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From 31st of July to 5th of August, Glasgow will host the 22nd World Congress of Soil Science at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC). This 4 yearly conference will be host to soil scientists, policy makers, activists and environmental groups from across the world who have an interest or work with soil, food security, agroecology and climate science. Following up from Glasgow hosting COP26 and in the context of the global food crisis, record breaking temperatures in Britain and increased interest in soils - the congress comes at a critical time for scientists and citizens to discuss pressing issues for our future. 

So, what is happening at the congress? 

The congress is mainly for soil scientists, policy makers and specialists involved with food security, environmental issues and climate science. The theme for this year’s congress is ‘Soil Science – crossing boundaries, changing society’ and focuses on the link between soil and society, with sessions covering soil formation, soil management and how we interact with and use soils around the world. The core programme is supported by tours and a cultural and arts programme for delegates. 

What is happening outside/ off congress? 

While the tickets are unfortunately prohibitively expensive for enthusiasts, community members or non-professionals interested in soil, there are some free sessions running outside of the main science-based congress: 

👉 The CCA on Sauchiehall Street is hosting an exhibition from July through September on soil health, compost and people’s histories and connections to soil - We are Compost / Composting the We

👉 Propagate, in association with Open Jar Collective and the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS), have been hosting a number of workshops throughout Glasgow since January, culminating in a multi-sensory tasting experience, linking soil health to food nutrition - ‘'Dish the Dirt: A multi-sensory tasting experience' on the 3rd of August. 

👉 Our own Food and Climate Action project is hosting a ‘Free School: Intro to Agroecological Growing’ on the 26th of July at The Wash House Garden in collaboration with The Space. This free workshop will be an opportunity to learn about agroecological practices, how this benefits soil health and wider ecosystems and communities.

👉 Finally, we are also hosting a Glasgow South Food and Climate Action Network Meeting - for anyone in the South of Glasgow working or interested in food and climate work. 

(If you can’t make any of these events, please keep up with Food and Climate Action’s future events here, which regularly involve soil based and food growing workshops!)

Why is soil important anyway and what does it mean for Glasgow’s communities? 

Glasgow still boasts a massive number of parks, green-spaces and an ever-growing number of community gardens. However, much of Glasgow’s derelict and post-industrial landscape holds polluted soils from the heavy industries that used to dominate our city. As the pandemic and our own demand for land research is demonstrating, a growing number of Glasgow’s citizens and communities are looking to take on land for food growing and greenspace for well-being, community use, nutrition and health. Making sure Glasgow has healthy, unpolluted soils is therefore extremely important for future planning of greenspace and food growing use within our city boundaries. 

Soils are also extremely important for absorbing water run-off, slowing water courses and reducing the impact of flooding, along with being a crucial medium for purifying our drinking water, making sure we have clean water to drink, wash and bathe in. In an extremely rainy city like Glasgow (with more intense rainfall and storms coming due to climate change), the way Glasgow plans and cherishes soil will be paramount to ensuring we can adapt to the impacts of climate chaos in the immediate years to come. 

If you’re interested to find more about the function and magic of soils have a look at our events, and the resources below!


Article by Mark Hanlon, Glasgow Community Food Network Food for the Planet Coordinator.