Nature for people, people for nature proclaimed the title of a 2000 ministerial policy memo aiming at changing the way nature is dealt with in the Netherlands.
Nature conservation organizations were falling over each other in their eagerness to win over a broad public. Glossy brochures were distributed to tempt as many people as possible to venture out into the world of nature. Helped by television channels, Natuurmonumenten managed to boost its membership to a record level; 975,000. Since then ‘experience' has become the magic word, preferably in combination with ‘outdoor' and ‘event'. Just surf the web for nature organizations and you'll see what I mean.
I have followed these developments over recent years with a heavy heart. Can we not put nature itself first anymore? Or is its only raison d'être that as many people as possible can ‘enjoy', even if they do so at the expense of rare species? Nature as one big theme part? Is there still enough space, enough peace? Rare birds in the Witterveld in Drente do not seem at all bothered by all the racket from the nearby motorcycling circuit, and yet... Coal tits have to sing their hearts out to make themselves heard at all in our noisy country. One thing is certain: silent nature cannot speak for itself. So ‘people for nature' is right.