From Mud Angels to Soil Angels

By Mario Catizzone

photo by Colette Kessler, USDA NRCS (CC BY 2.0)
photo by Colette Kessler, USDA NRCS (CC BY 2.0)

Read part one on soil

In 1966, Florence was submerged by a flood. Thousands of young people from all over Italy and from many countries of the world mobilized spontaneously to clean up the city and to save masterpieces of art, books and monuments, many of them completely buried by mud.

They were called “Mud’s Angels”. Since then, in Italy we call in the same way the people that activated themselves when similar catastrophes happen, as in Genoa a few months ago.

What motivated the Angels?

Definitely, a movement of solidarity but also the awareness that they must help protect a common heritage that belongs to all humanity.

With the same feeling, it is necessary to allow all – and particularly new generations – to engage themselves in protecting soil, land and landscape. We need new voluntaries, new “angels” let call them Soil’s Angels. They have to take care of:

  1. Proposal for a European directive based on a citizens’ initiative (ECI);
  2. Communication tools for different levels (school, politicians, decision makers, for building contractors, for farmers, …);
  3. Communication and Information Platform (for the media and for the general public);
  4. Preparation of instruments to control the decisions of local authorities (municipality, province and region);
  5. “Mark” (in the sporting sense of the word) those elected in national and European parliaments (important for Democratic Control directly carried out by civil society organizations);
  6. Creation of specific communication tools, such as a social movie about soil created by the interaction via social networks ;
  7. Other actions identified jointly at the proposal of the participants.

We all must act to overcome the apathy and silence that fell in Europe and all its Member States on soil protection. We have to get our hands dirty with our soil!

In Italy, the Soil’s Angels exist. They do not represent any association. They are individuals come together to act and to learn from each other. They communicate through a Bollettino (kind of newsletter) published every 15 days. They look for solutions not for words or statistics. From January 2016 the Bollettino has a specific section “Non siamo soli!” (We are not alone!) where soil experiences conducted in other EU countries are described (in Italian and in one EU language).

It is time to create the European Soil’s Angels. We ask other people in EU to move together starting to know each other and to share what we are doing to preserve soil for present and next generations. We need tool to communicate. We need to overcome the difficulties linked to different languages, cultures, and way of living. We have to define which of the above-mentioned actions we wish to realize, and to propose other measures that they deem appropriate to achieve the common shared objectives. We have to create dialogue opportunities with all soil actors, including those that presently are consuming the soil and limiting its fertility.

In other words, we are asking all concerned people to indicate each other how to save what is left of the soil in each country and in the whole Europe.

Get involved!

The European Soil Group of the Salviamo il Paesaggio Forum The Forum covers more than 1000 – between local and national – Italian associations that fight to stop soil, land and landscape consumption and degradation

People 4 Soil is a free and open network of European NGOs, research institutes, farmers associations and environmental groups. People4soil is very worried about the increasing degradation of soils both in the EU and at global level: erosion, sealing, loss of organic matter, compaction, salinisation, landslides and contamination have negative impacts on human health, food security, natural ecosystems, biodiversity and climate, as well as on our economy.

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About Mario Catizzone 7 Articles

Mario Catizzone is an Italian Agronomist and Soil Scientist. He has worked for NGOs, IGOs and the UN FAO on activities related to environmental and agricultural concerns. From 1989 to 2013, he was Scientific Officer at the European Commission, Research Directorate General (RTD), dealing with environmental research (soil, water, remote sensing, terrestrial ecosystems and biological diversity), agriculture research (farming systems) and with sustainable development, in developing countries and in Europe. He then became Senior Scientific Officer at the ‘International Dimension of the Framework Programme’ with specific responsibility on Africa, India and China. he was detached two years in Sweden at the “Swedish Environmental Protection Agency” – NV (Stockholm) and six months at the Africa Union Commission Headquarters (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). In 2014 he joined the Save the Landscape Forum (Forum Salviamo il Paesaggio) where he helped create the Soil Europe Group in which he acts as a referent.