The Dutch Cure

By: Paul Cox and Stan Cox  Posted on

This is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of “How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe's Path, From the Caribbean to Siberia” by Stan Cox and Paul Cox, published last month by The New Press. The book's ten stories of unnatural disaster include post-Sandy New York and pre-inundation Miami. This passage expands on those stories.   
When danger looms in the United States of America, there’s always one answer close at hand: build a wall. Since well before they came into fashion for border control, concrete and earth have been piled along almost every coast and waterway to keep floods and storms at bay. Even in the decade following Hurricane Katrina—as obvious a case of this strategy’s failure as one could ask for—official attention focused on reinforcing the levees around New Orleans and the Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of a 1.8-mile-long storm surge barrier. But after 2005, with the nation’s attention riveted on Louisiana, planners also needed to show something fresher than the same old fortifications. So they called in the Dutch.

The engineers who flocked from the Netherlands to New Orleans were soon taking calls from other American cities—notably New York and Miami, the latter widely expected to end up as "the Atlantis of the Americas." We were told by Harold Wanless, a geology professor at the University of Miami, “The Dutch are here to help everybody so they can make money to build and maintain their own structures so they can survive themselves. It’s sort of like the old Dutch East India Company.”

… If we can float cities to safety, can we float farms, grasslands, and forests to safety too? If we can engineer ways to protect ourselves from the planet, can we engineer ways to protect the planet from ourselves? On the shifting shores of liquid Rotterdam, there’s only one promise: the Dutch are willing to sketch something up.