"As sharp as the eye is, it only sees the side of reality, that it itself created." This is a statement by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa in the story "The beggar". Pessoa (1888-1935) was both a writer and a poet and is considered the most important Portuguese poet of the twentieth century. His work was not discovered until after his death: thousands and thousands sheets of paper with written poems and stories were found in a large wooden box in his rented room. But let us put this aside for this moment.

After a very wet winter, spring 2020 started, although pretty cold, sunny and dry. Due to the clear blue skies, the sun could shine freely and combined with the cold east wind, the top layer of the soil dried quickly. Just notice the effect that this type of weather has on your skin, it is very dehydrating. In mid-April, newspapers started publishing alarming reports about the drought: the drought is already worse than in 1976, the driest year ever recorded and drier than the summers of 2018 and 2019.

In the dutch newspaper “De Volkskrant” I read the following headline: “Drought is a silent killer.” In my neighborhood I already saw several people watering their lawn with tap water. Hello everyone, it is only mid-April and with a temperature of 10 degrees during the day it is just cold and there is not much growth going on anyway. They probably cannot help themselves; they anticipate, based on the newspaper reports, that it is already very dry and take action. Sorry Vitens and other water companies, the waste of clean tap water starts early this year. Fortunately, I read in the newspaper that our Delta Commissioner has also noticed that records are already being suggested which are not yet a fact. He is cited in the newspaper: "Since 2001, during eight years the spring was drier or as dry as in 1976. Five of these eight years, turned out to have more rainfall than the average year." It is as if you are looking at the ten-kilometer race in a skating competition and state that the skater is already two seconds under the world record after five laps. If he keeps it up it will be a world record, but he still has twenty laps to go, so it could go either way.

From the new reality in which gradual climate change is a fact and which in the prevailing scientific consensus is mainly attributed to human action, natural events are very quickly interpreted in this light. Every flood, every forest fire, every dry summer, and even a dry spring that is only half over, can be seen as confirmation that things are moving quickly in the wrong direction and that we need to take more action. Climate change is real, but we have to keep things separate. The IPCC reports still state that climate change cannot yet be linked to more extreme weather such as strong storms or floods. Yet these news items are big hits. Activists like to use them and do not leave any event unexploited to dedicate an ominous tweet to it. Now I want to return your attention to Pessoa, who warned us and said: although you are so smart and you have so much knowledge, pay attention because you might soon see what you think you see, but what you have actually created yourself.

Let's just enjoy the beautiful weather in the spring, have more confidence in nature and in the turf, which actually will survive for a while without tap water. Meanwhile we must continue to improve soil health and water management, and move on with the energy transition and the circular economy.

Sytze Keuning (

Published in the journal Bodem.