Turn Harmful Into Useful – Success Stories: The Netherlands

Turn Harmful Into Useful – Success Stories: The Netherlands

The Netherlands is located on the seaside, below sea level (hence the name), that is why they are prone to the rising levels of the sea. Therefore, swimming is very important to them. Because they have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario when the sea floods the country. This country has proven to be successful in fulfilling many SDGs, especially in innovation and remaining sustainable at all costs. Why is it so? They are a small country, even though they have an abundance of history. They started to develop quickly when discoveries began around the globe. We know Spanish and Portuguese sailors had started to navigate the seas. Before the 16th century, these areas were under the control of multiple countries. They were called Low Countries and were under French (later on, Habsburg), Spanish and the Holy Roman Empire control. They were unified by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and the king of Spain, under the name Seventeen Provinces. In 1568, a ferocious Eighty Year War began between the Provinces and the Spanish king. These provinces were mostly Protestant, while Spaniards were Catholic. The Duke of Alba struggled a lot to suppress the Protestants and he killed many of them with extreme ruthlessness. He managed to capture Haarlem, but after a long battle with them, which cut Holland in half. The Duke promised that if they surrender, the city could remain on the earth. In 1576, Spanish soldiers attacked Antwerp and executed a ruthless massacre there, and the city was torched. After that, delegates of Brabant, Holland and Zeeland agreed to join Utrecht and William the Silent. The Dutch sought help from the English Queen at that time, but she committed to the Spanish fleet. In 1578, a Battle of Gembloux killed many rebels and therefore, the southern states seceded the Seventeen Provinces and formed the Union of Arras and expressed loyalty to the Spanish throne. Opposing them, the north formed the Union of Utrecht in 1579, they swore to defend against the Spanish army. The Spanish troops captured Maastricht and it forced the north to rebel further. In 1581, the North deposed the Spanish monarch with the Act of Abjuration and since then, Elisabeth I stood at the side of the Protestants. Following their independence, the northern provinces formed a confederation. Their capital was The Hague. These provinces were autonomous and their generals were sent to the capital for the assembly. Yes, it was a parliamentary democracy. In the Dutch Golden Age, spanning much over the 17th century, this country became a seafaring powerhouse. Besides that, they invested heavily in trading and arts. We all know the baroque painters of the Netherlands, like Rembrandt and Jan Vermeer van Delft. At this time, they started to colonize some parts of the world and opened trading posts. They had no purpose to subjugate their colonies, they were for trading purposes. Their most significant colonies were Suriname (Guyana had proven to be very fertile), Cape Colony and Dutch East Indies (which is now called Indonesia). Let us not forget that New York was founded by the Dutch as New Amsterdam. As I have mentioned earlier, they had a post in Dejima, in Japan to maintain trade. Their ambitions paid off: they had one of the largest empires in the world. They imported a variety of new products to Europe: tulips, silk and textiles. The latter two were from India. Amsterdam was the richest port in the world and the first stock exchange was placed into operation. Therefore it is said that Holland was the first capitalist country in the world. Unfortunately, the glory only lasted till 1688, when the price of tulips significantly dropped. They were at war with the French and the German bishoprics, which exhausted their treasury. However, they could maintain their position on the sea, and they could build defence lines on the water by constructing artificial islands and trapping attacking ships. These water lines were a challenge for engineers: they had to know what was the ideal depth so that only a man could swim through them, but boats could not pass through them. Swimming in the 18th century was a privilege. Yes, the Dutch have a long tradition of swimming. It is not by accident why they are excellent in water sports. Just think of Femke Heemskerk, Inge Dekker and Pieter van den Hoogenband. Needless to say, they are excellent in water polo, especially women. Why is it so? Because originally players used to be swimmers. In water polo, you cannot be a good player if you cannot move in the water well enough. In the Netherlands, all children must get a certificate before going to a primary school that they can swim in difficult conditions.

