News - April 15, 2013

Selling nature

'Dijksma puts brakes on sale of nature,' ran a headline in Dutch newspaper Trouw last week.

The State Forest Service feels obliged to sell off previously acquired through a public auction in order to meet its financial target. In the coming years the organization has been asked to cough up no less than 100 million euros, a demand made in the government agreement of the Rutte I cabinet. The first plots are already on the website of Troostwijk Vastgoed: 16 plots of land in the province of Overijssel, with forests, wooded banks and grasslands. Troost means solace. Great name.
The authorization to call a halt to the sale of nature areas was given by state secretary Sharon Dijksma during a debate in the lower house of parliament. The first sale of land outside the Ecological Main Structure will be evaluated, and conclusions will be drawn. I hope Dijksma will draw the only right conclusion. Because how do you come up with the idea of selling off nature areas? How irresponsible can you get? First you buy expensive, good farmland, then you invest massively in a deliberate policy of impoverishing the soils. And then you sell off the same plots, now reduced to cheap, poor farmland. Dijksma indicated during the debate that the ministry could handle the financial consequences.
With a group of students and an equally large group of supervisors I am now working on a book about the tensions between economics and nature. The working title of the book is Special offer on Nature, inspired by the nature-is-a-nuisance policy of the previous state secretary, Bleker. If Dijksma changes course, we'll change the title of the book.