The river Waal at Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The original river is to the left, which was a bottleneck and extra dangerous due to the curve. This problem has been resolved by a bypass (right), which has made part of the old dike into an island. In this way the river got more space and flood risks are reduced.
The New York Times Magazine has a beautiful article on a Dutch water manager, Henk Ovink. He enrolled with Shaun Donovan, the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, serving in the cabinet of President Barack Obama to make the USA fit for the next Sandy.
The Dutch approach to water management is very different and looks for inexpensive regional collaborative solutions. Whereas the Americans prefer expensive local isolated solutions, because solutions that would help everyone would be "socialist".
I do not know about socialism, but the American solution sure reminds one of the relative suffering mechanism, I recently proposed to understand the climate "debate" in the post: "Do climate dissenters like climate change?"
Relative suffering is an evolutionary mechanism where you do not optimize your own absolute fitness, but rather how well you and your kin are doing relative to outsiders. It can be an evolutionary stable strategy suffer more yourself, as long as others suffer more.
Some excerpts from the article.
The funniest quote is:
Beyond that, Ovink feared that politics might undermine any chance to encourage new thinking about water management. “When I mentioned climate change to one official,” he said, “she almost hit me.”The irrational response to climate change of some Americans is really unbelievable. Is there a smiley for someone shacking his head?
For all the unexpected support Ovink and his ideas have received, some observers still maintain skepticism about how much change can be effected here, and how fast. “When I heard about Room for the River, and that Dutch farmers said, ‘O.K., we’ll allow our fields to be flooded in order to protect the city,’ I thought, you’re going to have a harder time with that kind of thing in the U.S.,” said Armando Carbonell, a senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. (My link)I wonder whether Carbonell realises that the farmer will naturally be compensated for his "socialist" behaviour. In that case the behaviour would be economically rational as it would maximise wealth. Sounds like being a good capitalist is socialist in the USA.