Let’s turn back to their discoveries and their colonies. As I said earlier, they were establishing colonies to enhance trade. They played a prominent role in innovation as well, since they introduced drinking beer at their colonies and eating chocolate around the world. The Dutch taught the inhabitants of Bali to drink beer. They started to export beer roughly at this time and they become one of the largest beer-exporters in the world. Everyone knows Heineken. They own many brands around the world. Going on with discoveries, let me mention Abel Tasman, who was employed by the Dutch East-India Company and he was relocated to Batavia (now Jakarta). In 1642, he reached the southern coast of Australia, and the western coast of Van Diemen’s Land after Anthony van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. In 1856, it was renamed Tasmania, in honour of the first European discoverer. Originally, Abel intended to sail northwards, but the currents were unfavourable, so he steered east. One month after reaching Tasmania, he arrived at the South Island of New Zealand. It was named after the Dutch province of Zeeland, three years after Tasman arrived there. The Netherlands was responsible for discovering the southern parts of the Pacific. Besides that, to enhance trade they invested a lot in development and built the main roads of the Dutch East Indies. Their most significant infrastructural development was the Great Post Road, or De Groote Postweg to enhance transportation and the postal service. Besides that, they built many European-style buildings, most of which preserved their original purposes.

As I mentioned earlier, the Netherlands is a success story in quality education, but their success does not end with the ship traps they installed to defend themselves. At a Dutch school, students are not stressed. Some schools cooperate with the children, listening to what they really want at school. For example, what children want in the playground. They go there, so they decide what they want to use. They introduced various new methods to teaching, for example, teachers are required to act as students at times to enhance compliance. In Hungary, people would be really confused—how does it happen that a child is not disrespectful to the teachers? For sure, if such things take place, teachers have the right to bring children back to reality. Their success does not end here in quality education. They built their industry near their ports (like Rotterdam) to save time and costs of transportation because they lack in raw materials. Furthermore, their education is open to the world. The country is open to the world. There are no fences in front of the houses, no dark curtains are draping their windows. Because they have to be so if they want to become a trading superpower. Besides that, they are a success story of Gender Equality. In the 20th century, all of their rulers were females (Queen Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix). Because a woman will require you to comply, whether you like it or not. While they were on the throne, the Kingdom of the Netherlands loosened colonial policies and opened the gates for the locals as well.

How did they manage to sustain themselves, even though they are below sea-level? They are prone to the effects of climate change and global warming. The Netherlands has an abundance of plains, so the terrain is perfect for cycling. They built safe cycle paths and they have the right of way if they cross the road. You can exceed the speed limit, but there is no use to do that. Many people go to work by bike. Therefore in the countryside, they can reach zero emissions. Therefore the air is clean. They can produce clean and renewable energy by using windmills and wind power. Therefore, recycling is also an important thing to learn from the Netherlands. Turn harmful into useful by reusing them for the community. Just recently, they opened a cycle path made of the plastic collected from the countryside. We all know how dangerous plastic waste is and why it enhances flood risk. They say that it can be three times as durable as the asphalt. Besides that, it is easy to transport and install, and it is very easy to fit in sensors and pipes. The Netherlands has quite a wet climate, and this road is designed to drain off rainwater. Further developments include installing the same in Giethoorn and in the cycling capital, Rotterdam. They turned harmful into useful.

Furthermore, they know that a potential source of plastic waste is the supermarkets. They opened a plastic-free aisle in Amsterdam, in an Ekoplaza, which is a supermarket chain. They opened more than 70 similar aisles in the same year in their branches. What does it mean? We can live without plastic if we really want to. Moreover, these aisles are a testbed for compostable bio-materials (glass, metal, cardboard). This idea had proven to be popular and now Great Britain is thinking about introducing one. What does it mean? If you are so prone to climate change and the rising sea levels, turn them on your side and stop flooding by eliminating the root causes of them.

The Netherlands is a success story itself, including building peace and partnerships as well. They are founding members of the EU (1957) and most importantly, AIESEC. Yes, the organization used to be headquartered in Rotterdam. The one which I am a proud alumnus of, and a proud member of for three years. Without the Netherlands, there would not be peace in Europe and the European Union would not function at all.

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Understanding Sustainability

Understanding Sustainability

Sustainability is a word that is becoming increasingly common around the table. But, like the word “synergy,” if we don’t want it to lose its meaning in the next decade, we need to understand what it means precisely.

Here’s the condensed version, sustainability means that a successful project can reproduce continuously without any fundamental changes. Looking at the root of the word, we find the word “sustain,” which means to maintain or reproduce at the same level. With just these two pieces of information, we can reframe an ambiguous “desire for sustainability” with something more actionable. For example:

What am I doing today that ensures that my project continues long after I’m gone? In my opinion, that’s a question worth asking.

