We currently face a baffling paradox. While since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 a seemingly inexorable process of globalisation has been foreshadowing a peaceful and frontierless world, the number of walls across the world has been rising at a steady pace. Liberal and open societies buttressed by trade, international law and technological progress were supposed to implacably contribute to the erosion of frontiers and walls between nations. However, in a context of surging populist discourses, securitarian anxieties and identitarian politics as well as concomitant flows of migration alimented by climate change, conflict and poverty, nations have recently started to barricade themselves behind new walls.
Soil is an essential component of the Earth's ecosystem. It contributes to and fulfills a wide range of environmental and societal functions such as food production, water filtering, carbon storage and the preservation of biodiversity essential to the survival of the human species. While soils have witnessed significant environmental degradation in recent decades, lands have been the object of increased economic competition and financial speculation. The commercial and financial scramble for land has never been more intense as transnational actors and governments such as the Chinese seek large scale bids for land in the Global South that have been likened to new forms of neocolonialism. The consequences of this double tension include the loss of biodiversity, floods, climate change, famines, forced migration and conflict.
It is the assumption of the present Dossier that issues such as large scale exploitation of land and natural resources, soil degradation, biodiversity, food security and climate change are closely interdependent and cannot be treated in isolation. Seeking to explore and better understand the interlinkages between the material degradation of soils and the increased extractive, commercial and speculative pressure on lands, the Dossier aims to address some of the broader stakes the Anthropocene is currently facing: How irreversible is the damage that has been caused to earth's soils? Have we reached a point of no return? How many people is the earth able to feed and for how long? Are we trapped in a Malthusian logic? How will climate change depend and interact with changing patterns of soil distribution and depletion? What is the impact of large scale deforestation and natural resource extraction on the environment, particularly the soils? What are the governance patterns and technological solutions emerging to address land depletion and scarcity? What are some of the cybernetic loops and mechanisms of autoregulation through which the earth reacts to human interference?
Soil Degradation: At the Core of the Anthropocene’s Intricate FragilityReading time: 4 min
The Ground beneath Our Feet: Food, Agriculture and Climate ChangeReading time: 5 min
Food Security and Land Use in the 21st Century: The Return of Malthus?Reading time: 6 min
Abandoned Mines: The Scars of the PastReading time: 4 min
Land Grabs, Big Business and Large-Scale DamagesReading time: 5 min
The desertification myth?Reading time: 4 min
Darkness at Noon: Deforestation in the new Authoritarian EraReading time: 5 min
The present Dossier takes stock of the current state of the multilateral system and its future prospects. It aims to explore to what extent global governance is in crisis as the global geopolitical order is undergoing fundamental shifts and liberal universalism is losing traction. It assesses potential of reform in extant institutions as well as emerging trends, tools and forums that are reshaping multilateral practice on a daily basis.
Note – The dossier was drafted before the Covid-19 world crisis.