An ambitious two-year art/science programme to inspire a deeper public understanding of the importance of soils.

Our Living Soil links two major international conferences being held at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow: COP26, the UN climate change summit, in 2021; and the World Congress of Soil Science, led by the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) in August 2022.

The Impacts

All around the world soils are increasingly threatened by intensive management and short-termism, resulting in compaction, contamination, erosion and salinisation, together with loss of fertility, organic matter and biodiversity. To some extent, most of these threats affect Scottish soils: for example, the historic misuse of iconic peatlands is acknowledged in our current efforts to restore them as carbon sinks. Peat has long been recognised as a domestic fuel source and indeed is an important cultural aspect of Scotland’s peat resource. However, other uses such as commercial forestry and industrial scale peat extraction are known to have detrimental impacts on the resource.

Image: Peatland restoration and standing forestry in the Flow Country

“The arts touch people in ways that complement the work of science and conventional education. There are strong indications that an increasing number of artists are becoming involved in environmental issues and in collaborations with scientists.”

The Future of Our Living Soil

With its main focus on Scotland, it will build on activities delivered during previous congresses in Brazil and South Korea and the UN’s International Year of Soils (2015), and we are exploring a wide range of options from exhibitions, residencies, film screenings and performances to workshops, talks and field trips. Of course, our planning is dependent on Covid-19 restrictions and, during these uncertain times, we will update this website, send out newsletters and begin online discussions.

The health of our soils is a topic that has rarely engaged the public in the way the cleanliness of our air, rivers and oceans and the conservation of endangered species have. However, soil health, climate change, food production, biodiversity and water supply are all intrinsically linked and the latest State of Nature report suggests that poor agricultural management, even more than climate change, is proving to have the greatest single impact upon nature and species depletion in the UK.

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