I spent quite a lot of time in the water meadows of the Lower Rhine last summer doing research for my thesis. It was in the middle of the holiday period and there were always people who stopped for a chat. About what I was doing and other things. One day I talked to a couple who complained about ‘all those fields sprayed to death with glyphosate’, and later the same day I had lunch with a man who was annoyed by the ‘mega-barn’ that spoiled our view. Both irritations were based on unfortunate misunderstandings: what the couple had seen were golden, newly harvested wheat fields, and in our view stood a potato shed.
Vincent Oostvogels (22) zoekt in zijn twee masteropleidingen Forest and Nature Conservation en Animal Sciences het kwetsbare raakvlak op tussen natuurbeheer en voedselproductie.
Funnily enough, this all took place on the edge of a Natura 2000 area, the type of protected nature which has now come under fire because of the nitrogen crisis. The suggestion is now repeatedly made to reduce the number of Natura 2000 areas. Columnist Rosanne Hertberger wrote in the newspaper NRC at the end of September that it was high time nature made some sacrifices, as ‘The farmers have been our whipping boys for too long.’
Her comment would be hard to defend. The fact is that agriculture has been given free reign for a long time, helped by the creation of polders, land redistribution, and various subsidies and licenses. We have all benefitted from that, but it has done a lot of damage too.
All in all, it is actually nature that has been agriculture’s whipping boy. Which an awful lot of people are rightly worried about. Including me. And – to paraphrase the protesting farmers last week – we don’t always feel our concerns are taken seriously. But sometimes we can do something about that ourselves. We’d make a more credible impression if we made sure we were a bit better informed about agriculture, for instance.