How did the Netherlands get it right? Manure management and water quality in four regions
People often conceive of policymaking for environmental protection as a straightforward process whereby the findings of mainstream science are sought out and incorporated into the development of law. However, today we see many instances where the complexity of the science and/or the costs of implementing suitable science-based laws lead to a disconnect between scientific consensus and policy. Our project investigates this disconnect in the case of manure management impacts on water quality by examining the social context (culture, economics, and governance system) within which science and policy are co-produced in four dairy-intensive regions. Dairy farming in these regions causes eutrophication in downstream waters and unsafe nitrate levels for drinking. Among the Netherlands, Brittany, Dane County, and Minas Gerais, we found that dairy-related environmental pressures are greatest in Netherlands, but, in contrast with Brittany and Dane County, strong science-based policy has largely contained the problem. Our next steps include field research on how the Dutch social context (culture, governance system, and economics) facilitates responsive, science-based policy, and what is different in the other regions.