Have you ever imagined living under the sea level? In the Netherlands this is quite common with more than a quarter of the country in low-lying lands.
What about art? Have you ever heard about Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh or Mondriaan? All of them lived in the Netherlands and the museums dedicated to some of these artists attract a lot of visitors from all over the world.
And because museums bring back old memories, let’s talk about history. The Netherlands declared independence from Spain and became a republic in the 16th century. It then started large-scale overseas trade with other nations, but happy times soon ended. A series of wars happened in the 17th and 18th centuries, most of them against England and France. In 1815, after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Netherlands became a monarchy and William I was nominated the king.
Nowadays, the participation of the Netherlands in international negotiations is well known. The country was one of the founder members of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and of the European Economic Community (EEC), which in 1993 was integrated into the European Union (EU).
One of the most populated nations of the world, the Netherlands is both an industrialized country and a large exporter of agricultural products. Nevertheless, revenues of agricultural products only make just over 2% of the total value of products produced in the Netherlands.
Curious about other aspects of the Netherlands? Go to the next tab.
This is one of the oldest flag designs still in use. It was created in the 16th century, during the revolt against Spain for independence. The leader at that time was William I, Prince of Orange, and the flag was called “Prinsenvlag”, which means “Prince flag”. The Dutch tricolour has three horizontal bands: red, white and blue. The first one was originally orange and later was replaced by red. Why? Some people say that over time the orange tended to fade becoming... red. Does it make sense to you?
Topic Details Full name: The Kingdom of the Netherlands Full local name: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden Capital: Amsterdam Nationality: Dutchman / Dutchwoman Size: 110,994 sq km (42,855 sq miles) Population: 16.6 million Language: Dutch and Frisian are the official languages (but Frisian is only spoken in Friesland and in a small part of Groningen, both provinces of the Netherlands) Life expectancy: 78 years (men), 82 years (women) Major religions: Christianity 50%, Islam 6% Urban population: 82% of total
Almost 20% of the Netherlands’ area is water and a great part of the country is located in low-lying lands. Guess what is their biggest environmental challenge? Flooding. The efforts to avoid it started in medieval times and today the country is protected by an extensive system of dykes and dams. Water pollution is another concern and results from industrial and agricultural waste.
The list of challenges also goes beyond water. Air pollution in the Netherlands is a big problem and since the 1980s the government is trying to reduce it without harming the economy.
Is there anything that you can do to help?
Dutch music is heavily influenced by British and American trends. The most popular style is the Nederpop, with lyrics in Dutch and English. It took the place of folk, which made a huge success in the early 19thcentury and returned to the music scenario in the 1970s – but for a short time. Nederpop quickly emerged becoming the number 1 preference in the country.
This does not mean that the traditional Dutch music disappeared. Known as “levenslied” or “life song”, it still has some space. The traditional style is very sentimental, with simple melodies and lyrics about love and loneliness. Originally it was played only with accordions and organ, but in recent years some artists incorporated guitars and synthesisers giving it a modern touch.
Do you want to meet some of the Dutch bands and enjoy a little bit of Nederpop? http://www.last.fm/tag/nederpop
The influence of the French cuisine was really strong in the Netherlands and dominated the menu for a long time. It just changed in the beginning of the 19th century, when most of the people became really poor. There was no money to afford expensive ingredients and young women were trained to cook cheap and simple meals.
In the 1970s, wholegrain bread became part of the diet, as white bread was considered a luxury. Not much has changed since then.
Today you can’t really tell the difference between a Dutch breakfast and lunch. Both have a variety of cold meats, cheese and some sweet toppings like hagelslag, which is made of chocolate. Dutch cheese is one the most delicious of the world.
The Netherlands is a safe country to live in, particularly in small towns. Students can safely cycle to school and they do this often and over pretty long distances. Some students cycle 15 km to and form school. Luckily the Netherlands is a pretty flat country, so cycling uphill is not necessary (except for in some of the most southern parts of the country).
The capital Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities of the world. There are more bikes than people there – around 1 million for 750,000 citizens. What is the secret for such popularity? Bike paths and racks everywhere!
People in the Netherlands are also very keen to protect the environment. There are a lot of green programs offered by the government and NGOs. To encourage recycling, for example, you can find more than 20.
