Development of Soil Awareness in Europe and Other Regions: Historical and Ethical Reflections About European (and International) Soil Protection Law

Part of the International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy book series (IYSLP, volume 2017)


This chapter will focus on the development of soil awareness in Europe and in other regions and the legal regimes that subsequently developed. Problems of soil degradation of larger extent started in the course of the Industrial Revolution more than 200 years ago in England. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, it spread to Central Europe and brought a new quality to the conflict between the expansion of human needs and the stability of nature. Meanwhile, soil degradation is a serious problem worldwide, and policy making and legislation have to be carried out in a manner that considers the fundamental soil protection necessities. The author will discuss the reasons why soil protection has not been realized as consequently as other fields of EU (and international) environmental law. For example, soil degradation generally becomes noticeable after a relatively long period of time, and it affects human beings more indirectly than air and water pollution. What is required—besides scientific knowledge—is an ethical approach, in order to create an understanding of the basic needs of our soils. Although the principle of precaution, the preventative principle, and other fundamentals of environmental law have become internationally accepted guiding principles in human interaction, they are not applied consequently. In the European Union and other regions, the protection of our soils against biological, chemical, and physical damage has not taken place in a systematic way. As there is no EU soil protection regulation covering all substantial soil endangerment paths, not even a framework directive, it mainly seems possible to integrate soil protection into other fields of environmental law at present. There are similar processes at the international level and in specific states, where some states have enacted effective soil protection legislation. There are also similar reasons for failure in soil protection. The ethical implications of legislation are of great importance for respecting the ecological limitations of the soils. This chapter emphasizes milestones of the development of the awareness that soils need to be protected efficiently from a historical and ethical point of view.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ministry of Justice, Europe and Consumer ProtectionPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, Specialist Group on Sustainable Soils and DesertificationKleinmachnowGermany

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