Hugh Bollinger
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Holding back the sea By Reilly Capps KINDERDIJK, The Netherlands -- It’s a tourist thing, these windmills. The windmill keeper wears wooden shoes. They are made of the simplest materials. Bricks, wood, straw on top. The rattle of the blades is like a giant washing machine. Geese drift toward the windmill, sucked toward the blades by the manmade current. They proudly fly a Dutch flag overhead, which the windmill keeper pulls down at dusk. But they work. The mills at Kinderdijk, Holland, a World Heritage Site. A simple, ingenious solution. There are so many more than just here at Kinderdijk, halfway between Rotterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands. Holland is crawling with windmills. Dutch people are defined by their windmills, and couldn't live without them. Whole huge swaths of the country only exist because they pumped the water out of them and created them from nothing. There is nothing of which they are more proud. It was a great collaboration between capitalism and community, explains Geke Schrijver, a history grad student at the University of Utrecht. Back in the fourteenth century, when many of the dykes got their start, the Dutch owned their own land instead of being serfs, and so they took an interest in the land when it flooded, and took an interest in the land when it was recovered. But when the windmills were built in the eighteenth century, they were often built with community dollars. You can see how it makes whole communities possible. There are little gingerbread houses in Niew Lekkerland (literally: new delicious land) with their thatched roofs and their old fashioned lawnmowers -- sheep. The houses stand 15 feet below a reservoir that sits just on the other side of the hill, water pumped there by windmills. Nobody geoengineers like the Dutch. You know the old saying? God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland. Holland was once sea and will likely be sea again, unless something is done. Rotterdam, a bus ride away, and the closest big city, is one of the most aggressive big cities in the world at combatting climate change. It has to be. It sits in the lowest delta in Europe. It’s trying to cut its carbon dioxide emissions in half – not from current levels, but from 1990 levels, by 2025. That means the usual goody-goody projects: wind and energy conservation, chiefly. Another idea in Rotterdam is to pump the carbon dioxide from power plants into sealed greenhouses, creating a super-producing environment, and idea that it is already carrying out. Rotterdam also says it will be “100 percent climate proof.” How? A dome? Giant air conditioners? Whole districts of the city that will float along with the rising seas? Other parts of the Netherlands have actually done this last one, as crazy as it sounds, building small communities that will rise with the sea levels. One could withstand a rise of 13 feet. How far will the Dutch go to create new land? About two kilometers. They are proposing – in all seriousness, apparently – a 1.25 mille-high mountain in the north for skiing and mountain sports. There is much enthusiasm for this project, and the Dutch are blinking not at the engineering problems, which they bat away, but at the cost: anywhere from a few billion dollars to $400 billion.It was proposed by a newspaper columnist as a joke, but the Dutch are on it. If they can create a whole country from the sea, maybe they can build a mountain. And maybe they can give us an idea how we can fight the rising seas which are almost certainly coming.
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