Does your country discuss about climate change and the problems it may be causing? Is your country doing anything to think of solutions? Colin Lowther and Megan Nollet talk about how The Netherlands is working together to make a difference.

Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Click here to follow along with this program on YouTube.

Voice 2

And I’m Megan Nollet. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

A city sits on the edge of the North Sea. It is very old . Some of buildings show this age. But many are surprisingly modern. High glass structures mix with ancient churches. And many canals run between these buildings. The Rhine River flows through the center of the city. The city is beautiful. It is like nowhere else in the world.

Voice 2

This city is called Rotterdam. It is the largest city in the country of the Netherlands. And this city has a rich history that goes back over eight hundred years. But Rotterdam also has a problem: it is sinking. In fact, much of the Netherlands is sinking. But why? Today’s Spotlight is on this sinking country.

Voice 1

The Netherlands has a long history of working with water. Over one third of the country is below sea level. In 800 B.C., much of the land was not land at all. It was under water! But soon, people began moving earth into water that was not very deep. They built large mounds higher than the water, called terps. These terps let them build towns and villages. It let them expand toward the sea.

Voice 2

Over the years, the Dutch have developed many ways of keeping water out of the land. They built huge walls across lakes and the sea coast. These walls, called dikes, helped them control the water. They kept farmlands from flooding. The Dutch also pumped water out of someareas. The dikes made sure the water would not come back. And people could settle there safely. The Dutch have been able to claim a lot of land using these methods. In the 1960’s they even created a new area. It is called Flevoland.

Voice 1

Working with water is very important to the Netherland’s success. It helped the country to grow. It is still a very small country. But today it is the seventeenth largest economy in the world!

Voice 2

But removing water often has a downside. Much of the Netherlands is built on peat, a special kind of thick decaying plant material. Usually, peat rests on top of water. When the water is gone, it can act like soil. But peat is not very solid. When people put weight on it, it shrinks. When they build on it, the land slowly sinks. This is a process called subsidence. Land subsides naturally in every place on earth. But the process is very slow. Normally, land will sink only three micrometers a year. That is about the thickness of a piece of paper. But in the Netherlands, it is happening very quickly. In some places, the land is sinking over two centimeters each year!

Voice 1

For the people of Rotterdam, this is a very big problem. Many buildings there are very old. Some were built hundreds of years ago. They do not have good foundations. When the ground subsides, those foundations can break. If people do not do something, the buildings may fall over.

Voice 2

But there is another reason why the country sinking is a problem: climate change. All over the world, sea levels are rising. This means that more areas of the Netherlands will be below sea level. And, they will be more at risk from flooding. Whole cities will be in danger. It will become harder and harder to keep them above water.

Voice 1

But the people of the Netherlands are not giving up. Instead, they are making plans for the future. Some believe that the old methods will still work. The Dutch could continue to build dikes and pump water. But as sea levels rise, the cost of this method will go up as well.

Voice 2

Instead, the Dutch are doing something different. They are not completely keeping the water out. They are letting some in. They call this the “Room for the River” program. In this program, the Dutch ask people to leave some low areas near rivers. Or, they repurpose public places. If there is a flood, these areas will fill first. They will keep water out of larger cities and towns. Hans Docter is a Dutch ambassador. He spoke to Haaretz news service about the effort.

Voice 3

“That’s the idea of living with the sea. Living with the water. In the past, we tried to keep the water out as much as we could. Now, we join it much more to our living areas.”

Voice 1

The Room for the Rivers project is part of a larger movement in the Netherlands. Subsidence and climate change are already happening. The country will get lower. And water levels will rise. It will be impossible to stop the water completely. So, the Dutch are changing their lives. They are trying to live with the new situation.

Voice 2

In some places, these changes have already begun. Stan Fleerakkers is a farmer from the Netherlands. The government bought his farm as part of the room for the river project. But Fleerakkers did not want to move. So, the government built a large terp in the area. Fleerakkers moved his farm onto the terp. Now, when the area floods, there is water in his old farmland. But he is living high above it.

Voice 1

Many more people may soon live like Fleerakkers. The Dutch may build the land up instead of keeping the water out. Or, they may make their homes with new building standards. Some people may even build their houses on columns or pillars. These tall posts will hold the building above the ground. When water comes, it will go under. The land will still flood. But the flood will not harm anyone. In Rotterdam, buildings are already made to hold or be above water.

Voice 2

These efforts are very expensive. But in the Netherlands, it may be worth it. Fleerakkers spoke to the magazine Politico:

Voice 4

“It is not as expensive as when a village is flooded. We spend a lot of money in Holland on water management. We have to do it. If we do not, we will be flooded. There will be no factories. No people will live here. It will all be gone.”

Voice 1

Many other countries will soon need to think about these solutions themselves. As climate change gets worse, many other cities will be in danger of flooding. Cities like Bangkok, Jakarta, and New Orleans are already dealing with the problem. No country can solve climate change by themselves. Everyone must work together to handle the issue. But many countries may look to the Netherlands as an example. They have a long history of dealing with water. That history may be just what the future needs.

Voice 2

Do you live in a place threatened by climate change? What is your country doing to address it? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1

The writer of this program was Dan Christmann. The producer was Dan Christmann. The voices you heard were from The United Kingdom and The United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radio english.net. This program is called, “The Sinking Country”.

Voice 2

You can also get our programs delivered directly to your Android or Apple device through our free official Spotlight English app. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you live in a place threatened by climate change? What is your country doing to address it?

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5 comments
  • Until a few years ago I could not understand how, given the size of the earth, the mere presence of man could influence the great forces of nature, also considering that in the geological eras, in which the earth was uninhabited, there was an alternation of ice ages and warming periods. Then I had to accept the opinion of scientists who know the subject much better than me and disbelief was replaced by fear of the delay with which states tackle the problem. Hope is in the young people who understood the problem earlier and better than the adults. A Swedish girl managed to make herself heard by world leaders and to mobilize millions of kids around the world. In Italy, in Venice, the twenty-year-long work to build a system of mobile dams to defend the city from high tide water was completed, but planning for the work had already begun in the 1980s, also inviting Dutch scientists as consultants .

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