25 April 2023, Martin Doeswijk

Unmindfulness, or deflecting the issue, has become engrained in the character of our nation. And that is not something to be proud of. The day you could have known was coming has arrived; 12 April 2023, was Earth Overshoot day in the Netherlands. This year, we’re only a few months in and at this rate, if the world’s population were to live like the average Dutch person, we would need 3.6 Earths. If we look at just the Netherlands, the imbalance is even greater – we’d need at least 7.3 times the biocapacity of the Netherlands to meet our demand.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the symbolic date on which people have used up all the natural resources that the earth can produce in a year. We’re prolonging this shortage by depleting our ecological resources (for example, the use of primary and depletable raw materials and through logging), by the intensive use of land (urban infrastructure) and by an enormous carbon footprint.

Is this new? No. In 1979 Earth Overshoot Day fell on 30 December, in 1998 on 28 September and in 2023 it will probably be earlier than in 2022 (28 July). So the conclusion is: we have gone from the Holocene to the Anthropocene, where mankind is letting loose its destructive impact on the planet. The link with the title of this blog is clear.

Will this grumbling and doom help at all? I think only in to a certain degree. Part of the unmindfulness is that we appear to have become immune to the stream of bad news that we’re inundated by every day. And yet we can do something about it! Not just at home in our private life, but also in the construction and infrastructure projects where many of you work. And so some positive, inspiring and mindful recommendations:

The property value of real estate in environments that have green and blue infrastructure is much higher than in areas that don’t. And a greener environment leads to happier residents and to more social cohesion and safety. That offers great opportunities for our country, given the current housing target.

A good example is the plan for the Merwede neighbourhood in Utrecht: car-free with lots of varied and rolling greenery. Then there’s bio-based construction, where the materials used are mainly from renewable resources, such as elephant grass or bulrush for insulation purposes.

There are increasing calls to give conservation areas legal rights. Take a moment to consider how much that would affect your projects. An interesting thought experiment! So no more building in peatlands; hydration is essential to retain our valuable natural heritage.

But you can even make a difference from the comfort of your own garden, simply by pulling up the paving and ensuring that the rainwater goes into the soil, instead of down the drain.

Or go and see the film ‘Planet Soil’ which reveals the hidden world beneath our feet.
Almost 40,000 visitors have gone before you. The film shows the construction of large civil engineering works and a climate-proof vital living environment. I promise you that after watching this film, you’ll never be indifferent about soil again.

Or you can draw inspiration from the Green Paper ‘The urgent necessity of healthy soils’ written by Margot de Cleen and myself. In this paper we emphasise the importance of healthy soils, we provide specific solutions and call on everyone to take part, to innovate and to share knowledge. Our dream is that ultimately we can use the Earth’s ecosystem services as optimally as possible, without depleting our planet. We invite you to join our mission!

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