The Green Heart vs The Cities in Sustainability

The beautiful lush landscape of Holland was formed by centuries of land reclamation by the Dutch. The early settlers of Holland were able to reclaim the land from the sea through the use of dykes that rerouted the water from the settled territory. Where the water met the land a dam would be built protecting those within the city from the periodic flooding that would take place. These cities, such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam, would be where the Netherlands economy would grow and eventually lead to more reclamation of land inland. This inland land between the cities is prized by the Dutch and shows off the increased awareness of sustainability and there above land environment. This is contrasted by the increased growth of the cities such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam which have gone about sustainability in a much different way.   

This inland reclaimed land, which is called “The Green Heart” by the Dutch, is treasured by the people as an escape from the densely populated city. Betsky explains how the Dutch “have enshrined the myth of [The Green Heart] in literature, painting, and government policy” showing its cultural importance to the people of Holland (Betsky 24). This beautiful countryside has remained mostly untouched and rural with small cities scattered throughout the heavily cultivated land. Large windmills scatter this land providing clean sources of energy for these small cities such as Delft and Leiden which have areas that have been standing since the medieval ages. This attention to the landscape has provided the Netherlands with an upward trend towards the life on land section in the UN Global Sustainability Report. Although the Netherlands has done well to preserve the natural beauty there has been an increase in commerce with the major cities. 

The cities that lie within The Green Heart have been growing at an exponential rate along with the Netherlands as a whole. This growth has forced infrastructure to be built and therefore land has been claimed from nature and into the hands of man. Highways connecting these small cities with the large damn cities have trampled previously untouched lands. Although there is a price to pay for growth the Dutch have utilized the space immaculately and have largely kept the natural land preserved. Betsky describes how residents could “zoom by one of the basal warehouses” and eventually find themselves “ on a narrow road on which cars have to edge by each other to avoid falling into irrigation ditches (Betsky 24). Recently, The Dutch have spent an extra two billion dollars, according to Betsky, to build an underground railroad with Paris rather than an above ground non sustainable road. These efforts show the delicate balance between growth and sustainability that the Dutch have been mastering since the 1300s. 

The Dutch have also shown their genius use of space within the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Although very different, both cities show the Dutch’s ability to sustainably adapt to the environment and the times around them. The environment has always been a factor for the people of the Netherlands and for the Dam cities creating a sustainable canal system was of the utmost importance.  

Amsterdam, when it was created, was conceived with a ring-like canal system around the main city (Feddes 86). This framework has roots that are still up today and was created with the intent for change in the future. Preparation for the Dutch was necessary due to the constantly shifting conditions of the water. This preparation allowed for sustainable expansion going forward along with extra protection from ocean flooding if needed. Amsterdam would grow rapidly due to the connection to the sea and its ports causing rapid infrastructure expansion. This expansion has had an effect on the sustainability of the city causing dire situations in areas such as the sea. Rapid expansion and capitalism has sacrificed the environment with the UN Global Sustainability Report highlighting the overfishing and water pollution that is going on in the area. 

In Rotterdam, the increased growth has shown its effects on sustainability in other ways. The rapid growth of Rotterdam during the Industrial Revolution caused it to grow into a large urbanized city. The urbanization sacrificed the previously smaller quaint houses in favor of large four story apartment buildings that are much more lucrative for the developers that own these polder homes. Now, Betsky reports that the majority are immigrants crammed in apartments “forced to live in [those] urban structures so different from their homelands”. This example specifically shows the sacrifice growth has had on the good health and well being category of sustainability goals that seems to be synonymous with growth. 

In conclusion, the Dutch have used innovation to their advantage both in growth and sustainability. The Green Heart has shown the accomplishments the Dutch have made with sustainable growth along with the balance between expansion and conservation within the environment. The cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam contrast the sustainable expansion of the Green Heart with the downsides of rapid growth. The cities show where growth interferes with the environment and the wellbeing of the citizens. Although these problems have emerged within the cities, the Netherlands have been known to adapt and overcome. It is evident that the Dutch will learn from the great work done in The Green Heart and come up with a sustainable solution.   


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