Netherlands: the summer of discontent
28 July 2022
The Netherlands has descended into an ideological war zone between city-bound bureaucrats trying to polish their climate credentials on the world stage, and local farmers who have been feeding Europe for centuries.
As one farmer said, ‘This is not a democracy anymore: it’s a dictatorship.’
Farmers have set up dozens of blockades on highways by dumping large piles of manure on choke points to cause maximum traffic chaos. Others have taken to setting some of these piles on fire and leaving them to smoulder away, just like citizen anger.
The increase in protest activity began on Wednesday morning and spread across the eastern region of the Netherlands.
‘No farmers – no food!’ Read a sign attached to the front of a tractor. Another said, ‘Sorry for the inconvenience, Rutte IV is driving us to despair.’
Mark Rutte is serving as Prime Minister of the Netherlands for the bizarrely named People’s Freedom Party for Freedom and Democracy. As with the Australian Liberal Party, its adherence to a manifesto declaring a love of free markets and individual liberties is – shall we say – loose. The ‘IV’ part of the insult suggests that the government’s fourth term as a coalition is reminiscent of a ‘rule by decree’ regime, like the European monarchies of old.
It may sound counter-productive for a government to enact policies – such as the limitation of nitrogen oxide and ammonia – that will result in a significant reduction in agricultural output, but that all depends on whether large corporations are waiting to fill the artificial market gap. Or, indeed, if there are politicians present who are foolish enough to believe the glossy brochures promising an Eden-like future in a Net Zero world.
There is another very nasty reason for the treatment of farmers that relates to a 2019 decision. 18,000 construction projects in the Netherlands, collectively worth 14 billion euros, were put at risk of being abandoned after a decision related to nitrogen emissions earlier that May.
‘The country’s highest court in May ruled that the way Dutch buildings and farmers dealt with nitrogen emissions was in breach with European laws. This has already caused delays in work on new highways, housing blocks, airports, wind farms, and a range of other vital infrastructure in recent months, while many other projects are also at risk.’
To which Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, ‘This is a huge problem, for which no easy solution exists. We don’t have it under control yet. All options are on the table, without any taboos. But we cannot end this with any grand gesture, we will need a range of measures.’
Essentially, the ruling dictates that you can’t build shiny new inner-city buildings unless you punish a few local farmers. In 2019, ideas to break the deadlock were thrown around, such as reducing speed limits or – controversially – culling livestock on farms. In 2022, this has manifested in a demand to halve livestock.
The formalisation of climate plans triggered what has been called the ‘Summer of Discontent’ – although it has been going on for years. There are now urgent attempts being made to mediate between the government and the farmers, but farmers are rightly suspicious of the gesture, given there is no indication that the United Nations, World Economic Forum, or the Dutch government have any intention of deviating from their agricultural-ruining ideology of a 50 per cent reduction by 2030 that has fixated on farmers.
This was evident by the election of Johan Remkes as a mediator. As a member of the Prime Minister’s political party and former Deputy Prime Minister, farmers see him as ‘one of the architects’ of the nitrogen plan and therefore not a proper independent entity.
‘I see that in recent years a lot has come to the farm. Government and politics have not always been the parties that farmers could rely on, especially because the hot mess has gone too far.’
Members of the farming community have responded, indicating they will not get ‘out of their trenches’ unless the pursuit of a nitrogen target is dropped altogether.
The government has said that the unavoidable transition must happen to ‘improve soil, air, and water quality’ – but not a single member of the Prime Minister’s party has suggested bulldozing a few wealthy sections of the city and re-wilding them. The sacrifices are not being made by those that live within the least-green parts of the county – only those who are actively growing and producing.
Nor is the government interested in the transport, construction, aviation, or technology industries. To interfere with the comforts of green-voting city citizens would be electoral madness.
Complaining that runoff from farming ‘damages the environment’ while ignoring the scorched-earth approach that cities take to the land perfectly explains the detachment from reality demonstrated by the political class. If the environment is of concern, why not start a program to constrain cities?
Country areas are bright green because the nutrient-rich soils are havens to life. Entire ecosystems have grown up around human farming practices that will be decimated by the sudden destruction of the industry. Those who live on farms know how difficult it is to keep the wildlife out.
‘If you come for us and our families, you come at a farmer’s soul. We’ve proposed all kinds of solutions but we are ignored. And finally, they come up with a plan for a reduction in livestock. No other sector has reduced nitrogen in the last 30 years [as much as] we have. This is why there’s a lot of emotion and pain,’ said Jeroen van Maanen.
This problem came about because the Netherlands, like Australia, has become a breeding ground for extreme far-left green groups (whose members mostly live in the city) and animal rights parties riding the trend of veganism.
The United Nations and World Economic Forum (which really should be re-titled Big Business Lobbying Forum of Nation Ruining Scams) are the main forces behind the push with the latter’s business partners waiting in the wings to mop up the valuable assets of farmers once they go broke.
Back in 2019, the UN began promoting Why nitrogen management is key for climate change mitigationalong with the European Nitrogen Assessment. These reports form the central framework of the nitrogen policy which is about to be exported into the UK and other nations such as Australia.
It must be said that all of these European emissions-limiting policies are based on the false premise of a stable, unchanging world. At no point do any of the thousands of pages devoted to the ‘problem of nitrogen’ consider the evolution of the biosphere to absorb and use this abundance of a valuable nutrient. There is no understanding of the developing relationship between nature and humanity where species rise and fall in coexistence with humanity – particularly in farming situations.
The idea that the Earth is a fixed record that must be preserved exactly as it was at an arbitrary point in history is both absurd and impossible, not least of all because the geological forces of the planet prohibit the fantasy.
2.5 billion years ago, a couple of bacteria got together and decided to produce oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis. This had never happened before. Thriving in their watery ocean world, this oxygen made it into the atmosphere, collided with methane, and triggered a catastrophic ice age that very nearly turned Earth into an icy world.
Can you image the fury of climate warriors if they had been alive?
Except, if anyone had tried to stop this process – wiped out the bacteria to preserve the oxygen-free world or encouraged a few volcanoes to erupt to warm things up – animals would not have been able to evolve to use the oxygen.
When it comes to the planet, the best humans can do is pick up their trash. Unfortunately, the obsession over climate has led to an abandonment of old waste management practices. Soon, we’ll be able to add starvation and poverty to our self-made political disaster.