The other day, my friend was looking online at some visually pleasing structures designed solely for the purpose of managing the flow of unwelcome water. She suggested to me that they looked like works of art. I had to agree, even though I imagined that the river they sat in would have been more beautiful still in their absence. I suppose that the trick with all construction whose form follows function is to present them to those forced to stare at them each day in the most palatable aesthetic possible. I think of wind farms and consider that, at times, there’s not much that can be done to “pretty things up.”

That got to me to thinking about the Netherlands, the poppies, windmills, and dikes, and how I keep hearing about Dutch engineering firms staying busy throughout the year and around the world designing the projects that are going to take on the predicted sea levels in the years to come. I wondered why it was that the Netherlands seemed to be dominating the scene as opposed to other countries. Then, after reading up a bit, I realized that, but for human ingenuity, the Dutch geography, left to its own devices, would probably just slip out to sea one day.

Almost the entirety of the country fits cleanly into just three categories: below sea level (more than half of all the land), at sea level, and barely above sea level. Just waking up anywhere in any part of the country would seem to suggest that there must be a constant mindfulness of the sea’s proximity. I also read that the port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe and very well run. I supposed, then, that, by default, the Dutch probably had some pretty longstanding and firsthand experience in matters of flood control, with time simply adding to the projects they can point to and say, “Yeah…we know how to do that.” These days, water management projects are in no short supply. Dutch engineering standards are in high demand far and wide.

When I discovered what the Dutch are up against where Climate Change is concerned, it is small wonder that the country takes ‘all things water’ as seriously as it does. They are going to get hammered from here on out and on multiple levels ranging from an encroaching sea, land subsidence, the growing unpredictability of weather patterns, threats to ground water resources, shifting coastlines, rising population, and a host of others challenges that keep the policy makers on high alert at all times. The poor people even have to deal with muskrats intent on destroying the very levies holding the water back. It’s a daily ‘cat and mouse’ game that must be played, else the muskrats win (apparently) and the towns flood.

It seems common sense, then, that the Dutch would export their know-how and can-do attitude when it comes to assisting less-experienced countries dealing with their own Climate Change challenges. The Netherlands is home to some of the world’s most top notch engineering firms, involved in hundreds of projects literally all around the world.

When I think of the Netherlands now, I will think of a country fully engaged in solutions. The more I learned, the more I was inspired. These people are truly amazing and I commend them on the efforts being made to ensure, not only that the country, itself, but countries around the world, can enjoy the benefits of an entrepreneurial spirit that might just make a small but size-able dent in the challenges that lie ahead, and for the betterment of all.

With the whispers from another post here in which I alluded to the bundles of money that will be made in the “Climate Change Sector,” here are a few projects I found the Dutch taking on, and in no particular order:

  • Providing technical assistance (this is probably an understatement) and pitching their best preventive medicine as part of New York’s task force in avoiding future disasters caused by the likes of a Hurricane Sandy.
  • To combat rising sea levels, Jakarta is building a sea wall in the shape of a giant mythical bird known as a Garuda. The Dutch and the Indonesians have been working together on similar ambitious projects for years now, but the scale of this one certainly takes the cake.
  • The Dutch Wind Wheel “a wind turbine that generates electricity from wind without moving parts.”
  • The Dutch help South Africa to better manage their water resources through a number of admirable projects (ORIO and King Fisher).

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