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In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Mary Fiers, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer, and Tessie Hartjes, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All five contributors – sometimes accompanied by guest bloggers – are working on solving the problems of our time. Everything to make Tomorrow Good. This Sunday, it‘s Mary Fiers’s turn. Here are all the previously published columns.

What is nature? Your own garden? The birds you hear when you close your eyes? Your pet? The sun? The wind? The beautiful nature reserves in Brabant? The Loonse and Drunense Dunes? The Biesbosch? The Strabrechtse Heide? Or is your green heart only beating faster when you experience nature while on holiday far away from home?

People give many different answers to the simple question ‘what is nature?’ So let’s consult Wikipedia. There you read: “Nature (or wilderness) is an environment on earth that has not yet been affected or adapted by man. An area only influenced by plants and animals.” If this is the definition, then we haven’t got any nature in the Netherlands. With the exception of the Waddenzee perhaps? Nature in the Netherlands is known for its human interference. Also in Eindhoven. Just look at Genneper Parks or Philips de Jonghpark.

Nature is close to people? And people close to nature?

Recently, I was at a fascinating lecture by Professor Matthijs Schouten. He is a professor of Ecology and Philosophy at Wageningen University. He asked those present in the room: are you part of nature? According to Schouten, many people in the Western World think that they are not part of nature, but that nature is entirely at the service of mankind. The small poll in the room supported his position. Man is beyond nature.

According to Schouten, how people perceive themselves in relation to nature and how they experience nature, defines how they deal with nature. In this way, he explains the attitude of the contemporary city dweller towards nature. The ‘modern’ person no longer knows where the food comes from and is mainly affected by nature.

Nature as a reason for complaints

People and nature are growing further and further apart. Nature scores high in the ‘complaints top-10’ of Dutch municipalities. Also in Eindhoven. As a former councilor responsible for the public space, I know that Eindhoven is complaining a lot about nature. Complaints about falling leaves in autumn. Leaves blowing in people’s gardens. The tree that should be felled. Complaints about snow in winter. Complaints about weeds in spring. What are weeds? Complaints about resin from the trees (falling on their car, of course). Complaints about the roots of trees. Complaints about water. Hey, municipality, why don’t you solve this problem? Very annoying, nature…

So not only stop smoking in 2018. Stop complaining about nature as well!

In our smart region, let’s prove that city dwellers can also live with nature. First of all, I suggest that we put an end to the stony and neatly shredded gardens.