News - March 1, 2011


During a working visit to the Baviaanskloof (Baboon Gorge) in South Africa last week for an assignment for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, I heard the name 'Glorix' mentioned several times. It took a while before it clicked: they were talking about the Secretary of State for Nature, Bleker.

'Bleker' means bleach and Glorix is a common brand of bleach in the Netherlands. I am not usually very keen on this sort of word play, but this one stuck in my mind for some reason. The name conjures up images of a Germanic warrior taking up arms against the might of the Roman empire. But it also suggests a clumsy cartoon character: bold and blundering at the same time. A paradox in six letters.

In an interview in last Friday's Trouw on the recent downsizing of the nature-related objectives for the Netherlands, Bleker says that it is poor policymaking if you set yourself a goal over 20 to 30 years when you know you will never achieve it. His example is the Ecological Main Structure (EHS in Dutch), a concept launched in 1990 to halt the decline of nature. But is he right about this, independent of the question of whether the goals are feasible or not? Martin Luther said he would plant a tree today even if he knew the world would end tomorrow. In the same interview, Bleker describes himself as a realistic idealist. Okay, in a time of economic crisis, we will have to economize on nature as on everything else: that is realism. But does this way of thinking make sense? The deterioration of nature is a result of our urge to consume ever more. And if that doesn't work out so well for a while, should nature immediately pay the price? I pin my hopes on the idealism side of the Bleker paradox.