Nieuws - 7 februari 2013


We've had a wintry few weeks, with sub-zero temperatures day and night. And true to form, the Dutch soon started speculating as to whether it would freeze hard enough for the traditional eleven towns skating race, the Elfstedentocht.

Previous heroes of the race Jan Uitham and Reiner Paping were on television most nights. It would take more time to view all the broadcast material on the grim race in the bitterly cold winter of 1963 than it did to skate it. I read about a farmer who put up eleven signboards on his flooded meadow and held his own Elfstedentocht. In Friesland, the pumps were shut down and there was a ban on sailing. The thaw was welcome, I was told, because it would get rid of the annoying cover of snow and then, if it freezes it February... But we all know, deep down, that the race will never happen because the winters these days are simply not cold enough.
A comparison with biodiversity is inescapable. The decline must stop, we all declare loudly, but we did not achieve our 2010 target. Now we are aiming at 2020, with the fine words of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. So is it enough then to dream and hope against hope? No, because there is one big difference compared with the Elfstedentocht. Namely: it is up to us. During Bleker's era in charge of nature policy, nature conservation got a wake-up call, although a lot of damage was done too. The motto seemed to be: cut it back and break it up. At the moment, reestablishing sound policy is getting priority over reestablishing nature. But the potential is there; it is just a question of courage and wisdom. I wish the new secretary of state Sharon Dijksma a good dose of these qualities.