Peter – Dutch Sustainability + Q’s

One of the key elements of sustainably designed villages/cities seems to be accommodating people’s existing habits. Schapper highlighted Almere as a successful sustainable city because it was built near Amsterdam, which allowed people who worked in Amsterdam to move to Almere. Almere also had a population of around 200,000 people. This is in contrast to Nagele, which was built to be a small Dutch utopia (population around 1,000) but ultimately failed because younger generations were pulled towards larger population centers. To be sustainable in the long run, it seems like you need to have a bit of a larger population to keep younger generations in the city.

The Noordoostpolder readings went into a little bit further detail on the polder villages like Nagele and why they failed. According to the reading, the Board of the Wieringermeer – the body in charge of developing the polders – never really supported the development of these villages. The Board wanted field workers to live on farmer’s premises because they worried these villages would become “hotbeds of social unrest.” They were warned by sociologists that field workers would not support the new arrangement because it increased their dependence on their employers; if they were fired, they weren’t only losing a job, but their housing. The Board pushed forward with the plan anyway and the plan failed for the reasons sociologists predicted.

Again, this demonstrates on the need to incorporate people’s existing habits when designing sustainable cities. You cannot create cities that incentivize people to act how you think they should act, but accommodate how they already act.

Another interesting thing I found was the move towards suburbs in the Netherlands in the 1990’s. In the U.S., it seems like we implemented the suburban model in the 1950’s after the post-WWII economic boom and as people had incomes that enabled them to move outside of densely packed cities. But now, there’s a move away from suburbs (which require many cars and roads, and make central public transit hard to implement) towards more “European” mixed use areas which feature walkable/cyclable roads. It seems interesting that the Netherlands has moved in the opposite direction, going from urban mixed use areas to suburban homes that require many cars.

From Schapper’s lectures, I get the impression that Dutch culture has moved from a more community-focused, egalitarian culture (where cities like Nagele are seen as the most desirable outcome) to a more individualistic culture (where suburbs and single family homes are the goal).


  1. Why was the Groeikernenbeleid implemented? How did they force people to move from large cities to small cities? Are there any talks to implement a “Nieuw Groeikernenbeleid” for climate change?
  2. Are there efforts to implement a new investment like the Delta Works?
  3. Do Dutch people think suburban areas are more sustainable in the long run?
  4. Has there actually been a shift in Dutch culture towards more individualism? If so, what effect does that have on Dutch climate change efforts?

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