Of course, dikes are being raised, and rivers given some room to overflow occasionally, but will that be enough? And more importantly: how long will it last? Sea levels have only just started to rise, and it may be going faster than we had initially thought. The big question is: will the Netherlands as we know it survive what’s coming?
In this article, we will hear from various Dutch sea level specialists, whose concerns have thus far largely been confined to discussions in their own circles. Climate researchers and glaciologists have increasing doubts about the stability of the Antarctic ice cap. Instability here may cause a rapid acceleration in sea level rise, which will have major repercussions for the Netherlands, according to experts studying rising sea levels.
In order to keep the seawater at bay, the dikes will need to be raised. As a result, the polders behind them will become relatively deeper, making them more vulnerable and more expensive to maintain. These higher dikes are also a problem in themselves: they prevent natural silting, which means our delta is unable to grow along with the advancing sea.
What kind of country do we want to live in?
The experts share one concern: the Netherlands has no Plan B for a scenario in which sea levels rise faster than we accounted for in the Delta Programme. At the same time, there is no proper public debate about this issue, despite the urgent need for one. Not sometime in the future, but right now – because we need to make some important choices today. Especially if you consider how long it takes to develop and implement plans.
Reducing CO2 emissions and reinforcing dikes is only half the story. The other stark reality is that even these measures combined may prove insufficient in the long term to preserve the low-lying parts of our country.
Reducing CO2 emissions and reinforcing dikes is only half the story. The other stark reality is that even these measures combined may prove insufficient in the long term to preserve the lower-lying parts of our country. The polder model – in its literal rather than political sense – has its limits, some physical and some more subjective. The physical limits are based on hard science: how quickly will sea levels rise – and how much can we actually handle? The subjective limits are a question of taste: what kind of country do we want to live in (while we still have time to decide)?
The underlying story
But before discussing projections for the future, we first need to look at the underlying story. Anyone who has been following sea level research recently will have noticed an increase in ice loss on both Greenland and Antarctica. Satellite observations also show that sea level rise is accelerating globally: in the twentieth century, the average speed worldwide was less than 2 millimetres per year; after the turn of the century it had already reached around 3 millimetres and, in the last decade, it has increased to 4.3 millimetres per year. This acceleration will continue, but it is of course uncertain at what rate.
The prospects for the rest of this century appear increasingly sombre. Where the last IPCC report (2013) was still calculated using decimetres, more and more studies – including from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) – are talking in terms of metres, as a worst-case scenario. This assumes that CO2 emissions and possible processes that accelerate the melting and calving of ice from the edges of the major ice caps will continue unabated. And when you add a statistical margin for bad luck, you reach the absolute worst-case scenario: a rise in sea levels of 292 centimetres by 2100.
This upper limit is almost three times what scientists thought possible just a decade ago. Of course, the most unfavourable scenario is certainly not the most likely. But even one additional metre is a lot of water to deal with. And much more importantly: it will not stop after 2100. On the contrary: man is setting a sea level rise in motion that will influence the surface of our planet for millennia to come. It is already fairly certain that the ice caps in Greenland and West Antarctica cannot be preserved over the long term, nor can almost all of the mountain glaciers. If you factor in the expansion of warming ocean water, the minimum rise in sea level will reach around 10 metres – and that is if we do everything in our power to achieve the Paris climate agreement target of staying well below a global temperature rise of 2 °C, preferably even 1.5 °C.
If we continue to use fossil fuels at the current rate, global warming could even exceed 4 or 5 degrees. In that case, we will be talking about a sea level rise of about 55 metres.
We are clearly failing to achieve that, as confirmed by the latest UNEP Emissions Gap Report which shows a wide gap between promises and actual policy. Globally we are still very close to business-as-usual emissions – meaning the risks are high that we will exceed various tipping points. What does that mean? If we continue to consume fossil fuels at the current rate for the rest of this century, which many countries currently advocate, then the rise in temperature may even exceed 4 or 5 °C, and large parts of East Antarctica will also be placed in the balance. In that case, we will be talking about a sea level rise of some 55 metres. The full increase will take a few thousand years, but in this scenario we will start to feel the squeeze much sooner: 2 metres in this century, a further 5 metres in the century after that – to give just a couple of illustrative figures.
