How High’s The Water

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As I got on the international train from Brussels to Amsterdam, I knew it would be packed and bursting at the seams with people returning home from their weekend in Belgium. And this day was no different, with people huddling in the space between train cars, struggling to find a spot just to stand and read their magazines in peace.

I’m an international train veteran, so I used my secret methods for getting myself a seat. And as luck would have it, the person sitting next to me was a gentleman heading to the Hague on business. Not just any business… urban planning to deal with rising water levels! Who did he work for, as I surely asked, the government of London!

Fancy Mushrooms at my cousins'.

Amazingly before I knew any of this, we started chatting casually in between his soduku and my final chapters of 4th of July, Asbury Park. He was asking about the train, and what time it actually arrives in the Hague. It eventually evolved in how the city is layed out, and more generally, the ol’ “how the dutch have built the country in unorthodox ways.” We spoke of the taking land from the sea and building below sea level. And it was right around there where he smiled and said “Enjoy while you can, because things will certainly change.” And right there we got into the rising sea levels and the struggle to keep water out; he then explaining what he was doing for the city government of London.

Among the interesting things he pointed out to me, were the cases of London as well as New York City, both of whom are in need of plans to deal with sea levels that are definitely rising. Apparently his work was to address the problem for his city’s context. And I wondered aloud about what New York City could possibly do to protect against water rising up and swallowing its streets.

He wasn’t big in offering me solutions. It was, as he said, the purpose of his meetings in places like the Hague. I asked if he would be heading to New Orleans, he said he very much wanted to:

“That’s really what the future is about… mass movement of people, away from situations where they must leave in order to survive. Cities must all get into planning for it… how and where to move mass amounts of their populations.”

Eventually we got to the Hague and he wished me goodluck with my journalism endeavors.

When I got home I went right to my boat and started taking the water out of it.