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Anna Wesselink and Jeroen Warner

The aim of this special volume is to critically examine the various ways in which floods and flood management are framed in current policies, especially the “space for rivers” policies that have been adopted in many countries of Western Europe. The articles in this volume discuss different aspects of this framing, while employing different theoretical frames. Of these, Spiral Dynamics stands out as the most intriguing and least known. The papers thereby potentially contribute to reframing policy contents and/or procedures: either because they show alternative policy contents and/or because they show different ways of looking at policy making. This introductory article provides an overview of what framing means in a policy-making context, thereby highlighting the politics of engaging in (re)framing.

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Anna J. Wesselink, Wiebe E. Bijker, Huib J. de Vriend and Maarten S. Krol

This article shows how Dutch technological culture has historically dealt with and developed around vulnerability with respect to flooding and indicates recent developments in attitude towards the flood threat. The flooding of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina temporarily made the Dutch public worry about the flood defense infrastructure in the Netherlands, exemplified by the Delta Works. Could this happen in the Netherlands? After the flooding disaster of 1953, a system of large dams was built to offer safety from flooding with—in theory at least—protection levels that are much higher than in New Orleans. In the public's perception the protection offered is absolute. In practice not all flood defense structures are as secure as they are supposed to be, but their upgrading takes time and money. Katrina has served as a reminder of what is at stake: Can the Dutch afford to take another 10 years to restore the protection level of their flood defenses? Calls for pride in clever engineering are the latest in a continuing debate on the best way to continue life below sea level.