February 19th: Dutch Natural Capital Day

Is the Netherlands prepared for the predictable future?

photo by Marit van den Berg

Amsterdam — February 19, 2022 — Today is the Dutch Natural Capital Day. After only 50 days, the residents of the Netherlands have demanded more from nature than all the Dutch ecosystems can renew this entire year. To mark this day, Aniek Moonen, on behalf of younger and future generations, handed a briefcase with Natural Capital to the Minister of New Economy, Michel Scholte. The briefcase was empty.

The ecological footprint of the Netherlands is over seven times higher than its biocapacity, according to the 2022 edition of the National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts from the Footprint Data Foundation in partnership with Global Footprint Network and York University, Toronto. Behind carbon-emissions, the food footprint is the second largest component of the Netherlands’ ecological footprint. It takes more than twice the entire biocapacity of the country to provide food for its inhabitants.

Food is particularly central, and tricky. A successful future depends on a far better food system that fits within the planet’s constraints.  By combining deep food system knowledge with the power to engage key decision-makers, the Food4Future project will explore pathways towards food systems that fit within planetary constraints and can deliver in a predictable future of climate change and resource constraints.

In a world of global overshoot – occurring when humanity’s demand on nature exceeds the biosphere’s supply, or its regenerative capacity – using up our own natural capital budget so quickly is a growing economic risk for a country. “This is becoming a driving concern for the younger generation,” says Aniek Moonen, president of the Dutch Young Climate Movement. “Not only will they be saddled with the consequences of climate change, but the depletion of our natural resources may soon render their basic needs unattainable. Our consumption patterns must change radically if we want to leave something for our children and grandchildren.”

Many solutions already exist, such as reducing waste, decreasing meat consumption and alternative protein sources, but such solutions must be combined to achieve a sustainable food system. Our circular food model indicates it is possible to provide healthy food while reducing the environmental impact”, said associate professor Hannah van Zanten who is leading the Circular Food Systems team at WUR, “but it will need a radical redesign of today’s food systems”.

The permanent availability of healthy and nutritious food is something we have become accustomed to. We cannot imagine that our food system can break, although we did get a foretaste at the beginning of the pandemic with some empty shelves. If we do not restore the balance sustainably, we risk many more empty shelves and ultimately a collapse of the whole system. We must give nature the chance to recover, after every harvest.” says Marcel Beukeboom, permanent representative for the Netherlands at the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“In a world that is demanding 75% more than the planet can renew, it is staggering how little attention this massive overshoot challenges is receiving. Yes, there is massive innovation in the Netherlands, from light efficiency to bicycle focused transportation and new ways of agriculture. Still, it pains me to see how exposed the Netherlands still are using over 7 times more than its own ecosystems can regenerate.” said Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, president and co-founder of Global Footprint Network.

For more details on the Netherlands’ ecological performance, visit the fact sheet.

  • Earth Overshoot Day is the day that humanity used more from nature than our planet’s Earth can regenerate in the entire year (July 29 in 2021).
  • Dutch Overshoot Day is the day when the annual biocapacity of our planet is consumed if everyone on Earth lived like the Dutch (April 12 in 2022).
  • Dutch Natural Capital Day (or deficit day) is the day when the Netherland’s annual biocapacity is used by the residents of the Netherlands (February 19 in 2022).

About the Food4Future project

Food4Future is a collaborative project by Global Footprint Network, the Circular Food Systems team within the Farming Systems Ecology group at Wageningen University & Research (circularfoodsystems.org), and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). The project aims to explore how to make the food system one-planet compatible by taking us closer to new ways of feeding the world’s population while safeguarding the planet. We do this by combining our scientific prowess with our power to engage key stakeholders and decision-makers. Food4Future is generously supported by the Stiftung AVINA. footprintnetwork.org/food4future

About the Consortium

Global Footprint Network is an international sustainability organization that is helping the world thrive within the Earth’s means and respond to climate change. Since 2003 we’ve engaged with more than 60 countries, 40 cities, and 70 global partners to deliver scientific insights that have driven high-impact policy and investment decisions. Together, we’re creating a future where all of us can thrive within the limits of our one planet. footprintnetwork.org

AVINA Stiftung is a Swiss-based non-profit foundation focused on supporting innovative research and development approaches in sustainably produced and healthy food. As a platform for pioneering minds and forward-thinking ideas, we intend to bring about sustainable change to the food system. We want to be a prime mover by facilitating opportunities to pioneers who fascinate us with their unconventional but promising mindsets. AVINA seeks, supports, and accompanies people who are dedicated to a healthier, fairer and more sustainable food system. avinastiftung.ch

The Circular Food Systems (CiFoS) team at Wageningen University aims to unravel how circular food systems can contribute to producing healthy foods for a growing population within the carrying capacity of the Earth. Within the team the visionary prize-winning Circular Food System Model was developed. This model enables to provide a much-needed food systems perspective for creating sustainable food systems. It will take us closer to new ways of feeding the world’s population, while safeguarding the planet. circularfoodsystems.org

The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) is one of the world’s leading institutes in the field of organic agriculture and sustainable agriculture in general. Its head offices are located in Switzerland, with branches in several countries. FiBL is committed to interdisciplinary research, innovations developed jointly with the stakeholders, solution-oriented development projects and rapid knowledge transfer from research into practice. FiBL strongly engages in the societal dialogue on our future food systems to ensure food security while staying within planetary boundaries. fibl.org

Additional Resources

Media Contacts

Joost Brinkman (in the Netherlands)
+ 31 6 12 60 30 53

Dr. Marta Antonelli (in Switzerland)
+41 78 656 2844

Interview partners available on request.

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