New Netherlands—Extreme Ecologies

On Thursday February 7, 2019 Geert van der Meulen, Researcher at Delta Urbanism, presented his graduation project called ‘New Netherlands’, projecting the spatial outcome of extreme sea level rise in the country, to Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management) with the aim of inspiring governance and academia to broaden the planning scope and to facilitate multidisciplinary work.


New Netherlands
Towards transitional flood risk management anticipating to extreme future sea level rise scenarios

Geert van der Meulen
Civil Engineering (Water Management) 2017-2018 graduate
Delta Interventions/ Transitional Territories Studio
Researcher at Delta Urbanism

Sea levels are rising globally and the melting Antarctic ice sheet is attributed to be the primary contributor. Due to the deep uncertainty of the causal representative carbon pathways, the plausible range of sea levels rise varies between 0,26 – 2,43 m for 2100 and 0,50 – 15,52 m for 2300. To address deep uncertainty, decision making methods arise which struggle with including measures preparing the shift from incremental to transitional strategies required for the case of extreme sea level rise scenarios. This research addresses flood risk management in the Netherlands, a country which will face ecological, economical, technological and political challenges as sea levels climb. In anticipation to extreme sea level rise and its challenges, the Dutch process of coastline shortening and solidating can be carried through. Another viable option is a more gradual zone between land and water. To review both options, the distribution of systems sensitive to flooding is mapped. The overlay of systems facilitates the establishment of a framework which distinguishes elements based on their pace of transition and offers a multilayered image differentiating regions with an emphasis on either population or nature. This dichotomy structures the proposal for the transitional territorial outline by harmoniously applying a superimposed coastline and a dynamic coastline respectively. Tipping points of flood defence measures assess the physical feasibility of the transition which is mainly constrained by societal limitations. This results in incremental improvements, further increasing transfer costs, path dependency and the difficulty to shift to transitional strategies. Throughout history, only catastrophic floods were leading to transitional flood measures, but transition management is referred to as enabling development of a long-term sustainability perspective, linked to desired societal transitions, to guide accelerated social innovation in the short term. The theory’s transition arena with frontrunners and a transition image is capable of opposing the resistance-giving, established standard and is instrumental for communication, discussion and evolvement of the transition of flood risk management.

For full report please see: New Netherlands