As in other developed countries, most of the people have access to cable TV and internet.
Compulsory education starts at age 5, but in practice most children begin schooling at age 4. Compulsory attendance is reduced to part-time from age 16 to 18. There are public, religious and private schools, the first two are free of charge. Higher education is heavily subsidized in the Netherlands, making attendance affordable for much of the population.
Events and national holidays
The Netherlands wants to become ‘one of the cleanest and most efficient energy countries in the world’. Under this motto, the Dutch government is putting in place a series of green initiatives and targets. Let’s talk about some of them!
EU Climate Package
In 2009, the European Union adopted a wide-ranging climate package. It’s the 20-20-20 targets, with three goals to be achieved by 2020:
- 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, compared with the amount emitted in 1990.
- 20% of energy consumption must come from renewable sources. This target was redistributed among EU members and Netherlands’s goal is 14%.
- 20% cut in energy consumption. Within this target, 10% of transport fuels must come from renewables, such as biofuels.
The EU offered to increase the cut of emissions to 30%, if other major polluters adopt similar efforts. But the Netherlands decided not to wait and already increased its national target to 30%.
To know more about EU initiatives, access http://ec.europa.eu/environment/
Clean and Efficient: New energy for climate policy
As proof of commitment, the Dutch government launched in 2007 the ‘Clean and Efficient: New energy for climate policy’ programme. It is a package of measures to help the country achieve EU and national targets. It includes innovation, subsidies, climate diplomacy, and encourages private companies to develop clean and efficient technologies. The programme also reinforces the targets of the EU Climate Package.
You can find out more about Dutch initiatives at the website of the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment – http://international.vrom.nl/pagina.html?id=37361
The Kyoto Protocol, created in 1997, requires developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5%, based on 1990 levels, between 2008 and 2012. When the European Union signed it, the targets were redistributed among its members. According to the Dutch government, the country is on track to meet its obligation – a 6% reduction, however, half of this reduction will be met by buying emission rights abroad. Want to learn more? Take a look at the Dutch version of the Learning Resources.
Delta Works of the Future
As important as reducing carbon emissions is to prepare the country to the effects of climate change. In the Netherlands, where more than a quarter of the land is under the sea level, this is particularly crucial. To ensure that the country is a safe place to live with sufficient supply of fresh water, the government created the Delta Programme, which is now being amplified.
Five goals are being written and will be submitted to the government before 2015. They will include a number of water-related issues, such as water defences, distribution of fresh water, and water level. Together, these measures will form the ‘Delta Works of the Future’ to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change.
But there is no time to waste and, while they are being written, other measures are already in place. Every six years, the safety of dykes and dams are assessed; and the construction of new buildings in areas with flood risk goes through a careful analysis to avoid problems in the future.
Find out more details about the Delta Programme at http://www.deltacommissaris.nl/english/
And if you are interested in reading some analyses, have a look at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency website - http://www.pbl.nl/en
UN debuts website for tracking climate aid
The Netherlands-hosted website, titled FastStartFinance.org, was unveiled at a meeting of around 45 nations in Geneva where environment ministers are discussing climate funding proposals.
The Guardian (3 September 2010)
Netherlands is the 8th best country to live in the world
The Netherlands is the 8th best country in the world to live, according to the top 100 ranking of the American magazine Newsweek.
Dutch Daily News (19 August 2010)
Multinationals attach to climate
Dutch multinationals attach increasing importance to reducing their CO2 emissions and know their impact on climate will actually reduce. This is shown Monday from an annual survey commissioned by the Carbon Disclosure Project among the 500 largest international companies.
Fair Devil (20 September 2010)
Large municipalities with green councilors most climate-proof
Precisely at the municipal level, the effects of climate change are felt. NWO researchers at the University of Twente discovered that the size of the community and the political color of the alderman is most decisive for a strong climate policy.
NWO (21 September 2010)
Saving energy saves disasters there
"Climate change is disastrous for poor people in developing countries. Especially they are hard hit by increasingly extreme weather. Global warming leads to rising sea levels, flooding rivers or even periods of drought, famine and water shortages. Especially the Western countries cause these adverse effects with their high energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, "said Eco Matser.
Metro (23 September 2010)
Last Updated (Thursday, 20 October 2011 13:03)