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SOIL HEALTH:

A SECURITY THREAT PROFILE

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This profile report is about food and security – about the impact that food scarcity has on peace, conflict and stability; on infrastructure and society.  The report profiles the critical importance of soil health through the writings of 22 experts – military minds, NGO leaders, scientists and practical farmers.

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REPORT LAUNCH WEBINAR

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This webinar took place on 20/10/21

Our panellists were:

  • Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, Former UK Climate and Energy Security Envoy

  • Chantal Wei-Ying Clément, Deputy Director, IPES Food, Brussels

  • Jimmy Woodrow, Executive Director, Pasture for Life, UK

  • Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquín, President, Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, USA

  • Chaired by, ffinlo Costain, Founder of the Food & Global Security Network

 

OUR REPORT IS SPLIT INTO THREE SECTIONS: CHALLENGES, SOLUTIONS & FARMERS

SECTION ONE - CHALLENGES

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

We face two concurrent crises in nature: climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Both threaten the availability food and water, endangering global supply chains. Human access to affordable nutrition and potable water are critical in maintaining peace and security. Global warming, biodiversity loss, food and water – they are connected, above all else, by soil health.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

Key recommendations to underpin the security of future generations, in the face of ecological breakdown, the regeneration of Earth’s soils should become a foundational priority for all governments, food businesses, individual land managers and citizens. 

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REAR ADMIRAL NEIL MORISETTI

THE SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF A CHANGING CLIMATE

‘Nations need to minimise the damage caused by climate change. In part this will require richer nations to help more vulnerable ones to develop the capacity and resilience to address the stresses that they will face, but it will also require all nations to tackle the damage that has been done to soil biodiversity and water quality. The restoration of national soil health, and increased food sovereignty, should be seen as a security priority by all nations.’

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JIMMY WOODROW

PASTURE IS A STRATEGIC ASSET

‘Pasture and its underlying soil, when properly considered, should be a vital strategic asset in a world that is becoming more and more resource constrained, elevated alongside forest and peat bog for its upcoming role in both nature recovery and food production.’

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COUNCIL FOR STRATEGIC RISKS

THE SECURITY THREAT THAT BINDS US

‘Ecological factors can contribute to a number of outcomes that most experts would recognize as ‘traditional’ security threats. These include state conflict, political instability, resource disputes, and transnational organized crime. The changing nature of the risk landscape argues for a doctrinal reboot that infuses ecological concerns into security to better anticipate and address the challenges ahead.’

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ØISTEIN THORSEN

A SOIL-FIRST APPROACH TO SECURITY

‘By 2080, we might have run out of soil – the foundation of all life on Earth. Where the fall of Egypt and Rome took millennia of bad soil management, modern Western civilization, and the global food chains we rely on, might collapse in decades. Against this backdrop it is not hard to imagine how the loss of such a strategic resource – soil – will emerge as a geo-political, international security issue, more important than oil.’

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EDMUND SIMONS

A LONGER-TERM PERSPECTIVE

‘We have been telling cautionary tales of lost Edens since the earliest times, but 'collapse' is not inevitable. Now, as we face the consequences of the Anthropocene, perhaps those populations that see themselves least at risk will be hardest hit – for the people who work the land, as always, have better capacity to ride a civilisation's collapse. If however our complex societies can repair their relationship with the land, perhaps then we will be able to arrest collapse before our systems crumble.’

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LAURA HIGHAM

NATURE AND FOOD SYSTEMS IN THE POST-COVID-19 WORLD

‘Coronavirus is a One Health disaster presenting a colossal challenge to human civilisation. It is costing lives, devastating livelihoods, threatening food security, crashing markets and widening the socioeconomic inequalities that plague our society.’

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SECTION TWO - SOLUTIONS

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DR ASLEIGH BRIGHT

HOLISTIC SOLUTIONS FOR FOOD SYSTEMS

‘For the last 60 years our global food systems have been focused on yields and productivity – but globally we have not solved food security and at the same time we have created widespread ecological crises. We need a renewed focus on holistic solutions and metrics, which account for the multitude of benefits that crops and livestock provide in the long term. This holistic approach may require a different mind-set, skills, methodology and produce fewer black and white results than we are used to.’

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SUE PRITCHARD

A STRATEGY FOR AGROECOLOGY

‘It’s time to acknowledge that, at the same as working tirelessly for 1.5 degrees, we must risk-manage for 2.5 degrees. And, as we’ve started to see clearly in the last couple of years, more diverse and flexible systems are more resilient systems – from farms, to households, to communities, to businesses, to whole sectors.’

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REGINALDO HASLETT-MARROQUIN

INDIGENOUS REGENERATION: DECOLONISING THE MIND

‘Regenerating the planet means shifting from degenerative colonizing ways. That radical mental, economic, and structural shift to an indigenous-centered stewardship of resources is what is not currently scalable, not the actual physical transition of the land. Let’s not confuse the scalability potential of regenerative agriculture with the lack of capacity to think collectively and transform our economies of extraction and exploitation into economies of regeneration at scale.’

