Author: Guus Berkhout.
A summary of this article was published in the Telegraaf, the largest daily newspaper in The Netherlands, on July 6 last. It is focused on the situation in The Netherlands, but I expect that with minor changes it will be applicable to many souring Western democracies. I propose that citizens in many countries join their efforts to stop the decline.
The Netherlands became a prosperous country by excelling in many sectors. Excellence was based on a well-educated work force. Let me mention the engineers in our energy sector who provided affordable, reliable, and clean energy 24/7. Let me also mention the professionals in our public transport system that was widely praised for its punctuality and comfort. And let me especially mention our agricultural sector, which is seen worldwide as a textbook example of how to farm intensively in an increasingly sustainable way. And I could go on and on. The Netherlands was a country to be proud of. How could it go so wrong in such a short time?
Let me get right to the point. With all due respect, our country has for many years been governed by ministers who no longer have a clue about their portfolio. Because of their incompetence they are an easy prey for militant groups and cunning lobbyists. As a result, rules and laws have been made that completely miss the point. Instead of solving problems, crises are created. As a result, we see the number of crises piling up. Step by step, every economic and social sector becomes a victim of the incompetence of the government. It seems as if every successful national activity must be destroyed, preferably before 2030.
In today’s Dutch public sector, the motto is, “Forbidden to think, we work exclusively with protocols and checklists. Even worse, those top-down protocols are increasingly coming from fanatical alarmists and bigoted ecologists. What a depressing work environment! The result is that people on the shop floor start to feel more and more like robots, they no longer see any perspective and eventually drop out, disillusioned and depressed. That is exactly what is happening now.
The Netherlands is a very small (415,543 km2) and a very densely populated (504/km2) deltaic country, bordering the North Sea. It is struggling with space. We want space for homes, for offices and factories, for railroads and traffic routes, for agri- and horticulture, for city parks and nature reserves, etc., etc. This requires more than ever competence about sustainably maximizing yields per km2. Such a knowledge-intensive process is at the basis of wise choices for the future.
Look at last year’s flood crisis in Europe (Limburg, Ardennes, Eiffel). That was not a climate problem, but the result of administrative incompetence. Deforestation, canalization, asphalting and more and more solar farms were the real causes. The water couldn’t get into the soil and caused it to rise superfast, leading to a huge flood. With the debris taken with it, the damage was enormous. The Brussels plan for even more logging will make it worse in the future, giving green administrators the opportunity to blame the climate even more.
Look also at the energy crisis. That is not (only) the fault of the Ukraine-Russian war, but again of incompetent governance that forbade investing in fossil fuels. Our wealthy pension funds were in the lead! A wise Dutch saying advises, “Never throw away old shoes, before you have bought new ones”. Wind turbines and solar panels are not only extremely expensive and unpredictable energy suppliers, but they also require a lot of space. So totally unsuitable to replace our current energy infrastructure (’the old shoes’). Using hydrogen for storage purposes makes this renewable circus even more foolish.
And then there is this nonsensical nitrogen crisis. According to the Dutch green movement, the use of fertilizers by farmers is causing a disaster to adjacent natural areas. If farmers are no longer allowed to excel with high yields per hectare, extra land is needed for the same yield. But we just don’t have that extra land. Look at the national plan how our government wants to protect 160(!) small pieces of moorland (‘Natura 2000 areas’); it is hard to believe that this is intended as a serious policy. Poor farmers, poor Netherlands! Why should our innovative agriculture make way for artificial nature on artificial pieces of poor land? Did you know that if we let nature take its course, poor land automatically becomes forest, and the soil enriches itself? Don’t we want more trees?
Once again, our farmers are inventive and are willing to put their heart and soul into further harmony between intensive agriculture and nature. But only with the cooperation of administrators with common sense. Right they are.
The absurd Dutch carbon dioxide reduction requirement (50% by 2030) and the equally absurd Dutch nitrogen deposition limit (0.9 g/ha) are out of proportion. For a food and farming country with many inhabitants/ha other numbers should apply than for a food and farming country with a few inhabitants/ha. The Hague and Brussels have not yet figured this out. Compare the population density of the Netherlands with Denmark: 504/km2 versus 137/km2.
The chosen green ambitions therefore have nothing at all to do with reality, nor with objective science, nor with common sense. CO2 and NH3 are artificial crises constructed by climate and nitrogen alarmists who, with their pitch-black scenarios, have governments and parliaments in Europe in their power. However, the naïve administrators do not realize how essential the role of CO2 and NH3 is in nature. Isn’t CO2 the raw material for all life on earth and isn’t NH3 indispensable to ensure sufficient food in the future? Aren’t CO2 and NH3 a blessing for humanity?
It is beyond believe, but in addition to CO2 and NH3 the green alarmists are now preparing a methane crisis. According to them, CH4 is the ultimate disaster for planet Earth.
When the voice of the people no longer comes through in government and parliament, democracy fails. We urgently need in our country a RECOVERY CABINET with a competent team of PROJECTMINISTERS, who know the content of their portfolio inside out and who are not the playthings of rigged advisory committees (who already know what the outcome is expected to be), commercial research firms (who think of a follow-up assignment while they are writing their proposal) and cunning lobbyists (who plunder the big subsidy pots).
It turns out that there are excellent administrators available from outside the public sector, who are willing to come to the The Hague (hometown of our government) for a limited time to start a coherent RECOVERY PROGRAMME to make The Netherlands again a productive and happy country. The sooner, the better!
Dutch version here.