‘People know too little about nature’

Ecologist Patrick Jansen responds to forest keepers’ action.
‘The government gets away with taking insufficient responsibility for addressing nature recovery’, says Patrick Jansen. Photo Pexels

In a full-page advert published yesterday, some 350 forest keepers of the Dutch Society for Nature Preservation Natuurmonumenten called on politicians to address nature restoration. ‘Unless something changes, we face a bleak future’, says ecologist Patrick Jansen.

The forest rangers call on politicians to create more room for nature in the Netherlands. They want nature reserves to be connected and fortified and demand the recovery of biodiversity in rural areas. We asked ecologist Patrick Jansen to respond.

What is your opinion on this protest?

‘Very positive, of course. Nature conservation is not a topic in the upcoming elections. It is not a separate issue. The government is currently taking insufficient responsibility for nature recovery and gets away with it. If that doesn’t change, we face a bleak future. So much needs to be done if we aim to reverse the loss of biodiversity. Climate change causes small populations of plant and animal species to go extinct more rapidly. Reversing this is only possible if their habitats are connected, and that is currently not the case.’

Why do politicians fail to move this issue higher on the agenda?

‘I feel that this is due to our election system. In order to get elected, politicians must aim to please the electorate. As a result, parties make promises that are contrary to the general interests of the population. For example, making resources more expensive and labour cheaper would result in a drop in consumption and an increase in the repair of items that are broken. Consumers often pay a steep price for their green choices. Moreover, it takes more effort. Politicians could use regulation, taxes and subsidies to steer consumers toward green alternatives, but many constituents are wary of such political interference.’

Smart politicians won’t let it come to that

Patrick Jansen, ecologist

What happens if we continue to wait?

‘The three critical environmental crises we face as a society are a changing climate, biodiversity loss and pollution. Overconsumption and wastefulness are the underlying causes, as is the increasing population in combination with technology. We have the capacity to exploit everything without restrictions and to protect ourselves from nature’s response, such as viruses and pathogens or scarcity. Every issue is solved by deploying vast quantities of fossil energy that causes climate change. But I believe that there will come a time when we will no longer be able to use technology to solve problems. In the past, this resulted in civilisations ending. Smart politicians won’t let it come to that.’

It appears that the electorate is not aware of how dire the situation is.

‘Few people know how bad the natural resources situation currently is. The decline is slow and steady and does not affect many people directly. But that which impacts nature will eventually also impact humans—failed harvests, for example, or the effect of chemicals on our health. Most people know too little about the natural riches and the biodiversity there once was to feel the loss at a personal level. There are 35,000 different plant and animal species in the Netherlands, but I’ll wager that most children can list more phone and car brands than bird species. With so little knowledge, you cannot expect people to understand how to protect and value natural riches.’

What can we do about that?

‘Information and education, Go on a field trip with forest rangers or check out David Attenborough’s nature documentary series A Life On Our Planet. People must be made aware that conserving natural resources both within nature reserves and outside is of a huge collective interest for their own health and that of their children. Keep that in mind when you cast your ballot, and it will become an election item, just as climate change has.’

Also read:

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to write a comment.