No longer in our own hands
One thing is certain: in the Netherlands we no longer hold our future in our own hands. We are directly dependent on the success or failure of current international climate policy for our continued existence. And because it is very uncertain whether that policy will really achieve results, experts warn that we as a country must have a fully-fledged plan that also considers the possibility that the Netherlands may not make it and that identifies our alternative options.
‘We need to consider a controlled withdrawal over the long term,’ says polar meteorologist Michiel van den Broeke from Utrecht University’s Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU). He emphasises that there are major uncertainties regarding such issues as the ice loss in Antarctica, for example. Although still less than on Greenland, ice loss there has tripled during the last decade. Is that acceleration set to continue?
‘In the long term, we will need to consider a controlled withdrawal,’ says polar meteorologist Michiel van den Broeke.
Van den Broeke is backed up by his Utrecht colleague Roderik van de Wal: ‘The massive effects over the long term are largely being ignored. In the Netherlands, we seem to have the attitude that we will solve the problems by means of adaptation. That’s a misunderstanding.’
Glaciologist and lecturer in climate change Michiel Helsen also calls for a public debate on the issue: ‘Is living below sea level still a responsible option? In the long run, we may not be able to save the west of the Netherlands. It seems sensible to me for society to discuss which parts of the Netherlands we’re prepared to defend, and at what cost.’
Van de Wal: ‘If we continue as we are, we’ll have to give up a large part of the country. We need to discuss the option of moving to Germany, because we’ll eventually reach a point of no return. And within just ten to twenty years, we’ll come to the realisation that we have already passed that point.’
Dealing with uncertainties
Do policymakers and politicians really have enough interest in and knowledge of the long-term consequences of sea level rise? ‘As I see it, the Dutch government is giving little thought to long-term alternatives for coastal policy, apart from sand suppletion and raising the height of dikes,’ says Caroline Katsman, Associate Professor in Physical Oceanography at Delft University of Technology. Katsman previously specialised in sea level research at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), and she is an authority in the Netherlands in the research on the underlying science – in other words, the connected chain of processes that result from a warming climate. Melting ice caps, thermal expansion of ocean water, possible changes in ocean currents and wind patterns: all of these have an influence on sea level development – and all require specialist research.
That also applies to the specific consequences of rising sea levels for the Dutch delta. How will rivers and soft-sediment coasts react? And for how long will we be able to control the situation?
‘When it comes to sea level policy, you need to deal with uncertainties. You cannot simply wait until you know precisely what’s going to happen.’
It is time to hear from Marjolijn Haasnoot. She is a senior researcher on climate and water at the Deltares knowledge institute and an expert in sea level adaptation. She is also the main author of Appendix B of the 2019 Delta Programme report that was published in September. This report includes the first-ever look at the impact of new, global sea level scenarios as applied to the Dutch coast by the KNMI. These new projections suggest that sea levels could rise much faster than was previously thought. How much faster remains uncertain, partly because we do not know how the complex melting processes along the edges of large ice caps will work out. What is certain, says Haasnoot, is that a wait-and-see approach will not be the best strategy. ‘Every measure will require time. And now is the time to think about it and come up with a good plan – so that we can also implement it in time. When it comes to sea level policy, you need to be able to deal with uncertainties. You can’t simply wait until you know exactly what is going to happen. By the time you know for certain, it’s already happening – and what’s more, it could be happening much too fast.’
We need to choose
What would a plan for the Netherlands in 100 to 200 years’ time actually look like? Two years ago, Deltares organised a special ‘sea level hackathon’ to answer the question: what would a much higher sea level mean, and how can we organise the Netherlands if sea levels actually increase faster than we previously thought? The challenge presented by Deltares was serious: three metres in this century and a further five metres in the next. The creative brainstorming produced four main scenarios: two in which we remain where we are, one in which we move in the direction of the North Sea (!) and a fourth in which we do what any sensible land mammal would prefer: pack up and head for higher ground.
As supervisor of the hackathon, Marjolijn Haasnoot cannot of course express a personal preference. But she does say that the current plan is designed based on an increase in sea level of just one metre, and that she expects there to be a tipping point for our current strategy between one and two metres. After that, major transformative interventions will be required, for which they will be developing alternatives. She also makes a very important point: we need to make a decision.
