Bookshelf

Designed for Dry FeetDesigned for Dry Feet: Flood Protection and Land Reclamation in the Netherlands by Robert Hoeksema '76, Calvin engineering professor, Reston, Va.: American Society of Civil Engineers, 2006, 148 pp.

It is a well-known fact that much of the Netherlands lies below sea level. The very name "Netherlands" literally means "lowlands." What is lesser known is how a country in which 65 percent of the land should be under water at high tide has continued to exist and even flourish for centuries.

A sophisticated collection of dunes, dikes, dams, canals and pumps has supplied flood protection and aided in land reclamation for hundreds of years.

"Although my field is civil engineering with a particular interest in water resources and hydrology, I never really knew the details of what the Dutch had done," Hoeksema said.

After spending a few years researching for an off-campus interim class in the Netherlands to be taught with colleague Henk Aay, Hoeksema determined that writing a book on the subject would be worthwhile.

"Few countries exist in which human activities have exerted a greater influence in shaping the landscape than the Netherlands," Hoeksema writes.

He spent days driving the countryside and talking to Dutch people trying to get a better understanding of the country's amazing accomplishments in flood protection and land reclamation.

"The book simply tells the story of the history of the Dutch to reclaim land from the sea and provide flood protection, without technical details," Hoeksema said. "The Dutch have endured a long history of flooding, and lessons can be learned from what they've done."

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Lessons, in fact, that may have application to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"In 1953, the Dutch suffered a flood that was a turning point in Dutch flood protection efforts," Hoeksema said.

The storm created a surge with water levels on the North Sea higher than ever previously measured. The toll to the land included 500 miles of severely damaged dikes and 770 square miles of land under water. More than 3,000 homes were destroyed, and 1,835 people died.

In response, a group of engineers was called on to make sure that such a flood disaster would never occur again. One of the achievements Hoeksema's book outlines is the Delta Project, which began immediately after the flood and was completed in 1997.

Because of his research involving the Dutch efforts, Hoeksema was recently called on to speak at a conference on the rebuilding of New Orleans. "The 1953 flood was equivalent in Hurricane Katrina in some ways," he said. "People are interested in how the Dutch responded to a disaster on a similar scale."

In fact, Hoeksema's book has been added to the libraries of many offices of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, he said.

While helpful to engineers in some respects, the book is intended for general readership.

"For people who know a little about what the Dutch have done, this is the next level of detail, but not an engineering level of detail," Hoeksema said.

In fact, readers interested in this aspect of Dutch history will also find a listing of places to visit-museums, visitors' centers and viewing locations for sites of interest-and directions for six excursions in the Netherlands that enable travelers to experience some of the unique ways the Dutch have worked to help keep their feet dry.

John Calvin and the Natural WorldJohn Calvin and the Natural World by Davis Young, Calvin geology professor emeritus, Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2007, 260 pp.

This work focuses on a rarely noted side of John Calvin: the theologian as a man appreciative of the details of God's creation, an admirer of those who investigate nature, and a leader who accepted their discoveries and conclusions. Davis Young explores the content of Calvin's scientific outlook by reviewing his views on the structure of the cosmos; the nature of matter and motion; weather; the age, shape, place and history of the Earth; and the behaviors and characteristics of animals, plants, the human body and disease.

Less than Two Dollars a DayLess Than Two Dollars a Day: A Christian View of World Poverty and the Free Market by Kent Van Til '80 MDiv'88, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2007, 161 pp.

In this book, Kent Van Til explores the realities of life in a free-market system, including examples from his own experience in Latin America. He considers how the contemporary capitalist economy guides the distribution of goods around the world, and he examines the inadequacies of this system. Drawing on the ideas of political theorist Michael Walzer and 19th century theologian Abraham Kuyper, Van Til proposes an alternative system of distributive justice.

LBJ's American PromiseLBJ's American Promise: The 1965 Voting Rights Address by Garth Pauley, Calvin communication arts and sciences professor, College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 2007, 180 pp.

Garth Pauley analyzes the content and the context of this historic speech, which has earned praise from the media as the best presidential speech in American history. He begins with an analysis of the path of voting rights in the United States and highlights the failures and limited successes of previous legislation. He situates the speech not only within its immediate context but also within Johnson's ideology and value system. He concludes with an assessment of the effectiveness of the speech.