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Soil regeneration is the theme of Prof. Karen Johnson of Durham University’s opening talk in the 2021 Orkney International Science Festival. Since industrialisation, two-thirds of all global greenhouse gas emissions have come from fossil fuels. And remarkably, the other third has come from the land. The immense amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by green plants is far outweighed by the amount of the gas discharged by the soil, due to the continuing loss of its organic matter.

But, she says, we can rebuild our soils, and boost the circular economy at the same time. We can reuse wastes as resources, returning organic matter to land and stabilising it with ‘waste’ minerals to build up stable stores of carbon in our land. Increasing carbon stores also means boosting flood and drought resilience, and so we can create economic opportunities for communities through soil regeneration. “A nation that rebuilds its soils rebuilds itself.”

Karen’s background is in natural science, and she worked in the water industry before moving to Durham University to teach environmental engineering.

She’s worked with the UK Government, helping to launch the UK’s Soil health Inquiry back in 2016, and she is now just starting to work with the United Nations on the agenda for rebuilding soils.

You can watch this free event from here, through the YouTube link below, or you can also go to the Science Festival’s YouTube channel

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