Haasnoot calls the four scenarios ‘adaptation pathways’. If we turn the Netherlands into a fort, we will need to build gigantic dikes, but also, and perhaps more importantly, gigantic pumping stations. This is essential, because at some point we will need to pump all of the water from the Rhine, Meuse, Scheldt and Ems – which by that time will be lower than sea level – over those enormous dikes. The energy costs will be higher – but that is not the only problem, because when the enormous pumping stations pump out the fresh water, the heavier salt water will seep in under the ground. You can get rid of the water, but not the salt, which is disastrous for agriculture in its current form. Instead of a fort, it may make more sense to talk about a semi-porous bath tub.
A third option is the ‘offensive strategy’: building islands in the sea.
The second scenario acknowledges that major changes will be necessary. Dutch agriculture would not survive in its current form with brackish groundwater, so we might just as well simply let the water in and devote plenty of space to the rivers, which would barely be able to drain into the sea unaided in wide estuaries. In the resulting marshy areas, you could build cities on stilts, which would be exciting for futurologists if for no one else.
A third option is the ‘offensive strategy’. Although not discussed during the hackathon, this is an idea that others have suggested: building islands in the sea. Many people reflexively react to challenges by thinking that ‘offense is the best defence’. Haasnoot: ‘That is not necessarily the best idea. Islands can break waves, but they will need to be built higher and also connected to the mainland in order to defend the country from a high sea level rise over the long term. And here again, we will eventually need to pump the rivers from the low delta, leading to saltwater ingress via the subsurface.’
Ruins of abandoned suburbs
That leaves us with the fourth scenario, which is one that no one really wants to talk about: abandoning the current coastline and moving to higher ground. Sinking ever deeper below sea level is not only unsafe, but may also prove to be too expensive. The scientists interviewed feel it is essential to break the taboo on a full and frank discussion of this scenario, because it is better to have a plan in the face of such potentially catastrophic developments in order to limit the damage as much as possible should things get that far. But also to work out the tipping point at which sea levels become catastrophic.
‘The Central Netherlands and Drenthe will become capes in a new coastline,’ he says. ‘It will make sense for people to settle there. But what remains of Dutch territory will be a bit crowded, so many people will have to emigrate.’
Ultimately, it will come down to costs and benefits. Physical geographer Kim Cohen, Associate Professor in Coastal Dynamics, Fluvial Systems and Global Change at Utrecht University, outlines a withdrawal scenario that can start in the 22nd century: ‘The Central Netherlands and Drenthe will become capes in a new coastline,’ he says. ‘It will make sense for people to settle there. But the remaining Dutch territory will be so much more crowded that many people will need to move across the border.’ And what will happen in the evacuated areas? Cohen: ‘New biotopes will develop there, and a lot of mud from the Rhine will collect in the drowned ruins of the abandoned suburbs. Areas with high-rise buildings, like those in the Randstad, will remain behind as islands, possibly inhabited by a limited number of people.’
The key question here is: how can we use these visions of the distant future to determine the consequences for today? What decisions do we need to make? Marjolijn Haasnoot believes that we need to pay far more attention to the expiration date for major infrastructure projects in 2019. How can we make investments that we won’t come to regret later and that will enable us to respond flexibly to any changes that come? ‘In the past, we made decisions about very large infrastructure projects with a service life of 100 or 200 years. If you were to do that now, you would need to take account of a potentially huge sea level rise. An alternative would be to build adaptively, so that you can easily make modifications or expand as necessary.’
‘The speed at which sea levels rise could be the game-changer. If it goes very slowly, we will be able to adapt, but if it all happens really fast, we may run out of time.’
So what is actually the greater concern: the speed of the rise in sea level or the ultimate level that the water reaches? Haasnoot: ‘The speed of the rise may well prove to be the game-changer. If it goes very slowly, we can adapt, but if it all happens really fast, we may run out of time. It’s not only natural systems such as the Wadden Sea and the basins in the south-western delta that will be unable to cope, it will also become difficult for our own adaptation measures.’
