2015/10/22 Dresden, Germany
Inspired by the International Year of Soils, Dresden’s diverse and active civil society network has decided to look deeper below the surface. The 7th Umundu Festival Dresden, has chosen the topic “Unter uns der Boden” (The Ground Beneath Our Feet) to engage with from 15 to 24 October 2015. As one of the leading research institutes on soil resources in Germany, UNU-FLORES was invited to participate in the opening symposium. Lulu Zhang and Anika Reetsch gave presentation on the interrelationship between soil, water and waste and drew the connection between for the audience to food production, nutrient cycles, health, urbanization and climate change. Both scientists emphasized the importance of managing the three resources in an integrated concept. To emphasize this connection, the scholars mentioned that nine UN International Years between 2003 and 2016 were either directly or indirectly linked to these resources, such as the International Year of Freshwater (2003), Deserts and Desertification (2006), Biodiversity (2010), Forests (2011), Sustainable Energy for All (2012), Water Cooperation (2013), Family Farming (2014), Soils (2015), and Pulses (2016).
In their talk, Reetsch and Zhang also introduced the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals with a special emphasis on the Goal 2, 3, 6, 11, and 12, because they are closely linked to soil, water and waste. They presented statistics on severe soil degradation and loss of nutrients in soils worldwide, the impacts of human activities on carbon and nitrogen cycles through fossil fuel burning and land-use change and the trend towards decreasing minerals and nutrients in food as a consequence of nutrient depletion in soils. They also explained that, this dynamic is additionally accelerated by varying consumption patterns in urban areas of industrialized and emerging countries, where nowadays more meat-based products are consumed than plant-based. In addition to soil, the issue of over-use of freshwater and inadequate sanitation were also elaborated upon. The potential to overcome these challenges by adopting a circular economy – recycle and reuse – Instead of a linear economy were discussed. It was argued that this will close the material and nutrient cycles and enhance carbon sequestration in nature, foster food supply security and reduce waste with a goal of zero waste generation. UNU-FLORES scholars will continue research on these topics and support the efforts of UN Member States to achieve these goals and the realization of the SDGs.