Re-politicising soils: What is the role of soil framings in setting the agenda?

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Journal Article
Geoderma, 2019, 349 pp. 97 - 106
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© 2019 Elsevier B.V. Soils, like other natural resources, are in crisis; a policy vacuum exists, and we are observing dedicated efforts from the scientific community to address this vacuum. At the forefront of these efforts is the concept of ‘soil security’, which to date has gained support amongst soil advocates but still lacks traction in the political arena. This calls into question the alignment of current framings of soil sustainability, such as soil security, with policy makers' perceptions of the issue. To contribute to a stronger framing of soils for political agenda setting, we offer a social science perspective. We apply Stone's causal stories framework to review conceptually how ‘soil security’ and related concepts might operate in agenda setting. From there, we proceed to analyse the jurisdictional case of soil policy development in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. We find that despite the presence of a compelling policy ‘window’ and completion of a draft policy document, a change of government in NSW has caused the implementation of a new soil policy to fail. While the causes of this failure are largely unexplored, we suggest that the application of transdisciplinary approaches to soil policy processes could help avoid such situations in the future. Transdisciplinary approaches could assist policy processes through the development of a strong soil narrative that can re-politicise soils, instigate lasting soil policies and ultimately lead to societies' sustainable soil use and management. We advocate a more explicitly articulated and implemented transdisciplinary approach, with social science insights about framing and agenda setting as a starting point.
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