Enjoy it while it lasts…

On our rest day in the South of Limburg, the final day in the Netherlands before we make our way back to Germany, we decided to go for a walk. The area is characterized by several calcareous grasslands that are quite rich in (plant) diversity.

I texted a friend that knows the area better than me, asking for advice. My parents-in-law live literally next to Bemelerberg, an old chalk quarry, which is one of the better areas when it comes to plants and butterflies. However, the quarry is closed for public, and well, I respect those things. Sometimes – maybe more often than not – nature is best left untouched. My friend suggested another place close to another quarry that closed up shop a couple of years ago. The huge mines are now left for a new destiny. Given that this particular also harbors a good dose of diversity, it makes total sense to leave it for nature to do its thing. Perhaps given the centuries of resource depletion, it is anyway the ethical way to pay back the damage done.

The old quarry has many artificial and crystal-clear ponds that pose breeding grounds to several rarer amphibians.
The old mining tunnels are pretty obvious and give an interesting touch to the area. I love that these silent witnesses represent the cultural and economical history of this area of the Netherlands. They do not exactly blend in, but are no eye sores either.

Over the years there have been many different plans to give the area back to mother nature. However, the Netherlands would not be the Netherlands, if it would be given away for free. Money somehow needs to be made. Aside from the two small-scale coffee/bistro bars – which I appreciate, there apparently are more invasive plans to give the area back, not to mother nature, but to mother nature’s most stubborn and obnoxious inhabitants – us humans. The paths were lined with architectural drawings showing what would become wellness centers, recreational living areas and other rubbish. Another sign indicated that the ponds are planned to be open for recreational use. Let the drunk youth and sunscreen-covered others come and destroy whatever is nice about this place. The nesting eagle owls will be a cool story to out on future signs for later generations, I guess. Not only will this sort of development quickly result in an ecological degradation of the area, it also completely erodes any of the cultural history of centuries. God what a bunch of stupid plans. If this is what they call ecotourism, then fuck that!

Imagine, sitting here in your bath robe, still steaming from your last sauna round. In the back you hear the buzzing vibes of partying twenty year-olds, that bring back life to this deserted quarry. What better ways to give purpose to this otherwise tranquil place?

It’s because of things like this that I am not very hopeful that we will ever make great strides towards biodiversity conservation or climate action. We are simply not made to give back. We only take, take, take. Even when we pretend to give, we still take.

Polygonia c-album on Buddleja davidii
Vanessa atalanta on Buddleja davidii, one of the invasives that does very well in the disturbed quarry grounds…

It’s a pretty place though, for as long as it lasts…

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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