Teaser pics from my adaptation trip to the Netherlands.
1) Floating homes moored on the new, man-made island of Ijburg in the bay outside Amsterdam. These modular puppies run for a cool €600,000. They’re partially-dubbed as a pilot project for sea-level rise.
2) This is not the apocalypse, but it sure is close. This site, though, will blow your mind.
On the horizon is the Shell Pernis Oil Refinery located in the port of Rotterdam. It’s the 6th largest refinery in the world, able to produce over 412,000 barrels per day. The air was gnarly and it took us about 30 minutes to drive past it. Epic.
I took this shot from Maasvlakte 2, which is another man-made island that expands the port of Rotterdam into the North Sea. They’re making it by dumping millions of tons of sand into the sea - literally dredging the ocean floor for sand via special barges, which then dump or spray the sand into place. (That’s my colleague Brian Helmuth bottom right setting up his tripod. Should give you an idea of scale.)
You have to see Maasvlakte 2 to believe it, here. The big pond you see? It’s filled with toxic, polluted sands from chemicals and bombs dumped into the sea after WWII. Seriously. In fact, the barges have special crewmen to diffuse any bombs they dredge up from the sea floor. Nasty nasty nasty.
We were among the first people in the world to visit the site. Oh, and there about a dozen or so wind turbines around the perimeter.
I’m going on this trip with good climate adaptation folks. But, I’d like explore and do city things! Good bars? Good museums? Interesting sites? Help me out, tell me what to do!
I’m currently in Rotterdam, Netherlands on business. I had a meeting with the city’s adaptation program director at the Rotterdam World Trade Center. These tents were set up out front. As I left my meeting, around noon-ish, this young man was just waking up from sleeping in the OWS tent. He rinsed his head and face off with a bottle of water on the sidewalk.
I took his picture then had a chat with him. It did not go well.
Me: Hey there, how long have you been here?
OWSer: Hi. About four months.
Me: That’s a long time
OWSer: Yes, and it was cold sometimes, many nights very cold here but we will not give up.
Me: OK. Yes, it’s been very cold in Europe this winter. So have you had dialogs with the public or something? How is that going?
OWSer: We have meetings with anyone who wants to talk to us in the tent, or right here on these steps. We have rallies sometimes. But not in a few weeks.
Me: Got it. And has anything changed for your cause? Like, has the media picked up your story?
OWSer: No. Not really. Nothing is changing but we are strong here. We believe that the banks are strangling the people and corrupt politici…
Me: Wait. Sorry. <I had to cut him off. He was going on about OWS and getting twitchy>. I understand OWS. It’s interesting. I’m asking if anything has changed politically? And how is your relationship with the media and the public?
OWSer: We don’t talk to the media. Screw the media!
Me: Why is that?
OWSer: They don’t want to talk to us. The banks are killing the people..! etc…
Me: <At this point, he rails into the banks and politicians almost robotically, but still he’s incoherent to me. I also realize he is not comprehending what I’m asking. Also, he smells really badly.>
Me: So, you haven’t spoken to any politicians? Aren’t they in this building right here? <I point beyond the steps to the WTC, where their tents are perched>
OWSer: Yes, but they will not talk to us. They hate us and never dare come here. <voice rising> We will never give up the fight!!
Me: <Admittedly, I start to stammer. I am getting creeped out at this point and start to exit the conversation.> OK, well, I’m going to get going. Good luck to you!
OWSer: Hey, wait. Want to come into this tent and have a drink? Come drink. We have more of us inside. We can tell you about our cause!
Me: Erm, no thanks. Take care!
I exit stage right…
I admit I was terse with this protester. But, after four months of sleeping on the steps, he should have had some pretty tight answers to some very basic questions. A common criticism in the press is that OWS is unclear not only with its message, but amongst themselves. This young man stated that dialog with media or politicians were not part of their strategy. Why is that? I walked away not only disappointed, but quite annoyed at an incredible lost opportunity. I continue to gape in awe at the depth of such wasted energy.
OWS can be a powerful force, but thus far they’ve devolved into stereotypical quasi-anarchists who stand rejected by the public. (I note that OWS is now on the road via bio-diesel bus. See my post with a picture of their bus, here. They made their first stop in my town of Northampton Massachusetts just a couple of days ago. Here is a video of their visit. Good luck figuring out what it is they want.)
I have argued many times on this tumblr that OWS needs:
- A national spokesperson to clarify their message(s). There are many arguments against this (which all basically boil down to ‘OWS is not structured that way’). These arguments will continue to get rejected on their face. “Collective action” has no actionable meaning in the public milieu. OWS needs its martyred fruit seller to help it connect to the 99%. It needs a Camila Vallejo. This young man, above, and despite his sincerity, will never connect and get the support of, say, my parents, who are the key voting demographic that OWS needs going forward. OWS appeals to fewer and fewer people. (I am aware of the OWS SuperPAC. Irony died…)
Liberal-media elites have turned against OWS. Political movements need a spokesperson/s in order to be successful. And historically the public won’t support anarchic, vague movements.
- OWS absolutely has to run candidates for office in order to have a viable voice at the table. If policy is ever to change, then policy-makers OWS must create.
Rotterdam last night. The city has probably the best climate adaptation plans of any city in the world.