Why aren't governments more worried about ecological disasters? | Belicons

Why aren't governments more worried about ecological disasters?

Posted on: 
Tuesday 22 January 2019

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Why aren't governments more worried about ecological disasters?

A few weeks ago the cargo ship MSC Zoe lost about 270 containers in the Wadden Sea. People are still working very hard to get these containers out of the sea, but a fear is that some of these containers will never be found. The consequences of this disaster is not known yet, for we don’t know yet how much poison and other rubbish will escape. But this could be a major ecological disaster of a place that really deserved its place on the World Heritage list of UNESCO.

Of course the responsible Minister now tries to prevent a similar accident from happening and then it seems to be a typical case in which people intervene only when a disaster has already happened. However, when the Minister visited a broadcast of the talkshow Jinek, she said that she is just trying to partner up with other countries to do something about this. (Link Dutch spoken) So she isn’t taking all kinds of measurements already in order to change something. That raises the question of how big this disaster must become so that someone will really change something.


Peiling: De overheid moet ecologische rampen serieuzer nemen

Peiling: De overheid moet ecologische rampen serieuzer nemen

Lees de blog bij deze peiling https://www.belicons.nl/nl/blog/zeecontainers

Poll: Governments should take ecological disasters more serious

Poll: Governments should take ecological disasters more serious

Read the blog that goes with this poll https://www.belicons.nl/en/blog/cargo-ship

Body 2: 

In the broadcast, Jinek told the Minister that people are reaching out to the government for years already to ask them to take more safety measurements protect the Wadden Sea against maritime transport. But still, this could not be prevented. How come? The minister gave a few reasons:

  • According to the Minister first investigation is necessary in order to find out what went wrong in this case. Did everyone keep all the rules?
  • A difficult factor is that the Wadden Sea belongs to international waters and thus we should guarantee that ships can pass it freely.
  • She does plea for more measurements, like that all containers get a chip so that they can be located. Or rules against shipping companies that do not fasten their cargo well enough on the ship. But each agreement should be taken internationally and that can take a long time. For that reason she calls the shipping companies to start taking these measurements voluntary.
  • But she also claims that measurements were taken in the last few years. For example, since 2016 all containers need to be weighted. So before that time, the shipping companies didn’t know how the weight was distributed over their ships and that increased the change on an accident.
  • Since these agreements should be taken internationally and this isn’t easy, she hopes to partner up with the Germans, who are affected by this too, and other countries who try to protect their nature reserves.


Our sea is international

In the story of the minister, it turns out to be an important factor that the Wadden Sea is international. One wouldn’t expect it, but the area of the Wadden Sea is one of the busiest places for maritime transportation. It is a place that we like to protect, because it is a special nature reserve. But that isn’t possible because we are not the only ones who have a say in this. The area belongs to everyone and because of that actually to no one.

This might be true, but it still sounds a bit easy. There are so many things we do internationally. We agree internationally on going to war or to start a peace mission, if people get kidnaped somewhere when the international community stands up to get those people back. We can work together internationally fine. Why can’t we do what in case of protecting nature reserves against maritime transportation?


We can also take another look at this. The Wadden Sea is a part of an enormous infrastructure. Think of all the people who work in the docks, who work on the ships, producers of goods, stores and consumers who are all a part of the chain that these cargo ships are a part of too. When we would demand more safety measurements than those containers might be in the docks longer, the ships may not be allowed to take as much cargo and they might travel slower. This all will cost a lot of money.

This raises the question whether the Wadden Sea is most of all a part of this infrastructure or most of all a nature reserve. Of it is most of all a part of this infrastructure, then efficiency is most important, if it is most of all a nature reverse, then protection of the area is most important. Political leaders, like this minister, clearly see it firstly as infrastructure and only secondly as nature reserve.

Making international agreements on nature

This takes me back to the fact that we can agree on things internationally, but when it comes to protection of nature it suddenly isn’t that simple. Think of climate change. Leaders of countries around the world have debated many times about how to make sure that we do not harm, our planet too much. But if we look at what they have reached exactly, then that isn’t that much. Moreover, the question still is whether they will do everything they have promised.

This raises the question of why it is so difficult to agree on how to protect nature. The reason is not because it doesn’t affect us. We inhale all the particles in the air, poison in the Wadden Sea will be eaten by fish and people eat that. The reason is also not that it is all far away. We already see the consequences of climate change since there are more hurricanes and because of those people die, people lose their houses and there are more bad consequences. The same that goes for the containers; people may have already eaten poisoned fish from the Wadden sea already.

The only difference is that protection of nature costs a lot but doesn’t produce a lot of money. Different from the whole infrastructure of docks, shipping companies, producers, stores and consumers. When that can be done as cheap as possible, that does safe a lot of money. When we would take more measurements to protect the Wadden Sea, then this would cost a lot of money.

Measurements in order to sell nature to voters

In this way it sounds like it isn’t more than just a choice. Politicians just need to choose what they want; either lower prices or to protect nature. Of course, they should choose in favour of nature then. But it isn’t this simple, for politicians who choose in favour of nature often don’t get the most votes.

See what is happening in the United States, Trump made a lot of voters happy by choosing to getting out of the Paris agreement. In more countries, politicians think that it is difficult to stand for nature. In The Netherlands politicians are arguing that the Paris agreement won’t cost them anything. But that isn’t true, it will cost something. Politicians should of course make sure that the people can pay for this, but it will cost something.

Economics is much easier to sell to voters than nature. If someone tells us that we can invest some money now to earn much more later on, then we are interested. However, when we hear that we need to invest now in a better environment later on, then no one is keen on starting.

Who starts?

So the Minister is right that it isn’t that easy. It would be a lot easier when we could easily make international agreements to protect nature. But that would take courageous politicians who stand up to tell the honest story and consumers who dare to accept that honest story of those politicians.

Do you see other solutions to better protect nature against maritime transportation? Or do you have a different opinion? Share it below or on the forum!


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