What is the future of the Zeeland delta? What are the risks there? Haasnoot: ‘If we continue on the same path, the storm-surge barrier will eventually be permanently closed in order to prevent flooding of the hinterland in Zeeland. The Eastern Scheldt will also become increasingly deep because no sediment will accumulate. We actually have two options: either you close it off completely and live with the consequences, or you say: maybe we should just give it back to nature and focus on other areas to live in.’
So far, we’ve chosen to do both: we are making it safe, and we are keeping the ecological values of tides and transition zones from fresh to saltwater – for example in the Eastern Scheldt estuary. But ‘the question is whether this combination of both will still be possible in the future’, Haasnoot warns.
Giving the sea free reign
All of the experts interviewed agree that the Wadden Sea will be the first to experience the consequences of rising sea levels. Mudflats there are already starting to drown at a relative sea level rise of around 6 millimetres per year. According to the recent report by the Delta Commissioner, the critical drowning boundary could be passed in just 10 to 15 years – starting in the western Wadden Sea. Ironically, this drowning is actually to some extent a consequence of our dikes: they prevent the Wadden Sea from moving further inland, which is the natural reaction of coastal ecosystems to sea level rise.
As sea levels rise, it makes better sense for the sea to be given free reign. Areas of clay with natural vegetation – such as the salt marshes around the Wadden Sea or the Drowned Land of Saeftinghe in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen – can grow faster than mudflats and sandflats if protected from wave erosion.
If you stand on top of the dikes and look carefully, you can already see where the land is higher: the mud flats and salt marshes are above sea level. The same no longer applies to the agricultural lands surrounded by dikes.
It is these kinds of areas that Maarten Kleinhans, Professor of Physical Geography at Utrecht University, also envisages as new ‘exchange polders’: areas where aquaculture and agriculture can alternate, allowing tidal influence and thereby natural sedimentation. In 2019, these once-extensive coastal ecotopes have become marginalised into tiny areas of land that remained outside the dikes almost as an afterthought during the agricultural expansion. But if you stand on those dikes and look carefully, you can already see where the land is higher: the salt marshes are above sea level, unlike the agricultural land within the dikes which is now below sea level. ‘Exchange polders can elicit some furious responses (see the fervent objections to giving up the Hedwigepolder – Ed.), but they need time to silt up and are actually a great place to combine with agricultural innovations.’
But ‘building with nature’ is just one piece of the puzzle. Kleinhans explains that exchange polders are useless along rivers, for example, because of the low concentrations of sediment. And there is nothing they can do now for the lowest-lying areas, ‘because they are already done for, like in Gouda’.
In any case, it remains to be seen whether all of the puzzle pieces will actually form a total solution. This brings us back to sea level projections. ‘We can cope with one metre, or maybe two, using a combination of sand suppletion, dikes and natural silting,’ says Kleinhans. ‘So if governments were to actually abide by the Paris agreement, this is the scenario we’d use. Add to that the direct effects of climate-change and we already have our hands full in the Netherlands. But if we continue on the current track, it’s a completely unrealistic idea. I totally agree with the projection that, if the sea level rises by more than one and a half or two metres, we’re not going to make it with this country. We can spray sand onto the beach to protect the Randstad, but that would be ignoring the salt water ingress under the dunes, the low-lying peat areas, the importance of ecosystems for our own food supply, and above all: the fact that the sea doesn’t stop at the Dutch border! Rising sea levels will impede the outflow of rivers, resulting in high river-water levels as far inland as the border with Germany, and sand suppletion in the port of Rotterdam wouldn’t be very useful at that point, to cite just one example.’
‘In extreme scenarios, sea level rise could reach 60 millimetres per year by the end of the century. In that case, you would need a hopper continually depositing sand every 30 kilometres along the coast.’
We also face another problem: there isn’t an infinite supply of sediment; neither in the rivers, nor along the coast. In order to prevent beach erosion, we already need to dredge sediment from the bottom of the North Sea. If sea levels rise by 60 millimetres per year, which could happen this century according to the really high-risk scenarios, you would have to consider 12 mega-suppletions every year. So far, we have only carried out a single suppletion: the Sand Motor, near The Hague, and that was eight years ago. If the sea level rise accelerates significantly, the scale of sand suppletion needed would create an enormous number of uncertainties, according to Haasnoot. Will the sand spread quickly enough, for example? She also cites the impact on the ecology (life on the seabed) and on tourism. ‘In extreme scenarios, the sea level rise could reach 60 millimetres per year by the end of the century. In that case, you would need a hopper continually depositing sand every 30 kilometres along the coast.’