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CAROLINE GRINDROD

DELIVERING REGENERATION

‘In modern agriculture, we have made the mistake of thinking of a plant as something we can isolate from the soil food web and grow in a lifeless medium as long as we feed it a few key nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.’

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CHANTAL CLÉMENT & NICK JACOBS

TWO DIVERGING PATHWAYS FOR A FOOD SECURE FUTURE

‘Food and agriculture are in the eye of a perfect storm. Over the next quarter century, biodiversity loss, climate shocks, and land degradation will place unprecedented pressures on food and farming systems. Definitions of food security are likely to change and broaden, encompassing dimensions like access to healthy, nutrient-rich soils, and resilience to pandemic disruptions.’

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GRAEME WILLIS

LESSONS FROM COVID 19 & THE DASGUPTA REVIEW

‘The pandemic has made us deeply aware of the importance of understanding microbiology. If we can better understand the complexity of our bodies and work cooperatively with it, that indeed will be key to unlocking greater health for us; but if can do the same for soils that will lead to a renewed relationship with the wider natural world that sustains us.’

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FFINLO COSTAIN

FOCUS ON WARMING, NOT JUST EMISSIONS

‘GWP-100 overstates the effect of constant methane emissions on global surface temperature by a factor of 3-4. This matters so enormously because when we accurately understand the impact of methane emissions from ruminants, our land use options change. We need a new consensus to emerge – one that focusses on warming from emissions rather than on the emissions themselves.’

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WALTER JEHNE

REGENERATE OUR SOIL CARBON SPONGE

‘Just as the natural formation of the Earth’s soil carbon sponge 420m years ago created the terrestrial bio-systems we depend on; our regeneration of our soil carbon sponges is now the only option and agency we have to address the security threats before us.’

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PATRICK HOLDEN

HOMAGE TO SOIL

‘On my farm I have had the privilege of observing up to five seven-year rotation cycles and the impact on soil fertility outcomes, during all of which time I have not used any chemical fertilisers or pesticides.  My observations have convinced me that this form of regenerative farming practice can not only build soil organic matter, but actually build soil.’

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VICKI HIRD

A CALL TO ACTION

‘We need ‘nutritional’ security not just ‘food’ security. There's a world of difference between what global and national food corporations provide and what we actually need. ‘Food’ security could include high fat content, sugar, oils, and feeds for industrial meat. ‘Nutritional’ security on the other hand considers the health value of food and the ways in which the food system determines an individual's ability to get essential nutrients, and not just calories.’

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SECTION THREE - FARMERS

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CLARE HILL

MESSY FARMING

‘Becoming a regenerative farmer is about paradigm shift. In the old mechanistic paradigm, long, messy grass equalled wasted feed, but in the new paradigm – this is productivity.  Now that we’re able to hold onto so much more of the water from the winter and grow spring grass right through the summer, we’ve become more productive, finishing our animals on grass between 18 and 24 months, and we’ve used no additional inputs.’ 

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JOHNNIE BALFOUR

REGENERATING OUR 1350 HECTARES

‘The land, and our business, was addicted to a cocktail of mismanagement. Something had to be done. Our answer to these threats has been the implementation of holistic management with the adoption of regenerative agricultural principles.’

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MARTIN LINES

SOIL HEALTH MEANS RESILIENCE

‘In England and Wales, over 2m hectares of soil are at risk of erosion and 4m hectares at risk of compaction. Intensive farming has caused arable soils to lose 40-60% of their organic carbon through relentless tilling and disturbance from vehicles. Ultimately, soil health equates to resilience. Governments must establish soil security as determining the health of our future and securing the foundations upon which all farming and food productions depends.’

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THOMAS GENT

CARBON ACCOUNTING & PAYMENTS 
‘On my farm I’ve witnessed just how rapidly soil degradation can be reversed.  By working with nature rather than against it we have been able to restore our soil health and soil function while continuing to produce fantastic, nutritious food. ‘The carbon offsetting market is well-established. Soil carbon certificates are simply a new product, and one of the most exciting because soil carbon sequestration can be delivered both rapidly and locally.’

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NIKKI YOXALL

HAPPIER AND HEALTHIER FARMING
‘To help me manage my feelings of despondency around what I often perceive to be a lack of global action, I have taken to thinking small, considering what I can do in my corner of Scotland.’

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GEORGE YOUNG

SOIL IS EVERYTHING 
‘We can only grow properly nutritious food with healthy soil.  It is no longer viable to just talk about food security – we must also focus on nutrition and soil security.’

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GET IN TOUCH

THE FOOD & GLOBAL SECURITY NETWORK HAS NO CENTRAL OFFICE AND OUR

NETWORK OF ASSOCIATES IS DOTTED AROUND THE WORLD.

OUR FOUNDER, FFINLO COSTAIN, IS BASED IN THE UK.


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