News - September 9, 2010

Nature as the basis

This year’s opening of the academic year revolved entirely around nature, with its theme of Nature as the Basis. One of the speakers was MP Alexander Pechtold.

Opening, commencement, start, beginning... all such words carry a promise: what you begin you want to complete, and properly. The basis provides a foundation that you must not tamper with, but on which you can build.
When it comes to nature, there is something funny going on in this respect. Or rather, when it comes to the way government deals with nature. The establishment of the Ecological Main Structure (EHS) and the implementation of Natura 2000 are projects on which there are longstanding agreements, but which nevertheless provoke endless political debate. Once you've agreed on A, the next step is to say B, but that seems to be difficult in practice. This is both remarkable and irresponsible. It is remarkable by contrast with discussions about large infrastructure projects such as the Betuwe railway line and the new Amsterdam metro line are consistently given the green light. And these are projects which  - unlike the EHS or Natura 2000 - far exceed their budgets, and are of questionable value to society. It is irresponsible because nature is not a luxury. We are talking about the conservation of biological variety, our ecological heritage, our immediate living environment.
I am happy that Wageningen University is drawing attention to this subject, and that a politician had the floor. Let us work together to ensure that what is said is not just hollow words; let us give 'silent nature' a loud voice.