Tourism, it is of course a relatively negligible concern when your country is already drowning. On the other hand: what else would we have to drive our economy? Together with the south-western delta, Rotterdam, our most important driver for trade, will be one of the first places to face a major problem. That, combined with the literal evaporation of the peat polders in the Netherlands’ Green Heart (peat oxidises as a result of drainage, causing the polders to sink deeper every year) and ever-increasing salt water ingress via groundwater and rivers, threaten to bring an end to classic Dutch agriculture – an industry worth billions of euros. The gas reserves previously used to fund expensive Delta Works and social provisions are almost exhausted. If you also account for the billions we will need to spend on adaptation, the Netherlands will become a developing country. Eventually we will reach our limits.
An accountant’s reality
By now, we can reduce the four scenarios from the Deltares hackathon to two basic options: staying (Plan A) and controlled withdrawal (Plan B).
These are the stark choices we face from an accountant’s perspective. But if you look more closely, the differences between Plan A and Plan B are not so clearly defined. You can probably think of the simplest example yourself: dikes not only need to be higher, they also have to be considerably wider – and there simply isn’t enough space to do that everywhere. Just try discussing that with a yellow vest protester whose house is in the way.
The dikes themselves also present a major dilemma. Where they were once our guarantee of a carefree life, physical geographers argue that they are now increasingly causing us grief. Even if we decide for Plan A, there will need to be some local withdrawal in order to create space for the natural silting that is essential for a future-proof coastline. Physical geographer Kim Cohen: ‘In Plan A, the cheapest option is to work with nature.’ This will require us to break through some of the primary dikes and then fall back on the older, in-depth defences using multiple dike concepts such as the sleeper, guardian and dreamer (different levels of backup dikes), and even terp mounds in some places, says Kleinhans.
German as compulsory second language
Once we begin calculating sea level rises in terms of metres, we will slip somewhere from Plan A towards the as-yet-unformulated Plan B. Cohen: ‘That would take you to a scenario that trades Randstad Holland for Zandstad Veluwe (with the hub of the economy moving to the eastern Netherlands), or one in which we simply become a state of the Federal Republic of Germany.
This leaves the following two big questions: should you plan for such a withdrawal? And, if so, how can we achieve it with as little pain as possible?’ Cohen gives practical examples of how the Netherlands could prepare to abandon the western megalopolis of the Randstad. For example, you may need to allow fifty years to gradually phase out the mortgage costs on private property in the areas to be abandoned. And we would need to make German a compulsory second language at secondary school.
‘If everything ends up underwater, our agriculture and economy will suffer and you would be better off building a life further east, rather than sticking your head in the sand here.’
Kleinhans says: ‘The likelihood of our grandchildren remaining dry here is far too low if we continue as we are. And if everything ends up underwater, our agriculture and economy will suffer and you would be better off building a life further east rather than sticking your head in the sand here.’
In the book The Collapse of Western Civilisation, American science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway outlined the dystopian, but from a scientific perspective painfully plausible, consequence of climate change after humanity has failed to effectively curb global warming. In this dystopia, the Netherlands has the dubious honour of serving as the main illustration. Literally on page zero, even before the real text starts, it reads: ‘The nation formerly known as the Netherlands’ – a map of the largely drowned country in the year 2300.
The map is there because the authors wanted to make a point, so it need not be completely accurate. The almost 15-metre sea level rise by around the year 2300 reflects the most extreme scenario highlighted at the start of this article, based on a temperature increase of 3 to 4 °C, or possibly even more. We asked Kim Cohen to use his knowledge of the Dutch subsurface, river and coastal system and our culture of coastal and water management to come up with a revised version of this scenario. The Hague, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam will be submerged, and Groningen and Friesland will also be erased from the map. His map also incorporates failed attempts at climate adaptation – such as remnants of the coastal suppletion zone and deep pits at the sites of the last easily extractable sand. The fate of the four major cities in the west of the Netherlands will also apply to Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges – the Scheldt will flow directly into the sea, where the provinces of Zeeland and neighbouring Flanders once lay.
