The Opening statement

50 years after - The trees speak out

It is March 30, 1972. Queen Juliana opens the Floriade in the Amstelpark - with more than 6000 trees. More than 5 million visitors walk past the approximately 300 planted tree species from all over the world. Two weeks earlier, the Rome Report; Limits to Growth - an alarming report about the geological strength of Western society  - is presented and later that year, lawyer Chistopher D. Stone  publishes the book Should Trees have Standing, in which he  pleads for the first time for Rights-for-Nature.

It is October 16, 2022. Accompanied by the Registrar, fifty people take their seats in the Parliament of Trees, one human counterpart for each annual ring of trees that surround them. They are followed by law of nature lawyers Jan van de Venis and Jessica den Outer, who have prepared their legal pleadings on behalf of the trees, poet Gershwin  Bonevacia, musician Thijs van Vuure, dancer Kenzo Kusuda and a  secondary school pupil; they will represent the trees and have each prepared an artistic plea. Followed by the defendant, acting on behalf of the four local defendants, and tree biologist Prof. Ute Sass Klaassen who will act as an expert.

While the trees are completing their fiftieth annual ring, leaves have long since fallen off due to the prolonged drought that summer, sap flows have come to a standstill and roots have slowly changed the shape of the asphalt, here, in the Amstelpark, a speculative court case is taking place, the first of its kind in the Netherlands. The first in which the trees acquire rights and call to account those who violate their rights.

The clerk gives a signal and those present rise. The plenary chamber; three judges led by Marianne Thieme take their seats.

During this trial, an aeroplane flies every two minutes over the  Amstelpark to transport visitors to the other Floriade in Almere,  more than 12,000 fossil-fuelled cars drive along the A10 motorway right next to the Amstelpark and the raindrops that slide past one  of the silver maple trees present contain the highest nitrogen concentrations ever measured.

It is April 22, 2072. In the afternoon, the high school student who fifty years earlier represented the trees of the Amstelpark in a  speculative court case walks out of the temporary court in the  Amstelpark, smiling. She was being heard as one of the authorised guardians on behalf of the trees of the Amstelpark. The court case,  handled by the Supreme Court, was initiated and lost by four large local parties; an airport, a water company, an implementing organisation of the Ministry of Infrastructure and a financial conglomerate who tried to violate the rights of these trees, yet again.

At a silver maple tree, which was witnessed half a century ago, she is meeting her grandson, who in turn, as a schoolchild, helped to write the International Convention on the Rights of Nature. Together they are sitting by the tree, which is in full glory and has begun its hundredth year of growth, in which the clean air, the silence and the pure rainwater will be reflected.

This text was written on the occasion of the opening on 4 September 2022 of the project Amstelpark - the trees narrate their story in the Amstelpark Orangery and was created in consultation with environmental lawyers Jan van de Venis and  Jessica den Outer and dramatist Marieke Nooren.