Dutch Farmers Revolt Against Green Elites
Even Mick Jagger is sympathetic
“Zijn er ook boeren?” shouted Mick Jagger, in Dutch, into the microphone at a Rolling Stones concert in the Netherlands last week. “Are there any farmers in the house?”
Dutch farmers make for an unlikely cause célèbre. For starters, most are conservative, not liberal. And they are fighting against stricter environmental regulations, not for them.
Yet they are winning over liberal-minded people like me who sympathize with the family farmers who provide us with our daily bread and yet receive so little respect from society’s ruling elites.
And now they’re inspiring protests by other farmers across Europe, including in Germany, Poland and Italy. Along with the protests that brought down the government of Sri Lanka, they constitute a growing global revolt against green elites.
I have praised the current Dutch government for being sensible on matters like climate change. Last year it embraced nuclear energy, one of the first Western nations to do so since the 2011 Fukushima accident spooked the world.
But the government’s poor treatment of its farmers has shocked me. The prime minister recently called the protesting farmers “a – – holes,” and sniffed, “It is not acceptable to create dangerous situations.” And yet it was a Dutch police officer, not a farmer, who inexplicably fired on a 16-year-old boy driving a tractor. Luckily, he wasn’t injured.
While nitrogen pollution worsens climate change, the government says its main motivation for reducing it is about protecting its nature areas. Scientists say that in 118 of 162 of the Netherlands’ nature preserves nitrogen deposits are 50% higher than they should be.
Without a doubt the Dutch should do more to protect their nature areas. The country produces four times more nitrogen pollution than the European average, due to its intensive animal agriculture.
The Netherlands is the largest exporter of meat in Europe and the second largest exporter of food overall after the United States, a remarkable feat for a nation half the size of Indiana. Food exports generate more than $100 billion a year in revenue. Experts attribute the nation’s success to its farmers’ embrace of technological innovation.
But even many on the political left say the government demands are too extreme, based on radical green fantasies and dodgy science. “It seems to be very fast,” said Wim de Vries, a professor at Wageningen University and Research who 10 years ago made alarmist claims about “planetary boundaries.”
What, exactly, is going on?