- In this three-part series, Mongabay breaks down the Dutch “nitrogen crisis” and the great farmers’ protests of 2022.
In 2019 and 2022, Europe was captivated by images of farmers in the Netherlands protesting in the streets, blocking traffic with their tractors and angrily warning of impending food shortages. At its core, the conflict between farmers and the Dutch government is over the ecological impact of modern food production systems. Manure from livestock produces nitrogen emissions, which most scientists say are destroying fragile ecosystems across the country. To rein them in, the government proposed a solution that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable: a sharp reduction in the number of cows, pigs, and chickens on farms in the Netherlands.
For years now, the Dutch have been struggling to find a balance between the needs of nature and those of farmers in the Netherlands. It’s a challenge that lies firmly at the ecological crossroads much of humanity has brought itself to: can industries that employ so many people – and which generate huge profits for a narrow few – be changed without creating a gridlock-inducing political backlash, or worse?
In early May, Mongabay visited the Netherlands to talk to scientists, researchers, and farmers about what the Dutch have come to call the “nitrogen crisis,” and what it has to say about the future of the global environmental movement. Below you’ll find our short documentary and a three-part feature series on Dutch livestock farming, the costs borne by nature for the cheap food in our supermarkets, and the impending conflict between Europe’s “green deal” aspirations and its powerful agricultural industry.
Part 1: How the Dutch food revolution became an ecological time bomb.
Part 2: How EU conservation rules shook up Dutch politics.
Part 3: The Dutch, and European, green agenda crashes into the continent’s food systems.
Banner image: Protesting farmers on their way to the Hague in 2019. Image by kees torn via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).