Drafted by Julian Legrand

Where Can You Breathe In Clean Air?

Where Can You Breathe In Clean Air?

As a passionate traveller, I’ve always intended to go to places where I can see different things and explore different cultures. It was only after visiting cities with excessive amounts of pollution that I’ve added some more points to consider before choosing my next destination. One of them is the cleanliness of the air.

After hearing about pollution red alerts in Beijing(1), I started wondering if there was a report that ranked and named the countries or cities with the best/worst air quality. I came across a video (embedded below) which states that Sweden and Denmark, as well as cities like Singapore and San Francisco, are the best options to consider if air quality is on your priority list.

What is the air like in your hometown?

If you are choosing your next travel or work destination, take a look at the video below:

Drafted by Petra Cvetanovic

(1) https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/08/world/asia/beijing-pollution-red-alert.html


What If?

What if your commute created meals, energy, & new job security? As AIESECers, we learn to see the world differently, for what it could be. In which spaces are you asking “What if…?”

Drafted by Chris Gassman



Rush Hour

Wake up, have breakfast, get ready, spend two hours to reach your workplace, work nine hours, spend another two hours to reach home. This is the daily routine of people who live in a metropolitan city. Especially if your city is one of the most congested cities in the world (1).

Depending on the city you live in, you can spend three or more hours in traffic every day. Angry, sweaty, unhappy faces surround you. Traffic affects your quality of life and communication with others; it even seeps into your home life. Instead of reading a book or having a picnic with friends, that time is spent in traffic. Even writing about this chaos gives me goosebumps.

The population in most countries is increasing, and migration from small to big cities is also increasing. Unfortunately, metropolitan cities don’t have the infrastructure to integrate such significant numbers of people.

We can place some hope in new solutions for transportation (2). In 10-15 years, hopefully, we’ll have completely different ways to reach our destinations. Some of these new ideas include the Skytrain, Scarab and Velocity. Secretly, I’m still waiting for the flying cars from Back To The Future! What sustainable modes of transport are you interested in?

Written by Oguz Yilmazlar

(1) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/istanbul-revealed-as-the-most-congested-city-in-the-world-10149543.html

(2) http://listverse.com/2014/03/26/10-futuristic-forms-of-transportation-we-could-see-soon/

trafik sıkışık.jpg

We are the Same, but Life is Different

“ There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” (Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela)

Once I decided to choose the topic of “trafficking children,” I started to search for some statistics about the issue. The more I researched, the more I could not help but get shocked.

In China, around 70,000 children are being trafficked yearly for illegal adoption, forced labour and other reasons. China, now, is becoming the biggest market for trafficking children in the world. In contrast, only about 100 children are trafficked in the USA every year.

Some youngsters are lucky enough to be saved, yet less than one-tenth of them are ever able to return to their parents. According to other striking statistics, there are 200,000 missing children worldwide, while just 0.1% of them are lucky enough to be found in the end. Surprisingly, half of the criminals are parents or relatives, and the main reasons for trafficking their offspring are for money or considering sons more advantageous than daughters.

As early as the 1980s, human trafficking was emerging prominently, and most of the targets were children. Although this topic is not breaking news anymore, many nonnatives have no idea about it, nor the Chinese. Alternatively, they have heard something about it but never imagined that trafficking children would take place on such large-scale.

In China, kidnapped children are not for ransoming but selling. Sadly, concerned families who lose their children are often from remote villages seldom having the money or means to find their loved ones. Consequently, looking for their missing children makes them even poorer. Some missing children are illegally sold to foster parents who cannot give birth but still want to carry on their family line. Others are sold to become slave labourers or involuntarily forced into prostitution. Others are even cruelly injured or disabled so that they can beg for money!

When we come into this world, we are equal, but life inevitably brings about inequality in one form or another. You may be in a position to enjoy a peaceful life as you read this article, but some children who are the same age as you, your brother or sister or are the same age as your kids are suffering a hard life.


Written by Valentina Tu

Sustainable Urbanism: Safe, Active, and Accessible Ways of Getting Around.

Urban design is the process of designing and shaping cities, towns and villages, with the goal of making public areas functional, attractive, and sustainable.

Various current movements in urban design seek to create sustainable urban environments with long-lasting structures, buildings with exceptional livability for their inhabitants. Among available options, walkable urbanism is an approach for successfully reducing environmental impacts by altering the constructed environment to create and preserve smart cities which support sustainable transport.

