people now seem to be aware of the importance of protecting our soils, as shown by a recent survey conducted by the Austrian Hail Insurance Company on the occasion of this year's World Soil Day: 82 percent of respondents said that soil sealing was one of the biggest environmental problems in Austria.