Coming from Australia, this is my experience with water whilst growing up. Well, actually, I lived in a city so my experience was more about browning lawns, water restrictions, short showers and the toilet rule of 'if it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down!'.
As an adult, I now live in the Netherlands, where there is a the completely opposite problem. Too much bloody water!
Saint Elizabeth’s Day Flood, Master of the St Elizabeth Panels, Anonymous, c.1490-c.1495
Historically, the Dutch have disliked their neighbours so much that would prefer to build out into water instead of merging into the neighbouring states. To begin with, polders were built from peat and wood, encircling a space of water which would eventually evaporate (or be pumped, if you were impatient). The resulting land would be incredibly fertile for farming (if you didn't mind the ever constant threat of a permanent bath). This did lead to a period of population growth in the period before 1500, during which time the rest of Europe was suffering population decline.
During the Dutch golden age (1500-1800), population and economic growth encouraged the formation of collectives to build dykes and polders, with the only 'real' requirements being that you were an 'interested party'. This led to the construction of many structures using the old technology of peat and wood.
This next bit was truly a revelation to me, so I will do the serious thing and just quote the guy who knows better!
The prosperity of the Golden Age came to an abrupt end around 1730 with a major disaster: the advent of the naval shipworm. This mollusc, Teredo navalis, thrived in the climate of the Low Countries, and rapidly proliferated. The water republic of the Netherlands found that its very foundations were being literally eaten away. All the wooden structures along the coast, including the breakwaters of the dikes, were attacked and started to crumble. It was seen as divine punishment: God was visiting his wrath on the decadence of the Golden Age
Suffice to say, this round of disasters was the impetus for proper management and construction to begin. New technologies, such as stone and later concrete, were brought to bear. New designs were also created to better deflect and redirect the impact of waves.
Another interesting development was the creation of water boards (hoogheemraadschap) that regulated and maintained the polders, dykes and water defences. These boards were created apart from the regular political system, and have the power to hold elections, levy taxes and are independent of the governmental system. To this date, they are among the oldest examples of a functional democracy.
The last major flood occurred in 1953, led to a more modern evaluation of risks and strategies. As always, disaster prompted innovation, and there was a wave of new water defence designs and technology.
These days, the modern idea of living under the sea level is not too weird (if you don't think too much about it.) Although, when you go to the beach, it is a bit weird to walk uphill.
These days, the longest dike ( Afsluitdijk) in the Netherlands is actually a bit of a tourist attraction. In fact, I would say the Netherlands is best known for this marvel of engineering (right after legalisation of drugs and the red light district).
This is also something worth seeing, the sea looming over a village!
This ends my first entry for the IFC. The topic was water which I tangentially covered. Apologies for the ramble, I wrote this on a train in the dying hours of this round. But I thought it would be nice to give it a try!
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