Map of the Netherlands in the year 2300 in an extreme scenario
Vrij Nederland magazine asked physical geographer Kim Cohen from Utrecht University to draw a map of the Netherlands as it may appear in the year 2300. The scenario sketches how things could end up. It’s not a map of ‘fighting back from an unforeseen catastrophe’ but instead it shows how the Netherlands could change as a result of gradual developments, rather than major disasters.
Cohen worked from the assumption that strategies as in the current Delta Programme will be maintained until half way the 22nd century. The coming century involves large-scale extraction of sand offshore to raise and replenish beaches protecting the major delta cities: ‘sand fortress’ Holland. Thereafter, the accelerating sea level rise will reach an extreme level of 18 meters above present in 2300, forcing the population to withdraw inland.
The western Netherlands is submerged, leaving an area of shallows, and the Amsterdam canals are a divers’ paradise. The shallow waters break up the waves, so that the high-rise clusters of cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam and the largest beach dune areas of Schouwen, Schoorl and Texel have become islands.
In Utrecht, the 20th-century high-rise development Hoog Catharijne turns out to be a blessing in disguise: it acts as a breakwater so that the Dom tower is spared for the time being. Rotterdam Europort has moved inland to become the Betuwepoort, a reclaimed area built from recycled materials taken from the no-longer-populated areas, which is cheaper than sand extraction.
Along the new coast line in the south and east ‘neo-polders’ have been created, just as in adjacent Belgium and Germany.
The Wadden Sea has moved inland too.
We are watching over you!
It makes sense to dwell a bit longer on Zeeland. During the climate summit held in Katowice in December 2018, a delegation from Zeeland attended in order to express their concerns about the latest insights concerning the acceleration in sea level rise. Alderperson Cees van den Bos from Schouwen-Duiveland pointed out that the Eastern Scheldt storm-surge barrier was not built to withstand that level of sea level rise, for example, and he called for a wide-ranging discussion on the issue.
Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen quickly appeared on television to point out that she fully understood the concerns expressed, even stating that the outcome of Katowice was ‘of vital importance to the Netherlands’. But she also insisted that the debate called for by Van den Bos was already underway. ‘For example, all flood barriers are examined every six years. And the KNMI is working on new climate scenarios for the Netherlands’ she added. Her statement neatly illustrates the attitude of politicians and policymakers in the Netherlands: you can sleep soundly, because we are watching over you! But simply pointing a flashlight on a storm-surge barrier once every six years won’t make it suddenly become two or three metres higher – not to mention fully adaptable. And her reference to the KNMI in the context of climate issues is also rather tone-deaf, since the institute now has the equivalent of just 1.2 FTEs available for sea level research.
Unfortunately, this is part of a larger trend. The Netherlands once had a National Geological Service (Rijks Geologische Dienst), a non-commercial research centre that could have done invaluable work on the huge challenges we face in our delta. But former Minister of Economic Affairs Hans Wijers decided to abolish it in 1997 as part of the ongoing wave of privatisations.
The attitude of Dutch politicians and policymakers could be summarised as, ‘You can sleep soundly, because we are watching over you!’ But simply pointing a flashlight at a storm barrier once every six years won’t make it suddenly become two or three metres higher.
Fortunately, sea level research is still being conducted at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), at Utrecht University (IMAU) and at Delft University of Technology. However, this research needs to compete with completely different disciplines, all angling for the same funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
As a result, none of these institutes has the money to develop its own comprehensive sea level model in order to calculate what the consequences of ice melting thousands of kilometres away will have on the Dutch coast. ‘Even though it would only take a few years of work,’ says one of the specialists. (‘Well, probably ten,’ says another – we will need to integrate ice caps into the model.)
A model of this kind is crucial if you really want to improve sea level scenarios. Even the ‘Netherlands Polar Programme’ failed in its last round to provide funding for projected sea level research for the next five years. ‘That’s astonishing, when you consider the urgency of the subject and the international specialists’ outstanding assessments of the research proposals submitted,’ says Michiel van den Broeke.
Whichever way you look, it would seem that we are reluctant to hear the true story about sea level rise in the Netherlands. But we need to make some hard choices, and we need to make them now.
This article was translated from Dutch to English by UvA Talen and Robert Smith Translations.