News - September 9, 2010

6 September: kick-off for the academic year

12.15: Outside Atlas. A banner, a group of demonstrators, flyers.
Hey, action! 'Cherish the arboreta' is scribbled on a banner. And the flyers invite us all to the 'Opening of the Arboretum Year'.

12.40: inside Atlas. The symposium on 'Nature as the basis'. Language: Dutch. Ashok Bhalotra, Indian architect, engineer and lateral thinker, races in record time through an endless series of slides about the modern green city. He asks why Wageningen UR doesn't do some 'urban farming' on the campus. He can't have seen the flock of sheep.
13.10: Government advisor on landscape Yttje Feddes is back! Thirty years after graduating in landscape architecture at Wageningen. And she's back with a message: away with those boring intensive farm! 'The farm as a landscape element, we need to develop guidelines for that.' In passing she puts in a plug for the Wageningen arboreta. 'The city park as a green square is incredibly important to urban cohesion.'
13.30: A logistical message from host Kees Slingerland, director of ESG. 'At 14.40 the buses will leave for the aula. And at 18.30 the last bus will come back to the campus. If you miss that you'll have a bit of a walk.'
13.40: De Dreijen arboretum. The arboretum campaign is running an alternative symposium programme and inventorying the plants that have disappeared. The sun shines brightly, but there are just a couple of dozen sympathizers present: the usual suspects.
14.21: The climax of the campaign: the installation of the 'Fence of the Lost Plants'. Activist Hermine der Nederlanded sticks a few dozen post-its with the names of the species that have disappeared on a fence. These plants are to be planted out in the garden next weekend. Yes, he will have to discuss that with Wageningen UR first, admits campaign leader Frank Zegers.

15.00: outside the aula. 'We are not going to disturb anything, you know.' An arboretum demonstrator (there they are again!) unfurls his banner on the square in front of the aula. WUR security man Rob Buré is keeping an eye on things. The neighbourhood police officer soon drifts off.
15.10: The protest is now at its height. To the left the park lobby, to the right a few dozen union members standing up for a better pay deal for university staff. 'Could you just give a quick blow?' asks a photographer from local paper Stad Wageningen. And three vuvuzelas are held high. A secretary from the Leeuwenborch is holding a silent protest, wearing two badges: 'For a higher salary!' and 'Against higher coffee prices!'
15.15: The demonstrators hardly have time to blow their vuvuzelas: they are being interviewed by De Gelderlander
and the Gelderland TV channel. In the midst of it all, Aalt Dijkhuizen is shaking hands with guests.
16.34: Inside the aula, Alexander Pechtold stutters over the 't's in the word 'competitiveness'. In the next paragraph of his prepared text comes the phrase 'global competitive index'. The D66 party leader makes that 'global index'.
17.06: At last, the drinks party. Long tables laden with soft drinks, juices and wine. Beer in the corner. And the winner is: Aalt. The boss is the first to raise a glass of juice to his lips. Pechtold is still recovering from his performance. Relieved, by the look of it.

18.00: The first bus leaves for the campus. That thins out the crowd a bit. In the beer corner stand the members of the board of De Veetelers. All in smart black suits with purple shirts and ties. Did you know that De Veetelers (the cattle farmers) could be a misleading name, since three quarters of the members are women? The chairman is a man, nevertheless...
18.31: Aalt is leaving the building.
18.40: Remko Uijlenhoet, professor of Hydrology is the last of the professors to leave the almost empty hall. Students Rémi Vandichel (Nicolas Appert), Joost Starmans (Pyrus) en Jeroen Roelofzen (Mercurius) have one for the road.