‘Nature is not a cost item’

Our nature is in poor condition. If we continue like this, we are now also heading towards a water crisis after the nitrogen crisis. Climate adaptation consultant Els Ribbers notes that dealing with these issues is mainly seen as a major cost item. She argues for putting the added value of nature at the center again and improving collaboration.

It is directly bad with nature in Holland. In addition to the nitrogen crisis and the climate crisis, we now also risk a water crisis. We are increasingly losing sight of nature in the Netherlands, and that must change rapidly.

A complicated problem

In my work as a climate adaptation consultant, I see that a solution is not easy to find. We are dealing with very complex problems. Just look at the nitrogen file. Since the problem reappeared in 2015, when the Nitrogen Approach Program (PAS) was drafted, it has been in the news almost every month. The case has already led to massive farmer protests, a halt to construction and constantly changing rules. A solution is not yet in sight.

Nature as a cost item

Other problems, such as excess phosphate and poor water quality, have not yet led to concrete and integrated solutions. This is partly due to the fact that the issues are intangible to many people: after all, we cannot see with the naked eye that nitrogen or phosphate is falling, or that there is a threat of a lack of clean drinking water.

As a result, we see tackling these issues first and foremost as a major cost item. While a healthy nature and water supply is very important to us. Nature helps us purify rainwater, stop floods and drought stress, pollinate food crops, stimulate recreation and provide cooling.

Benefits of green in the city

In the city we can quickly experience nature as difficult. For example, by dropping leaves in our gardens and streets in the fall or bird droppings on our houses and cars. As a result, we may lose sight of the positive effects of green elements. Although they really do exist, especially in urban areas:

  • Green in the city is not only able to cool the immediate surroundings, it ensures a better living climate throughout the city. Just by laying green roofs, the air temperature in the city can drop by half a degree.
  • Green elements also contribute directly to the city’s biodiversity. For example, a recent study in Australia shows that a green roof holds up to seven times more animal species than a normal roof. A study in Ireland shows that a diverse urban landscape attracts protected and endangered species.
  • In addition, natural elements contribute positively to the experience value of our environment. Research also shows that urban green has a direct positive effect on our mental and physical well-being: People are happier and go outside faster to exercise or play together.

And let’s face it, such a green environment is actually much more beautiful, right?

Green is not always maintenance-intensive

Yet there are still many people with paved gardens, and new residential areas are not always green because it seems like so much work to maintain the green. But is green really that much more maintenance intensive? That’s actually okay. There are lots of plant species that are very easy to maintain. Think ivy, catnip and moss.

With a smart design, your park, space or garden can also be decorated in a maintenance-friendly green way. In addition, paved gardens, squares and neighborhoods also require maintenance.

Wouldn’t it be much more attractive to replace the warm gray space, which is full of water in wet times, with a green park with shade and a pond to dip your toes in? Or to exchange the wind-sensitive parasol for a beautiful tree?

Fortunately, green spaces are being built in more and more cities, for example in Rotterdam, where Hofplein is being transformed into a green town square:

Photo: Hofplein Rotterdam © Rotterdam municipality

Get started with a green environment

Tackling the petrification can well be done in collaboration with different parties. For example, many municipalities already provide subsidies for the construction of green roofs and neighborhood initiatives show that residents would like to contribute ideas about the green design of their residential area.

We help with this with our area-oriented and integrated sustainability approaches. We connect parties and mentors with our expertise.

At Over Morgen, we also know how to take advantage of the opportunities for climate adaptation together with other challenges in the living environment.
Because if the street still has to be opened to install a heating network, we can immediately think about how we can create space for more green in the redevelopment. If we already have to reinforce the roofs to install solar panels, then there is an immediate possibility of building a maintenance-friendly green roof. This improves the efficiency of the panels and the people on the higher floors immediately have a great view.

Let us all work for a strong, green and vibrant city: our city of the future!

In this video I tell more about the interplay between nature and climate adaptation:

Could you use our help to design your environment?

Tell me, I like to think with: els.ribbers@overmorgen.nl.

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