Zeelandia – Part 0

Zuidwestelijke Delta

Our world is going to change due to sea level rise, change in the natural environment and human activity. It is an uncertain new reality that we are approaching. As a reality there is an increasingly loud call for grand plans. For us that is not the way to go. Our world is too complex to handle with a design. Moreover, our governance is not set up to make big decisions.

Climate change, global warming and associated sea level rise are as topical as they are elusive. Skepticism and inertia are both lurking. In  the multi-year Zeelandia project,  a hypothetical sea level rise of 3 metres is used to investigate the future of the Netherlands, without knowing the (un)probability of this. It is a change with enormous impact and therefore relevant to be able to recognize a gradual change as a fundamental reversal.

How  much the  South Pole has to melt to make the world’s oceans rise by 3 meters. We thought to take a closer look. The answer is shocking. With an average ice pack of 2200 meters, a completely melted continent would cause a global average sea level rise of 58m! If ‘only’ 5% percent of Antarctica’s land ice were to melt, the North Sea would rise to the 3m+NAP  used by the Zeelandia project

As urgency to accelerate research by design Zeelandia wants to make regional planning more accurate, holistic and idealistic. First determine the values and only then take the pencil. It results in a new man-made territory based on coalitions and resilience. Both the scale of the southwest delta and its nature make it fertile ground to overcome contradictions and make new deals

We foresee an increase in the scale of agriculture, a raising energy production, housing and recreational opportunities that grow. The promise of a spatial symbiosis all in combination with the incremental presence of water and natural (re)development of the delta.

Key is the decision to work less on a big plan (as in, again we know it better) but more on prioritizing spatial demands. Raising awareness based on knowledge and imagination,  therefore we put man in the middle and question how he can live, survive in a changing climate and in a world on the run. An anthropocentric approach,  how much contrarian it may sound trying to save the planet. Mankind at the center, not because he is the most relevant as a species, but because he is the most decisive.

In return, we get our certainties back, (water) safety first. And a fundamental, unbiased sense that the future of our territory and its potential is in our hands.

Zeelandia is the result of a collaboration between Studio Hartzema, FeddesOlthof and Witteveen+Bos in the context of Redesigning Deltas (RDD). A research by design project set up by TU Delft, Deltares, WUR and PBL. We see the Southwest Delta as a spatial laboratory. Here  the country  has a pride because made by human hands from the sea and reclaimed. Systematically, choices have been made in the past that have resulted in a landscape that shows itself to be more powerful and resilient every decade. The interplay of dikes, dams, windmills, vast fields and the ever-present threat of the raging sea form an impressive interplay. Our delta is a fantastic laboratory for this. It is where our planning tradition can reinvent itself, on the scale of the region and with stakeholders finding each other. The water forces us, the time is right.