On nature - and the Dutch
09 July, 2022

Today's newspaper reported on a study into the perception of nature in the Netherlands – in response to the nitrogen crisis – how important we feel nature is, what we actually consider as ‘nature’ and what we are willing to sacrifice for its preservation. For most people, nature is the park they walk in, the plants in their backyard and a roadside full of flowers. Ecologists think of biodiversity and endangered and rare species. The younger generation tends to equal nature with climate (change), and farmers think of cornfields and meadows. For me the Netherlands is a country without nature. We have recreational areas, but hardly any nature. No other European country has such a low percentage of untouched nature and forests. Which brings me to another group that this study identifies: people who understand nature as wilderness, winding streams and mountain peaks. “This romantic and idyllic representation of nature is mainly found among highly educated city dwellers, who are in fact furthest removed from nature.”
I realize that I belong to that last group, as embarrassing as that may be. I never grew up with nature. I pay little attention to insects, animals, plants, fungi, etc. I enjoy having a garden (well, balcony) and surrounding myself with greenery, but I’m not a fan of gardening, and am not particularly interested in how things grow and flourish. Nature to me means natural landscapes. I love the space, the vastness, the outdoors, being away from people, from being noticed, the silence, atmosphere, views, the physical efforts needed to access a landscape. Eyes on the horizon, hardly on the ground. I never really considered that ‘romantic’, probably because the landscapes I visit (and photograph) are not necessarily romantic in the traditional sense of the word, and the photos are not glorifying their beauty. But I’m willing to accept that my own relationship to landscape definitely is romantic, in a sort of Rousseau-ish, nineteenth century kind of way. Relating this to being, in fact, profoundly detached from nature isn’t much of a stretch.
Two overproduced photographs of the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina, 2012/2022