Energy and plastics: Toward a fossil land of milk and honey

F.C.A. Veraart, H.N.M. (Rick) Hölsgens, B.P.A. Gales

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Two energy transitions characterised the period 1910-1970: the rise and fall of a national mining industry and the shift from coal to oil and natural gas. Domestic coal made the Netherlands less dependent on foreign supplies. World wars and economic crises long inspired a lifestyle based on low energy consumption. An energy-intensive lifestyle emerged after the 1960s with the import of cheap oil and the discovery of natural gas in Groningen. The discovery also led to the attraction of energy-intensive industries, to the massive use of natural gas in greenhouse farming and to a national gas grid for households. Oil and gas also laid the basis for the production, processing and use of plastics. These became the symbol of modernity and of the rise of the consumer society. As packaging material and raw material for cheap consumer goods they also initiated the waste society and formed the iconic example of the linear economy. The products of this linear economy ended up en masse on the rapidly growing waste heaps. Increasing energy consumption in industry and households caused local air pollution. The first investigations of and policy measures in the area of air pollution were initiated from the viewpoint of public health. Pollution mobilised local resistance against the excesses of modernisation. Local environmental groups were the cradle of a broad societal concern about the environment, ecology and climate change in the following decades (see Chaps. 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWell-Being, Sustainability and Social Development
Subtitle of host publicationThe Netherlands 1850-2050
EditorsHarry Lintsen, Frank Veraart, Jan-Pieter Smits, John Grin
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9783319766966
ISBN (Print)9783319766959
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2018


  • Air pollution
  • Coal
  • Energy supply
  • Environmental movement
  • Linear economy
  • Natural gas
  • Oil
  • Plastics
  • Waste


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