Just moved to my new location from where I will start my return to academia. 

Driving through the northern Netherlands landscape with my housemate from the biodynamic farm, she calls out: ‘the green desert!’ 

I have a soft spot for desert environments, but I had never heard the term Green Desert, and certainly not referred to as a place in the Netherlands; I associate my home country with wetlands and rain. 

My housemate, who hails from this region and studied environmental science before her training as a Gartnerin/ biofarmer, explains to me that the green fields are in fact monoculture fields of English ryegrass. Although chosen for its great ability to set seed and germinate easily, the obvious downside is its reputation as invasive species, outcompeting native plants.

Arriving in Brantgum, noord-oost Friesland.  The land characterized by the ‘low hills’ of the terpen villages, man made mounds in the otherwise low-lying, marine-clay land behind the current dyke. The terp protects the villages when the sea entered the land in the past, creating fertile grounds, the kwelders. The hills are of a different dimension, but running around I begin to detect the subtle topological differences in the landscape. 

The first ‘Terpen’ date from the fourth century B.C. Throughout the history of this coastal landscape new terpen were created, the location of the village mounds were dictated by agricultural potential of the surrounding area. The lowest areas served as pasture lands. 

Contrary to popular belief, this area was not poor, nor isolated, as evidenced by the many archaeological finds of precious metal artifacts, brought into the area from Scandinavia, England and Roman origin. During the Middle Ages, things began to change, building of dykes, and pumping the land dry created a sweet water landscape. 

Arriving in this land in 2021 it seems not much has changed since then, the villages, the fields, resilient features of time-tested agricultural practices. 

Time to expand my knowledge of the Northern coastal landscape, especially around Brantgum, the area that is currently proposed as an addition to the UNESCO Wadden Sea – World Heritage – region, “the largest tidal flats system in the world, where natural processes proceed largely undisturbed. It extends along the coasts of Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.”

Operating from this small town, Brantgum’s population lies around 250 inhabitants,  a small town, bu the closeness to the tidal flats cultivates my awareness of a global connection.

In that sense, I am also more than thrilled with the news that Deb Haaland is confirmed as new secretary of the Interior in the Biden administration. This is good news for the U.S., and I believe will also spark new initiatives and collaborations across the globe to address socio-environmental challenges that humanity is facing. I will start in Brantgum. 

https://www.waddensea-worldheritage.org

https://www.holwerdaanzee.nl/nld/inschrijving-symposium-unesco-biosfeer-waddenkust-geopend/