The Windmills of Holland

Every so often I receive a piece of information that so entirely startles me, so perfectly rearranges my perception of a thing that I find myself questioning if I’ve ever understood anything about the world at all. The windmills of Holland are one such example, wherein I have found that the gap between what I assumed I knew about a thing and what I actually knew was more a chasm than a crack.

Holland. Windmills. They go together. Why? I never bothered to ask, even upon visiting this lovely country. Perhaps a fad? An early and robust form of sustainable energy? No. In matter of fact, an early, ambitious, and robust form of large-scale engineering. Holland, you see, is largely a wetland. The ubiquitous windmills a constant and necessary country-wide drainage system that allowed development. That they still exist today is not a relic of nostalgia but a necessity, especially in these times of riding sea levels. The water always returns.

Ironically, it will be neither technology nor climate change that forces Holland’s windmills into obsolescence, but the very development they paved the way for. Ever larger and more densely sited buildings now block out the wind, stilling the mills.  

Is it a crack or a chasm between what we assume know of the consequences of our actions and what we actually know?