Unsustainable Urban Delta

Read in Het Parool of 15 April 2016:


Last week they forced me to move to another lecture hall at the University of Amsterdam. They told me the Dutch prime-minister Mr. Rutte was expected to come. He would give a lecture on ‘How the Netherlands is functioning’, and he needed my room. So I asked my students to move to the next hall and listen to my lecture on Global Cities over there. Afterwards I was wondering what Mr. Rutte had told his audience. In the newspaper next day I read that he had been speaking of the Netherlands in terms of a smart, innovative country we should be proud of. We’re one of the best in the world! Very stimulating indeed. But then he made a mistake. “It’s not a problem at all that the Netherlands lack megacities,” he lectured. See our country as one big colaborating city. When Amsterdam goes on a trade mission and sees opportunities for food or agriculture, the mayor invites the rector of the Wageningen University to join him. Then you could say: Wageningen is not Amsterdam. But on a world scale, Amsterdam is Wageningen-West.” Very funny. Mr. Rutte better had joined my students and learn more about Global Cities. (Photo: Mats van Soolingen)

Are the Netherlands one big collaborating city? Surely not. If the country is conceived as one big city, it would be one of the most polluted and least sustainable cities in the world. The ecological footprint of the Netherlands is one of the heaviest. If everyone were to adopt the Dutch lifestyle, the planet’s natural resources would be exhausted by 2030. But that’s no problem to our prime-minister. The same day he made his bold statement at the University of Amsterdam, he also launched the ‘Sustainable Urban Delta’-campaign at the Innovation Expo on the banks of the river IJ. Can you believe it? In terms of global hectares, the Dutch footprint measures 6.34 gha. This is twice the size of the Brazilian footprint and six times the size of the Indian ecological footprint. For the earth to support itself, scientists estimate that an ecological footprint of 1.8 gha is permissible. More than twenty years ago researchers reported that the Netherlands required a land mass fifteen times its current size to support of Dutch consumption levels of food and resources. So shame on us. Our prime-minister should aim for one big megacity of 17 million inhabitants, to begin with doubling the size of Amsterdam. That would make a difference, also in terms of innovation. But he will not. He’s only focused on boosting the economy, summoning his subjects to collaborate, without comprehending that megacities are true economic engines ànd far more sustainable than a conurbation of many small cities and villages. How sad.






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