So far, far too little attention has been paid to the sense of insecurity that people from Groningen have, and the damage it causes to their health. It‘s dismissed as something between the ears, but it’s a real problem. This is what Tom Postmes, professor of Social Psychology at the University of Groningen, said in his questioning by the parliamentary committee of inquiry of natural gas extraction. Duped Annemarie Heite agreed that the situation for the Groningers is very drastic.
Research by Postmes and his colleagues showed years ago that Groningers suffer from multiple damage to their homes twice as often as usual health problems. A few weeks ago, he said that stress in the earthquake area may even lead to sixteen deaths a year. Postmes said that in the podcast Groningen gas: won or lost to CCEIT and NPO Radio 1.
But the fear and related health complaints are seen as immeasurable and subjective in the decision-making process in The Hague and in the case of, for example, the NAM (Dutch Petroleum Society). According to Postmes, the people who have to make the decisions are “blind” to it. “They want hard grades.”
“Technical advice is almost canonized,” said the professor. While with advice such as “ask the Groninger to tell them what happened”, to his great frustration, nothing was done. On occasion, however, he was asked whether he could “not make more concrete recommendations” and whether he could not distinguish between physical complaints and “what people got in the head”.
According to Postmes, the problems in Groningen have so far been approached far too businesslike. “Then it looks: do you have struts in the living room? Then the safety issue has been solved.” What that further does to the residents is disregarded, whereas, according to him, that is “big, urgent and serious”. “There are objective standards for a subjective sense of security.”
After Postmes, the committee heard a victim this afternoon, Annemarie Heite. She thinks about it just like Postmes: the government, the NAM and the scientists who write technical reports about the earthquakes and the damage “do not relate in any way to the people at the kitchen table. It‘s like they’re from a different universe,” she said. “They don‘t realize that there is someone opposite them who is going to be totally destroyed. I have experienced it as completely indifferent, also to what it does to people. The system versus man, policy versus implementation; it does not relate to each other.”
When asked exactly what it does to the people in Groningen, she said: “I see around me and on social media that people are becoming increasingly angry. They are becoming more desperate, increasingly powerless and increasingly sad. For myself, too, there is a life before and a life after the earthquakes. What makes people totally sick is that they no longer have perspective and have no control over their lives. It gets under your skin and you’re going to relate everything to this, to what you‘ve been through. Powerlessness and lack of trust is very drastic.”
Today’s public interrogations were the last before the summer recess. In this first week they heard: Pieter Dekker, former top executive of Shell, Annemarie Jorritsma, former Minister of Economic Affairs and experts from government supervisor SoDM (State Supervision of the Mines).
other public interrogations are held between 29 August and 14 October. A total of seventy witnesses and experts were summoned.