BRAINSTORM #3 : A BIG SUCCESS!
Overview Brainstorm Meeting at the Newport VOR Race Village, May 16th 2018
Moderated by Dutch Wavemakers Bo Schreur, Steye Verhoeve and Rick Jendrusch. Devised by Dutch Wavemaker Tilly Stroo, organized by Dutch Wavemaker Egbertha Schuiling and Jentse Hoekstra of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Introduction on who and what Dutch Wavemakers are
‘Working together in the fields of water & engineering is more crucial than ever’
Prime Minister Mark Rutte emphasized this during his speech at the opening of the Amsterdam International Water Week in 2017.
Who are the Dutch Wavemakers?
Dutch Wavemakers is an initiative of the Dutch non-profit organization ZSL: Zeeland Sports and Leisure (www.zsl.nu).
To appreciate the value of water, to handle the related risks and opportunities and to work towards a sustainable future, it is crucial to recognize the (potential) impact of water on our daily lives. The Dutch Wavemakers have a mission to increase water awareness around the world and to initiate a conversation about Human Capital. We need excellent water-related education to inspire a new generation of water professionals that are equipped to address future water challenges. Talented young water athletes and bright students have united to be Dutch Wavemakers, eager to spread this message by means of hands-on education and engaging discussion with involved stakeholders. Their mission is supported by the Dutch government through a partnership with the ‘Topsector Water’ Human Capital Agenda, which is coordinated by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Dutch Wavemakers work on three goals:
To enlarge the water awareness among children and their (grand)parents by educating them about the importance of water in our daily life and our relationship with it;
To inform youngsters and students about the impact of climate change and pollution on water management and the innovations and new technologies we need to deal with those challenges. We try to inspire them to choose a water- related (academic) training in order to see well-educated water professionals and technicians enter the water sector in the nearby future;
Our ambassadors are Dutch water students and professional water sportsmen.. They travel around the world for their sport or education and use that as an opportunity to tell the world about the ‘Dutch approach’ to water management, and to spark the dialogue about the importance of Human Capital to deal with the global water challenges.
About the international Brainstorm Meetings
The Brainstorm is a discussion meeting with participants from various organizations. We invite local and regional government authorities, the business community, research institutes, universities and high schools that are engaged in the fields of water, technology/engineering, environment, innovation, spatial planning and environmental management.
After a focus on 'Sufficient water' in Cape Town and 'Clean water' in Hong Kong, the central theme of our session in Newport was ‘Flood protection and resilience'. The challenges of climate change and possible solutions were pointed out briefly, but the discussion focussed on Human Capital. The aim of the meeting was to let the participants explore how water awareness and education can contribute to a resilient Newport area, by formulating answers to questions such as:
What challenges are faced by governmental organisations, private businesses and educational institutes because of climate change?
Are there enough ‘golden hands & clever minds’ to face the (local and global) water challenges in the future?
Is the current education sufficient for future vacancies?
How can you contribute to the influx of well-trained water professionals in the future?
Satisfied and proud we are looking back on our third Brainstorm Meeting in Newport, Rhode Island. Led by Dutch Wavemakers Bo Schreur, Steye Verhoeve and Rick Jendrusch, we discussed the Human Capital challenges from the perspective of the theme of flood risk management. A lively discussion arose between the 30 participants, including representatives of the Dutch Consulate General in New York, professors and students from the universities of Rhode Island and Harvard, researchers at knowledge institutes, companies from the Newport area and The Netherlands, and the Dutch ‘Topsector Water’.
Introduction of the hosts
The Brainstorm was led by three Dutch Wavemakers :
Bo Schreur is a young professional working at one of the offices of RPS group in the Netherlands. Having grown up in and around the water she has a broad interest in anything that has to do with water. She studied Water Management - Aquatic Ecotechnology and is thereby focussing on water quality issues.
Rick Jendrusch is a professional freestyle windsurfer from the Netherlands. He travels around the globe for his sport and he experiences different types of waters. For Rick water is a crucial element in his sport.
Steye Verhoeve is a student Earth Sciences at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. He studies Earth Surface and Water at the department of Physical Geography with a focus on geohazards. With a background in environmental sciences, he has a special interest in the effects of climate change on natural hazards.
Introduction by professionals
Two guest speakers have introduced the themes of Flood Risk Management and Human Capital:
Mr. Grover Fugate is the executive director of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) of the State of Rhode Island. He explained the challenges and possible solutions of Flood Safety along the coast of New England. The CRMC is a special agency with regulatory authorization. Storm surges, sea level rise and erosion are the three treats the agency focuses on. With the use of sophisticated models, they are able to accurately map the effects and damage of those threats in the state of Rhode Island.
