Poldermodel not fit? Customize or do away

On February 12, the weather Darwin Day, the birthday of the evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin (1809-1882). Up to the latter’s legacy belongs, the term survival of the fittest, which, moreover, for the first time been proposed by the philosopher Herbert Spencer, in their correspondence. ‘Fit’ is not in the meaning “strong” but “most changed”; individuals who are best suited to local conditions, most likely have to pass on their genes. Sometimes this leads to extreme specialization like the panda or the orchid.

The hard since competition who speaks here is highly nuanced by almost all disciplines. Not only people, but also microbes, plants and animals are often better off thanks to cooperation rather than individual struggle.

Primates, even in the absence of coercion things together, but in complex human societies is voluntary is not enough. In order to promote the interests of many weigh simultaneously and desired behavior have laws and morality evolved. The Dutch version of this is a sophisticated system of consultation and decision-making: the polder model, our multiparty system and numerous institutions such as SER, planning offices and advisory boards. It has made us long for a prosperous, peaceful country. But this whole circus is still fit in Darwinian sense? Or are all those groups too specialized, appropriate only in specific niche polder, while we are overtaken by the changes around us?

If the arrest or progress in the year to the parliamentary elections, next March? The climate issue is therefore a nice touchstone. For two reasons: it is the very long term and no matter who controls almost citizen. So far we have solved through countless special consultations. Climate tables – can polderachtiger?

But does more consultations really better solutions? Or are we doomed to loose actions because in most areas is no consensus on the best solutions? Probably we will find the best solutions only if we look across borders and over the polder. Netherlands is too small and has too few opportunities in their own territory to generate green energy and carbon saving.

The polder model offers little room for such a larger approach. Indeed, in the true spirit of the polder should make everyone immediately his contribution, starting with the citizen. Less flying and driving, no fireplace, less meat, insulated homes, not plastic, and especially reducing consumption. But few are eager to change their behavior or invest in water pump or electric car. On the other hand, young people are angry that the gepolder not go far enough. Huge ambitions and soothing words lead in the polder to baby steps or unilateral solutions.

Thus we see the climate depression: impotence, sometimes expressed in indifference, anger and cynicism about the small and fragmentary steps, sometimes euphoric spectacular solutions (eg hydrogen). Provinces and municipalities have been equally confused. Polarization is lurking: ‘they’ decide but us, ‘we’ have to submit.

If our polder is not fit, we need to change it. So we can teach us better adapt to the need for better planning. Insights help from the evolutionary and game theory here: cooperation pays off eventually, if transparent and fair. Admittedly, the commitment must be for the campaigns.

Louise O. Fresco
Column NRC Handelsblad, 9 maart 2020