Nieuws - 12 mei 2010

Botanic garden

'Wageningen University and Research Centre has closed down the tropical greenhouse last year and given up on the scientific management of two botanic gardens.' This appeared in a recent editorial in de Volkskrant about the future of botanic gardens in our country.

At one end, it is being argued that this move is prompted by exorbitant maintenance costs and financial gains from the sale of the land. At the other end, others point to unexplored possibilities for fundamental and applied research, and the squandering of a major university heritage.
I don't intend to fuel this discussion at all. The botanic garden belongs to Wageningen University, like a wooden spoon in a treacle jar. It's as if we're talking about getting rid of development cooperation. We shouldn't argue about making funds available for the Third World, but we can't deny the fact that we can, and must, discuss how to do that. This applies too to the obligation faced by scientific establishments to preserve and manage collections in botanic gardens. Not whether, but how, is the question.
The front page of the aforesaid newspaper almost always features a big weekly advertisement every Saturday in which Wageningen UR shows off how it differs from other universities and that it is at the forefront of research 'for quality of life'. I wait in anticipation for a future advertisement to appear, in which the special tree collection in the Wageningen Botanic Garden would be hailed as having unique possibilities for cell biology research, which can pave the foundation for a biobased economy. A taskforce has made these findings known in a study and has compiled an inventory of possibilities for renewed research and education in the Wageningen gardens. Which administrator will pick up these gloves? They're for the taking.