Pourquoi les sols méritent toute notre attention

Why floors deserve our full attention

Evaluation of the composition of a soil, sieving of fragments and particles. Isabelle Gregoire , CC BY-NC-ND Tiphaine Chevallier , Research Institute for Development (IRD) ; Anne C. Richer-de-Forges , Inrae and Thomas Eglin , Ademe (Ecological Transition Agency)

The ground is not limited to a simple surface that one treads on with one's feet. It constitutes an ecosystem in its own right, essential to our societies for the supply of food and materials, the regulation of the water cycle and the climate, the recycling of organic waste, the preservation of a biological and cultural heritage...

Fertile soils are very limited on our planet – about one eighth of the land surface, or 1,500 million hectares . Yet the majority of the world's soils are generally in fair, poor, or very poor condition, and their conditions are getting worse .

While an ever-increasing proportion of the human population lives in cities, the risk of disconnection between the beneficiaries of the services provided by the soil and the awareness of their importance is real. Aren't we telling the youngest to avoid putting their hands in the ground, because “it's dirty”?

Despite its importance, the ground is not visible and therefore remains poorly understood. The indifference of our societies, combined with the pressure of human activities and a lack of dedicated regulations , generate significant degradation, some of which is almost irremediable.

The sustainable management of these areas must be at the forefront of our concerns, both to ensure our food, to protect the environment, or even to develop an agriculture that uses less inputs (fertilizers and pesticides), making the most ofbiological functioning and ecological soil .

Reconnecting society to soil science is therefore a major challenge today in order to promote their protection and strengthen the services they provide us. This transfer of knowledge must go through the multiplication of popularization actions towards the general public, but also in education and with decision-makers.

Share experiences

For scientists, if intervening in a class, proposing an exhibition or an animation during the Fête de la science, constitute so many pleasant activities, they are also often a source of questioning. How to adapt the speech to children, to the general public, to decision-makers? How to prepare a session, an exhibition, a stand? How to present this dark, dirty and seemingly banal subject of study as a rich and mysterious environment?

To encourage scientists and science mediators to share their feedback, the French Association for Soil Studies (AFES) has published a special issue of its journal Etude et gestion des sols on the theme "Communicating and raising awareness about soil » .

This issue brings together several popular events or products to raise awareness of these issues among a wide variety of audiences. The approaches described are diversified: educational and fun devices for school audiences, animations, exhibitions and awareness tools for general public events, participatory science web applications for amateur naturalists, family games, etc.

But the soil of some is not that of others . The communicator must therefore begin by listening and learning the soil of the other in order to then pass on his own. Involving citizens in the production of educational resources and the production of knowledge on soils is also a recognized way of raising awareness.

A program bringing together scientists, teachers and trainers is currently being carried out by AFES to identify, share and produce resources for teaching about soils.

And, among the many participatory science projects, a few are soil-specific, such as the Participatory Soil and Earthworm Biodiversity Observatories, Participatory Earthworm Sampling , or the Teabag Index Project , which aims to acquire data on the decomposition of organic matter in the soil.

Even if educational resources and awareness initiatives on soils exist, they are today very scattered. Making them more visible could go through a more systematic inventory and updating of existing sites.

Here are some valuable French-language sources to find online:

  • the Mtaterre.fr site, offered by Ademe .

  • the site of the AFES , the French Association for the study of soil.

  • the GIS SOL site , the Soil Scientific Interest Grouping, which provides access to databases and technical and scientific publications on soils.

  • the "Soils and territories" site , a joint technological network which aims to take soils into account in various policies, projects and environmental and agricultural action programmes.

Make media floors

Strengthening the presence of soils in the mainstream media is another essential step, as the subject is so little highlighted.

A few radio broadcasts, reports and articles – such as on The Conversation where the life of urban soils , carbon storage or even soil pollution with chlordecone were mentioned – are paving the way; but it is necessary to strengthen this media coverage by linking the issues of soil preservation to those of society.

More offbeat approaches are also of interest, such as the #PlanteTonSlip operation supported by Ademe, or its equivalents intended for the agricultural world, at national and international level.

This original initiative will have aroused curiosity with reports on France Inter, France Info, Loopsider and collaborations with the now essential Youtubers .

There are also a few films, such as Welcome to the Earthworms (Prize for Best Film at the Festival des Possibles in 2019) or Kiss the Ground , a big-budget film broadcast on Netflix and whose trailer has been seen more than 8 million. of times; they show us that soil can and must become a topic for the general public today.

Trailer of the movie Kiss the Ground . (2020)

Sophie Raous (AFES), Dominique Arrouays (Inrae), Michel Brossard (IRD/AFES) and Antoine Pierart (Ademe) are co-authors of this article. The Conversation

Tiphaine Chevallier , Researcher, Research Institute for Development (IRD) ; Anne C. Richer-de-Forges , Soil scientist-cartographer, Inrae and Thomas Eglin , "Biodiversity, soil and landscape" theme leader, Ademe (Ecological transition agency)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article .

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