Banking on Optimism: Why do Some Dutch Delta Engineers Resist the New Water and Soil System Policy?


  • Simon Richter




spatial planning and sea level rise, water en bodem sturend, climate adaptation, meebewegen (accommodate), retreat


Engineers, long accustomed to finding technological solutions for any vulnerable location regardless of water and soil conditions, fear that a new Dutch spatial planning policy that takes the impacts of climate change into account will place limits on the scope of their activity. The concept of Water en Bodem Sturend (WBS), approximately translated in English as “water and soil as governing principles,” is considered a continuation of earlier proposals such as Meebewegen. This ecological and climate-informed policy transition has in fact been in development for at least three decades. Engineers resist the legal anchoring of this policy by downplaying the threat of sea level rise. Anchoring the concept of WBS in law is needed to create a break with technological solutions that are not well adapted and are based on complacency and optimism about sea level rise.

How to Cite

Richter, S. (2024). Banking on Optimism: Why do Some Dutch Delta Engineers Resist the New Water and Soil System Policy?. Blue Papers, 3(1).





challenges, concepts and new approaches

Author Biography

Simon Richter

Simon Richter is professor of German and environmental humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to numerous scholarly publications, he is co-director of the Penn Animation as Research Lab and creator of Project Poldergeist, a series of animated videos about cultural aspects of climate adaptation in the Netherlands and other low-lying region


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