The Netherlands

Stories of water

The Fleerakkers are a family of farmers and breeders. They live in the province of North Brabant, in the south of the Netherlands, on a polder bordered by a branch of the river Meuse and not far from its North Sea estuary.
Humans & ClimateChange Stories met them for the first time in May 2018, in the midst of a drier-than-usual spring.

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Originally from Ramsdonk, the nearest town, Yvonne Broekmans is the daughter of a village farmer who, to expand his farm, moved it to the polder. After her studies, Yvonne took over her parents' farm and married Stan, whom she helps with the day-to-day livestock duties.

Stan :
The father
Yvonne : 
The mother
Niek : 
Stan's son

Stan Fleerakkers, 47, runs a farm of about 110 cows and 80 ha on the Overdiepse polder. He mostly grows grass and corn. In the early 2000s, he was told by Dutch government officials  that, should the Meuse overflow, the polder would be part of the first areas to be voluntarily flooded.

Niek, 16, is the eldest of Stan and Yvonne's three children. A high school student, he does not know what his job will be, but he does not want to take over the family business. He wants to travel and likes football. Floods do not scare him: "the Netherlands is not a country of natural disasters".

The Netherlands

Population: 17,1 millions 

Capital: Amsterdam (850 000)

Head of Government: Mark Rutte

Head of State: King Willem -Alexander

A quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level. The Dutch polders, artificial land gained on water since the end of the 16th century, now represent more than 17% of the country’s surface, with dikes up to 12 m high.

 

The University of Utrecht forecasts that the sea level will rise by 1.3 m on the Dutch coastline by 2100 due to climate change. Extreme weather events (heavy rains, hailstorms ...) are also expected to become more frequent. The Dutch were traumatized by the memory of the deadly floods of 1953, when the North Sea swamped Zealand to engulf 5% of the country and caused 1,800 casualties. Between 1957 and 1986, the Netherlands undertook a "Delta Plan" of immense public works, mainly to protect itself from the storms coming from the sea.

 

But climate change now raises other questions. Due to the rising sea level, large rivers (Rhine, Meuse, Scheldt ...) that cross the south of this flat country struggle to reach the coast. The flood risk now comes from the inside, all the more since the fluvial waters are swollen by more intense rainfall. 9 million Dutch people - more than half the population - now live in flood-prone areas, where 70% of the economy is also concentrated.

 

The Netherlands has its share of responsibility for climate change: every Dutch person emits almost 10 tons of greenhouse gases per year, one and a half time more than the European average. But pollution linked to a gigantic petrochemical sector and very intensive agriculture lead citizens to react. In June 2015, following an action brought by the environmental NGO Urgenda, the Dutch court ordered the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country by at least 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. This decision was upheld on appeal in October 2018.

Area

41 543 km2

Density 

414 hab/km²

Pop growth

 0,6 % (2017)

HDI (2017)

0,931 (11/186)

PPP 

52 941 USD

GDP growth/year

3,2% (2017)

49% non affiliated

7% muslims

Agriculture

1,9%

Industry

24,4%

Services

73,7%

24% catholics

16% protestants

Read the story and meet

Stan, Yvonne and Niek

Humans climate change stories netherland
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© 2016 / Samuel Turpin

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