Mr. Jentse Hoekstra, policy officer at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, has elaborated on the Dutch approach to flood defense, its water sector and the challenges of Human Capital. Due to the long history of dealing with water, the Dutch have a lot of expertise regarding water governance. After a couple of severe (near) flood events in the 20th century, the government has put its stakes on both large coastal defence works and ‘Room for the river’ programs in order to prevent disasters in the future. ‘Adaptive delta management’ and eco-engineering are the most recent methods to prepare for the effects of climate change. The Ministry aims to maintain resilience and a viable future of the Dutch ‘water top sector’ by 1) increasing public water awareness, 2) improving water education, and 3) improving Human Capital efforts
Summary of Brainstorm Meeting #3 in Newport, May 16th 2018
After the presentation, all attendees were divided into three groups to discuss the four Human Capital questions mentioned in the introduction. In each group people from the private sector, (local) governments and educational/research institutes joined the discussion, led by one of the Dutch Wavemakers.
What challenges are faced by governmental organisations, private businesses and educational institutes as a result from climate change?
Rhode Island will certainly be affected by climate change, as Mr. Fugate showed. The coastal area will increasingly be threatened by sea level rise and erosion. The biggest challenge faced by governmental organisations, private businesses and educational institutes is the awareness about such effects of climate change. "The denial of climate change makes the discussion difficult", as Mr. Fugate pointed out. Education about water at a young age is important to increase the awareness; "it all comes back to education", in the words of Mrs. Bruggink, Economic Officer at the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York. Besides the awareness gap there also is a reluctance to change, since human beings appear to have a short term memory when it comes to such overwhelming challenges: "we did not learn from Katrina, neither from Sandy" said Mr. Fugate. People living along the coast already experience the changes first hand, whereas people living inland remain more reluctant to acknowledge that climate change is a very real and present issue. As said in one of the brainstorm groups there is also the challenge of national pride. International cooperation is as promising as it is necessary to tackle climate change, but the national pride sometimes hampers this cooperation.
Cooperation between organisations is all the more challenging because despite having the same goal, they often disagree on the best way to get there. Such differences need to be overcome, especially since organizations can mutually benefit from each other’s experience and it is crucial to have a shared understanding of the science behind climate change. But those hurdles can be overcome, especially when we exchange ideas and practices among authorities and governments. Mr. Huis in ‘t Veld, chairman of the Dutch ‘Topsector Water’ has experienced first hand that we can and should learn from other countries. He mentioned Kenia’s approach to plastic pollution as an example. “This country is far ahead of us in reducing plastic waste.” He stressed that this also applies to the approach to climate change, and people agreed to his comment that “the water sector can do a lot in climate adaptation and mitigation”.
Historically, the United States are more focused on a responsive approach (rebuilding after a disaster) rather than pro-actively working to prevent the next disaster from occurring. Mr. Fugate underlined that “it is a challenge and a gradual process to change this approach.”
Are there enough 'golden hands and clever minds' to face the global challenges of the future?
Between the three groups there is a varied response to this question.
Why the answer would be 'no': not too long ago there were few professors and teachers that acknowledged climate change, therefore one might question how those teachers can educate the youth about climate change (Mr. Fugate). The kids learn a lot about chemistry, biology and physics, but earth sciences is not one of the subjects being taught. Even when we assume there are enough ‘golden hands’ available, it’s still difficult to get them to work in the water sector. The water sector is not considered as an option for a promising career by the majority of students, so we need to get more (high) school students enthusiastic about water management. There is a special demand for more women in the engineering sector, as well as employees from other technical backgrounds such as IT. An effective way to stimulate ‘green and blue innovation’ and an inspiring buzz is by developing something like a ‘Blue Tech Region’ in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, much like the ‘Centers of Expertise’ and ‘Brainports’ that have emerged in the Netherlands.
Why the answer would tilt to 'yes': in the state of Rhode Island there are some great environment-oriented and green-minded universities (Mr. Tadros, RPS Group). However more environmental education is still needed at lower grades. At the colleges and universities there are enough young people to fill the future vacancies, but without attention to environmental and water awareness at primary schools there will be another gap coming up. Of course there are teachers that already go above and beyond (Mrs. Hopkins, RI Emergency Management Agency), but an coherent educational program is needed to face the global challenges of the future. Fortunately, the State of Rhode Island is small enough to develop a statewide educational program (Mr. Tadros). On a federal level, the US Department of Defense already has a program to engage children with their work, which is a great example of an effective Human Capital effort.
Is the current education enough for future vacancies?
There are actually different kinds of education; the differences between The Netherlands and the United States are quite big and fundamental. Therefore, it would be good to strengthen international coordination on the demands and the level of education.
