Friday, April 11, 2014

Thinking Like a Dutch Engineer

From Russell Shorto of the New York Times - How to Think Like the Dutch in a Post-Sandy World (link):
"He was clearly eager for the challenge of persuading a giant country that it needs to live with water and not simply resist it. But he was skeptical about anyone’s ability to effect meaningful change in the United States. He had recently taken an exploratory trip to the Far Rockaways, with a team of American engineers that was rebuilding storm walls damaged by Sandy. “These are the same walls that broke before?” Ovink asked. “Yes!” came the reply. “And what if they break again?” “We’ll rebuild them again.”
Beyond that, Ovink feared that politics might undermine any chance to encourage new thinking about water management. “When I mentioned climate change to one official,” he said, “she almost hit me.” He characterized some of the wishful thinking he believed he would be dealing with as: “Don’t hire a Dutchman — believe in angels.”
Dutch battles against water led his country to develop a communal society. To this day, Water Boards, which date to the Middle Ages, are a feature of every region, and they guide long-term infrastructural planning. American individualism, on the other hand, has yielded a system in which each municipality has a great deal of autonomy, making regional cooperation difficult. “The vulnerabilities are regional,” said Judith Rodin, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which is the main funding organization working with Donovan’s team. “Yet we have individual community rule, and very little incentive to get out of that.”
But the need to apply new thinking in the U.S. couldn’t be greater, Ovink said. Climate scientists predict that by the end of the century, sea levels will rise by between one and a half and four feet. New York City could see storm surges up to 24 feet. Miami Beach could be under water. “Water has not been a policy issue in the U.S.,” Ovink said. “That’s because you’re mostly all above sea level. But what if the sea level changes?”"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.