Rising sea levels are an unchanging reality that has been coming into greater focus more and more in recent years. The reactions of various countries have ranged from flat denial to frustratingly sluggish reactions. In the midst of this, leading the way are the efforts of countries like Belgium and the Netherlands.
The latest contribution scientists in the Netherlands have made is the creation of a floating mega island. The impressive land mass includes 87 wood and polystyrene triangular platforms which are secured in place to the ocean floor. Dutch engineers working in this field are perhaps motivated by the urgent reality that currently two-thirds of the country is under sea level.
The engineers’ work, including the development of a prototype for potential new investors, was sponsored by the Maritime Research Institute of Netherlands (MARIN). The first tests where scientists simulated ocean conditions with wind and waves, were performed in July of this year.
A truly eco-friendly option, engineers also envision the islands being powered by only renewable energy resources, from offshore wind farms to floating solar panels. The answer also to overcrowding in cities, engineers hope to one day settle housing, ports, farms, or even parks on the islands, eventually covering an area of up to 3.1 miles (5 kilometers).
Project manager and creator of the concept Olaf Waals said of the significance of the project: “In a time of rising sea levels, overpopulated cities, and an increasing number of activities at sea, raising dikes and spraying of sand may not be the most effective solution. Floating ports and cities are an innovative alternative that fits the Dutch maritime tradition.”
He also expressed his confidence in the ultimate success of the project and added words that pay respect to the strong Dutch maritime tradition: “...[without these new islands,] the Netherlands will have to divert back towards the water.”
The Fate of Pacific Islands: Who’s Next?
In the Pacific Islands, whole islands are disappearing or becoming incredibly eroded. In a 2016 study on a number of islands and island chains in the Pacific, the scientists uncovered irrefutable data about the effects of changing sea levels. The study titled Interactions between sea-level rise and wave exposure on reef island dynamics in the Solomon Islands was the first of its kind to “[scientifically] confirm the numerous anecdotal accounts from across the Pacific of the dramatic impacts of climate change on coastlines and people". It found that five uninhabited islands, used for vegetation or support for fishing activities had all but disappeared under the Pacific Ocean.
Alarming news like this must be heeded with swift action, and thanks to the aggressive agenda of scientists and engineers actively engaged in the field, the future looks brighter, despite the ever-present warnings.