The Soil Atlas 2015, published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany, Friends of the Earth Germany (Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland – BUND) and Le Monde Diplomatique in mid-January, provides a wealth of data, diagrams and facts concerning the significance, use and condition of land, soils and agricultural areas in Germany and Europe and across the world.
As the publication demonstrates, land and soil are becoming scarcer and scarcer. For example, alone what the citizens of the European Union consume requires an area of around 640 million hectares a year, which is one-and-a-half times the area of all 28 Member States together. About 60 per cent of this land is outside the EU, making Europe the continent most dependent on land outside its borders to maintain its lifestyle and agricultural industry and satisfy its hunger for energy, the study states.
In twenty chapters, the authors address a wide range of topics impacting on the use of soils and their status. After a cultural history introduction to the significance of soils for human beings, the reasons for and the dimensions of world-wide soil losses are described in brief essays containing numerous diagrams: “Intensive cropping”, “Mineral fertilisers”, “Fodder crops”, “Climate”, “Energy”, “Mining”, “Urbanisation”.
The political dimension of land use is illustrated in the contributions on “Land investments”, “European land imports”, “Big Business”, “Landowning”, “Land reform”, “Land policy”, “Gender” and “The commons”. Suggestions for better soil conservation under the headings “Drylands”, “Traditional systems”, “Organic Farming” and “Green cities” round off the publication.