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."
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.
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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.
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