When we talk about soils, politics is not far away. From questions of contamination, land ownership, and national identity, to queries concerning sustainable agriculture and climate change: soils are pivotal to a host of environmental and societal concerns.
Governing Soils and Societies
This evening, PhD student in International Relations Maarten Meijer elaborates on the various connections between politics and soil throughout history. Moving from 19th century debates on plant nutrition and soil exhaustion, to early 20th century efforts on curbing soil erosion in colonial spaces, to the international efforts to eradicate famine in the aftermath of World War II, to end with contemporary debates on soil degradation in the EU and FAO. Soils have been understood in different terms at different time, and various soil sciences have been implicated in various projects that aimed at governing soils and societies.
After the lecture, Maarten will have a discussion with professor of Soil System Sciences Peter de Ruiter on the political relationships between science, soils, and society. For what does this history teach us? How should we value what lies beneath our feet today?
About lecture series Soil! What lies beneath your feet?
Soil, earth, ground, dirt, dust, mud, humus, filth. Many names for the matter that lies beneath our feet, but what is soil? And is the idea of soil subject to change? In this series we dig through the myriads of ways in which soil is interpreted, understood, and represented. We muddle through the arts, politics, and sciences of soil in order to uncover the unknown worlds beneath (y)our feet.
About Maarten Meijer
Maarten Meijer is a PhD candidate at the University of Groningen, in the department of International Relations. Combining his interest in philosophy and ecological politics, his research mainly focusses on the constitution and trajectories of soil as an object and medium of governance from the 19th century onwards. His other research interests include the philosophy of diplomacy, political eschatology, and imaginaries of connectivity. In addition, Maarten is involved in a collaborative design project that seeks to transpose the ecological politics of the Oosterschelde into a serious game.
About Peter de Ruiter
Peter de Ruiter is emeritus professor Soil System Sciences at the University of Amsterdam and Wageningen University. His main research interests are in the field of stability, resilience and functionality of soil food webs with a strong focus of sustainable development. He has been scientific director of the former Soil Science Centre, a joint institute of Wageningen University and Wageningen Environmental Research. At present he is European Member of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) of the World Food Organisation (FAO Rome, Italy), Chair of the Table of Life Sciences of the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research (NWO, The Hague, NL) and Chair of the Board of the ISRIC World Soil Information and Reference Centre (ISRIC, Wageningen, NL).