Instead of trying to defy and out fox mother nature, the Dutch have decided to plan ahead for the volatile wiles of dame nature.
That comes down to conceding that nature needs to be accommodated rather than fought with futile means.
Holland, called very appropriately Les Bas Pays (low country in French) is about 50% below sea level and the land that is above is only by a few meters at best.
Its whole western coast is facing the North Sea and the Netherlands drains some major European rivers, such as the Rhine and Meuse into the sea ,along with other rivers that form confluences that drain into these.
The country has been beset by horrific North Sea floods approximately every 100 years or so, and the last great flood of 1953 killed 1, 836 people.
The Dutch take climate change very seriously noting rising sea levels that constantly threat their shoreline, along with Rhine river flooding predictions every 5 to 10 years.
Therefore the Dutch have made flood prevention a very high priority. The whole country’s survival depends on it!
These measures revolve around three key points of prevention, protection and preparedness.
Besides reinforcing dikes and they built a monster size flood gate called the Maeslantkering seen above, where each side is as tall as the Eiffel Tower.
It has yet to be used in a storm, but is believed will restrain storm and tidal surges from flooding the harbor.
The Dutch changed their water management approach 10 years ago that is more holistic.
I found their new concept called Room for the River innovative and makes logical sense given that excess water will flow anywhere it can filling up lower levels.
The Dutch government bought out many residents and farmers in the low-lying areas called polders, and put them on higher ground.
They in turn transformed the polders into huge attractive parks with bike paths and canals, that in rising waters will serve as reservoirs.
Instead of building higher dikes, they moved the levees and dikes further away from the river, giving it much more space to over flood, in hopes of keeping the higher levels dry.
The government is also encouraging homeowners to remove concrete and plant more gardens, that will absorb excess waters.
An architectural firm in Rotterdam wants to haul in tons of sand to build lofty high sand dunes around communities and will be testing an area with this idea to further protect invading sea waters.
The world bank estimates that for every dollar spent in flood prevention, it will save 7 to 10 $ in flood damage relief.
This whole concept is in sharp contrast to my own home country where damage relief has been the primary focus rather than prevention. Even relief funds though, like Fema are in danger of having millions cut from current budgets.
Rebuilding after each disaster is seen as generating a dollar flow at the expense of someone’s misery and destruction.
In many ways it goes along with the throw away mentality that America is afflicted. If it is broken and damaged, better to raze it down and rebuild rather than invest in preventative measures to keeping buildings from being susceptible to being damaged in the first place.
I think of the Houston based firm who were engaged to rebuild the war destroyed infrastructure of Iraq.
They racked in millions and millions in profit with US government contracts from the vast widespread war destruction.
This also follows the predominant precept that economic growth and enriching the bank accounts of land developers, who could not care less that their grandiose developments are being built in flood risk territories, is more important.
So what, if these communities flood; displacing thousands or even killing many citizens who trusted that their houses were secure?
Hurricanes and floods certainly cause countless deaths and misery, but it seems much more profitable in the long run to fill the coffers of those in rebuilding and restoring, rather than preventing construction in flood risk areas.
One could say that prevention of storm related damage is against the capitalistic ideals of providing more opportunities for such businesses to make a buck on the catastrophic losses of hurricanes.
In America, making money and filling deep pockets is the revered ideal, not providing public welfare, affordable health care and relief funds for human beings, even when they are decimated by natural disasters.
The current white house administration, who has denied the validity of climate change, even rescinded 10 days before the flooding of Houston, the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard that was instituted in 2015.
Shamefully, 20 Texas representatives and senators voted against relief funds for victims of hurricane Sandy, but I wonder if they will vote the same for fellow Texans?
It all looks rather dismal in getting those in power in America to adopt the philosophy of the Dutch, even though each year the Gulf coast and eastern seaboard states are either severely threatened or have destruction by Hurricane flood waters.
Hurricanes are getting more intense and there are more category 4 and 5 storms developing primarily because of warmer southern Atlantic temperatures, which fuel these killer storms.
The Dutch way of listening to nature and working with nature reminds me in some ways of the ancient indigenous philosophies we have turned our backs on, except save a few admirable societies.
Though the Dutch are wholeheartedly logical and practical, and not at all animist, the outright recognition and respect of the ways of nature, by accordingly making room for her variances demonstrates a valid point of achieving some harmony.
In Iceland, you don’t mess around with the Huldufolk, who if not accommodated are believed to cause disasters to get their point across.
With this in mind, a recent highway to be constructed in Iceland that invaded their territory was suspended out of respect and fears.
Likewise the elders of the Altai region of Siberia warned that the removal of their Ice Maiden who had been buried there for ages had upset the “spirits”, causing floods and earthquakes.
In 2012 she was finally returned to her sacred burial cave in the mountains to appease “her anger and the ancients”.
The first inhabitants of the Americas were from ancient indigenous societies who many developed highly evolved astrological and mathematical calculations and saw the cosmic energy being reflected in the land, mountains and sea and needed to have a continuum of balance.
Our own American Indians who saw the sacredness of land, rivers and sea and have fought to be guardians of their territories, have been raped and pillaged by invading European settlers.
They would see the heavy rains and churning seas as nature’s way of revenge, for disturbing the balance.
After all we have polluted our seas to the degree that there are miles of floating plastic trash tossed by waves and carried about by currents.
The ancient Greeks would certainly agree that we have provoked the wrath of the sea god Poseidon. The mythical sirens have tried to get our attention to no avail.
The Dutch have two very pertinent folktales around the curses of flooding waters from kidnapping and mistreating mermaids: the Saeftinghe Legend and the Mermaid of Westenshouwen.
I like to think that maybe it was those ancient mermaids who twisted the ears of those avant garde water management planners to finally respect and make room for the sea, rather than swim against her currents. Who knows?