"As long as we have the URI (University of Rhode Island) and the other universities it will be fine in Rhode Island" (Mrs. Hopkins). The current education should be sufficient, however water awareness is the challenge that remains. "We might need to develop a videogame (e.g. Fortnite) as a playful and engaging way to teach kids about disasters and how to avoid them" (Mr. Manning, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said jokingly).
At present, the growing concern and discussion about climate change does not yet lead to more vacancies in the climate-related sectors. “Hardly anyone is really busy with climate change yet. There is a hard job to do” (Mr. Smitshuysen).
How can YOU make the difference?
At the West Coast of the United States there is more awareness of climate change and its effects compared to the East Coast. A number of authorities and initiatives is already exchanging knowledge within the US, but this could (and should) be extended further. When a disaster strikes, one of the big challenges is the funding. Only when it is federally declared as a disaster, considerable funding can become available. The federal government could have a task here to revise this procedure and thus enable a more pro-active stance toward disaster prevention and the role of the public. Some organisations are already working on awareness and educational programs, but since there is no overarching (federal) policy, it’s difficult to get an overview on all those efforts in the state, let alone the rest of the US (Mrs. Hopkins).
With the current federal government in a general state of denial toward climate change, it is questioned to what extent governmental authorities can make a difference. However numerous parties at the state level are joining forces with federal authorities where they can. An example is the CMRC (Mr. Fugate) which is working together with NOAA. Authorities like drinking water companies can also play their part, for instance by developing and sharing initiatives that stimulate innovation at schools and universities. We shouldn’t underestimate the creativity and ingenuity of students, but rather trigger and direct it towards the water-related challenges.
Let us not forget to start with ourselves. It is very special to live in a beautiful place such as the Newport area; we should not take clean water and invulnerability against flooding for granted. We must find a way to work with the water instead of resisting it. It would be good if we all look critically at our climate footprint and what we can do to reduce it. The government and private companies in particular can take great strides: the government by stimulating a transition through legislation and companies through making conscious, radical choices and being proud of that.
Finally, we should keep in mind the creed “Be good and tell it”. We have a collective mission we can be proud of, so let’s make it more visible. The ‘Save the Bay’ initiative, focussed on improving and protecting the water quality of Narragansett Bay, is a great example of what can be achieved. But it’s not very widely known, so the spin-off in terms of awareness is not as big as it could be. And we all can contribute to the solution, simply by sharing our pride of such ambitions and results. The message is easy: “clean water equals health!”. The same principle goes for the floating solar panels in the Newport marina called ‘Powerdocks’. Those are exemplary of local, scalable and easy-to-implement sustainable development. We should use such tangible initiatives as ‘signboards’ that proof sustainable development is easy, accessible and here to stay.
Q&A with 3 VOR sailors
For the Q&A we were joined by Kyle Langford and Nina Curtis, both crewmembers of Team Brunel in the current edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. Besides Kyle and Nina we had another special guest who was very excited about the Dutch Wavemakers. Gloria Borrego has sailed the ‘93/’94 edition of the Whitbread Around The World race. She still sails the oceans, and works for the Volvo Ocean Race as an application engineer.
The attendees and the Dutch Wavemakers were keen to ask the sailors about their experiences with the effects of climate change and water pollution during their time at sea.
Nina explained that it’s difficult to see the changes clearly when you feel like you are a part of them. Sailors are at sea so often, that they are trained to adjust to changes. All three sailors agree that education about climate change and plastic soup is very important. Being an ambassador for the ocean and educating the children about it is an experience you will never forget; it creates a lot of memories that last forever.
Gloria told us that there was already a lot of plastic in the oceans when she sailed the Whitbread in ‘93/’94. During the crossing of the Atlantic, a piece of plastic got stuck behind the boat’s rudder. Being unable to get rid of it, the rudder broke off completely. Over the years since then, Gloria has seen plastic pollution increasing and mentions once again how crucial water awareness is.
Thanks to all participants
We are grateful to Mr. Fugate and Mr. Hoekstra for introducing the themes of Flood Risk Management and Human Capital. We would also like to thank all participants who joined the discussion in Newport for their remarks and insights on the challenges of climate change and Human Capital. We hope to have inspired you all to continue or increase your efforts on the mission we all share.
The Brainstorm in Newport was the third and last in line. During the finish of the Volvo Ocean Race in The Hague, the Dutch Wavemakers will present the yield of the three Brainstorm Meetings. We are confident that the meetings, covering the three major water themes, will provide a wide range of warnings, ideas and recommendations that can inspire the water community worldwide.
Our website provides brief summaries of the previous Brainstorm Meeting in Cape Town and Hong Kong, please also refer to our Youtube channel for an impression of the educational activities around the ‘mobile waterlab’ that Dutch Wavemakers provide to local schools at the VOR stopovers.
The Hague, 25 May 2018