Thursday, November 15, 2007

How to fight a rising sea

The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent, loooong article about what the Netherlands has done and is planning to do about sea level rise: ... Adaptation experts generally agree that scientists, engineers, and policymakers already know what needs to be done to adapt to global warming. For the most part, they say, it means doing what they already know how to do to reduce risks from natural hazards – it's just doing more of it and a better job of it.

As if to underscore the point, Henk Wolfort, a researcher at Alterra, an institute at Waganingen University that focuses on sustainable development, shows a set of maps illustrating the evolution of watery areas and polders in the country since the 14th century. "Our problems are not so very different from the problems the people in the Middle Ages had," he says. Even back then, techniques like building on mounds or widening the space between river dikes to accommodate flooding were well understood. The lesson? In a high-tech age, some of the effective adaptation approaches may come from a decidedly low-tech time.

"I think the people in the Netherlands have forgotten about those old ideas because they have relied on technological solutions," he says. "Now they see that technical solutions don't provide 100 percent safety. So perhaps we should think about the old solutions again."

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