There are three main benefits of walkability:
HEALTH: Walkability indices have been found to correlate with both the body mass index (BMI) and physical activity of local populations. Physical activity can prevent chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression, and osteoporosis.
ENVIRONMENTAL: One of the most significant benefits of walkability is the reduction of the automobile footprint in a community. Carbon emissions decline if more people choose to walk or use public transportation rather than drive. The benefits of fewer emissions include improved health conditions and quality of life, less smog, and less of a contribution to global climate change.
SOCIOECONOMIC: Walkability has also been found to have many economic benefits, including accessibility, cost savings both to individuals and to the public, increased efficiency of land use, increased livability, economic benefits from improved public health, and economic development.

Increasing Walkability:
1. Create sidewalk equivalents where there are “sidewalk gaps,” with priority to areas where walking is encouraged, such as around schools or transit stations. Campaigns such as Atlanta, Georgia’s “Safe Routes to Transit” (SR2T) are providing more reliable access to transit stops for pedestrians. When designing new sidewalks, there are several aspects to consider such as sidewalk width. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that sidewalks be at least five feet wide.
2. Moving obstructions, like sign posts and utility poles, can increase the walkable width of the footpath. Quality maintenance and proper lighting of paths reduces obstacles, improves safety, and encourages walking.
3. Buffers, areas of grass between the street and the sidewalk, also make sidewalks safer. Vegetation from buffers absorbs the carbon dioxide from automobile emissions and assists with water drainage.
4. Improving crosswalk safety also increases walkability. Kerb extensions decrease the boundaries of the corners of the kerb at intersections, calm traffic and reduce the distance pedestrians have to cross. On streets with parking, kerb extensions allow pedestrians to see oncoming traffic better where they otherwise would be forced to walk onto the street to see past parked cars. Striped crosswalks, or zebra crossings, also provide safer crossings because they provide better visibility for both drivers and pedestrians.
5. Monitoring and improving safety in neighbourhoods can make walking a more attractive option. Safety is the foremost concern concerning children when choosing how to get to and from school. Ensuring safer walking areas by keeping paths well-maintained and well-lit can encourage walkability.

People are unlikely to walk or cycle if a neighbourhood feels unpleasant or unsafe, or if distances make it impractical compared to driving. By making a community safe, convenient, accessible, comfortable and refreshing, we can positively affect the health and well-being of citizens of all ages.

Written by Valentina Tu

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkability

Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater!

Unhealthy cities raise sick people. While a city is always the key to city construction, administrators may ignore the people living there leading to the unfulfillment of citizen health requirements. I suggest that citizen health considerations should be integrated into city policies when officials are planning to introduce new ones. Only when people become healthy, the city will be healthy, too!
Let’s take cycling as an example: while streets are becoming wider and wider, cycleways are becoming narrower and narrower. In recent times, bicycle lanes have had to make way for motor vehicles as bicycles have become unwelcome even though they are friendly to the environment. However, in some cities, the situation is the complete opposite like in Copenhagen, Denmark where there is a 200 km long cycle track for 36,000 cyclists. Furthermore, several other European countries are being outfitted with separate electric bicycle lanes. China used to be a giant in the world of cycling. Regretfully, many cities there set out to remove cycle tracks to make way for urban modernization. Sadly, the tracks which remained became neglected remnants from yesteryear. The fact is that bicycles are not an outdated mode of transportation, but a good way to disperse traffic jams and free up time to exercise, especially for white-collar workers.
People around the world have witnessed China’s development since its economic revolution 39 years ago. At the beginning of it, the rate of urbanisation was less than 20%, while in 2015, it rose to 56.1%. However, administrators put the city as the key to city construction, not the people living there. In these concrete jungles, there are no green spaces or badly needed fitness centres. As a result of less exercise, the physical condition of citizens has declined dramatically.
City development should complement scaled expansion with quality-of-life improvements. Not only constructing “hard products” like motorways but also providing “soft services” for people living there. Doing so, we can achieve a balance between city construction and good health and well-being.
Let’s make an impact together to provide three different modes of transport for a healthy city. First, leave space for bicycle tracks; second, provide cars for disabled people and prams for babies to show that the municipality takes care of citizens in need; and, last but not least,  sound environmental policies to showcase a city with good quality air bathed in glorious sunshine.

Written by Valentina Tu