Oxfam reports that last year 85 and this year 80 people have the same amount of wealth as the world’s poorest 3.5 billion citizens. In 2014 the Netherlands had 173,000 millionaires. The economy is organized such that the money (and the food) ends up in the hands of a small group of extremely rich people. My father once explained, ‘Just look at your fingers, they aren’t all the same, are they?’
You really don’t need to be an idealist to find this situation truly appalling! Enough money is being earned, but we can’t manage to organize our society so that we give the government sufficient financial scope to stand up properly for the public interest. We talk about People, Planet, Profit. About corporate social responsibility. And in Wageningen we talk about ‘getting closer to the community’ and working as ‘One Wageningen’ to solve the big problems. That all sounds good, but it has to take the form of an earnings model. That’s how the Dutch government has organized things with trade and industry and the universities.
‘Earnings model’. The more I say it, the more absurd it sounds. Because how can global problems be solved with an ‘earnings model’? Can you earn money from hunger, from boat refugees, from fighting ebola? The first thing that’s needed is investment, but there’s no prospect of an immediate return. There’s not a single party in the production chain that will take that step. It is not in their immediate interest. The government must stand up for the public interest. But, regrettably, our government has sold itself to trade and industry. We scientists are watching it happen, but we aren’t researching it because it won’t earn us any money. If I type ‘WUR’ into the computer, the autocorrect replaces it inexorably with ‘WURG’. And that’s how I feel, strangled by the earnings model.
Kees van Veluw (57) teaches Permaculture and is active in organic agriculture networks. His vision stems from his work with African farmers, his networks with Dutch farmers, his family life with his wife, three sons, dog and chickens.