After us a garden

 

Après nous le déluge’ was alledgedly said by Madame de Pompadour a French aristocrat from the 18th century and mistress to King Louis XV of France. ‘Après nous la deluge’ or ‘after us, the deluge’ roughly means ‘I do not care what happens after we are gone’. However, I am glad to say that a lot has changed since that statement was made, but a different threat looms over us.

By now the majority of the population is aware of climate change and cares about the state in which we leave the world to future generations. Furthermore, we ensured that chances of heavy flooding are as slim as the chance of experiencing a guillotine induced death. But there is a different water-based threat to suburban life and it arrives in the form of heavy rain fall. Spells of rain will become short and severe, instead of long-lasting and drizzly, this is caused by climate change. Therefore, we need to make sure that our inner-city drainage can handle a lot of water in a short period of time.

I personally live on the outskirts of Leiden in a neighbourhood with a lot of space for plants and trees to grow. After the rain, I can see puddles but after a night or a part of the day I notice that all the water is gone. When travelling to the city centre the predominantly green environment changes into brownish manmade surroundings with more Apple-stores than apple trees, and more Lush-soap shops than lush vegetation. After a spell of rain, you can still see puddles for a long time. Heavy rainfall already causes problems in certain parts of the city, where rainwater can reach over the thresholds of waters and flood into people’s homes. It seems to me quite an inconvenience when a whole neighbourhood collectively shudders and frantically reaches for the hosing-bucket at the sight of a low hanging dark cloud!

Clearly a solution is needed for the watery threat from above, rather sooner than later I would like to add. I personally think that where possible green spaces must be created. So-called raingardens or Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) can be offer a pretty solution to an ugly problem. Raingardens aide in the capture of water in a natural manner, and making plants and flowers grow and bloom creating small bits of green or parks. Plants and flower store water in their roots, but their roots also bind the soil protecting against soil subsistence. Raingardens make the underground struggle against excess water visible and part of our day-to-day lives. The presence of nature in the form of flowers and plants also have an effect on the psychological wellbeing of people. A certain quote from Ladybird Johnson comes to mind when writing about raingardens ‘Where flowers bloom, so does hope’. For the inhabitants of regularly flooded neighbourhoods this might be the hope of permanently keeping their feet dry. Let us leave a garden for future generations to enjoy!

Awareness is created by explaining what  raingardens do, but the benefits are mostly noticeable by the absence of flooding after heavy rainfall. If you are interested in raingardens or other forms of Sustainable urban drainage systems I would recommend reading the following articles.

http://www.susdrain.org/delivering-suds/using-suds/background/sustainable-drainage.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195925500000457

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8 thoughts on “After us a garden”

  1. Nice introduction referring to 18th century France and great analogy between Apple stores, Lush shops and greenery! I was wondering if there are places wheres rain gardens are already effectively used? Also, how would this work in practice: do citizens have to create this in their backyard or does the municipality use public space for this?

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  2. Your idea in the blog might be a successful solutions for the heavy rainfalls. The county council moved the problem by adding a second sewerage (‘waterplan’ van de gemeente). The water will lead to somewhere else which cause there for problems.
    I was only wondering if raingardens are better than green roofs for the city Leiden. There is less space in Leiden and this make it difficult to plant a raingarden, but the roofs are free. The water will be stored in the vegetation on the roof. After the heavy rainfall, the water goes slowly to the sewerage and doesn’t cause for problems anymore. Why did you choose for raingardens instead of green roofs?

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    1. I thought about green roofs as a possible solution, but most of the roofs in Leiden have an angle. Since I haven’t seen a lot of green in certain neighborhoods a raingarden would be ideal. It shows natures place in life eventhough space might be an issue.

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  3. All you millenials are the same! Trying to change my beautiful grey urban jungle. It took us centuries to before to build this city and now you want to change it back to nature!? I don’t want a healthy environment, I want to breathe the fumes of the industrial era. The era that made this town and region great. You’re environmental lobbying aims to destroy our economy and take our jobs! /sarcasm
    Although I do fully agree with you that the centre of Leiden could use a lot more green areas. I think there are also voices that wish to preserve the centre as it is. There are even calls to make the centre an UNESCO world heritage site. Do we truly need to worry about the centre? Maybe it’s better to focus on the periphery and just hope the centre won’t be the next atlantis.

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    1. Heey @mvengelenburgblog, I know a solution: A car-free Leiden this time! (Hehe.) We did come to a conclusion, in Durham’s case, that green areas would fit its historic center much better than roads, for instance. So by that logic, more green in the center of Leiden wouldn’t hurt its cultural heritage (even if we let the cars and roads stay, for now…). The opposite, I would say! I do agree with @noortje14 that there might not be enough space. What do you think @maaikblog, is there enough space in the center or do we have to attack those roads, after all?

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      1. I think that there are always innovative green solutions, even vertical gardening could be considered. Certain streets must be accessible for traffic delivering goods to stores and restaurants. Completely car-free streets could be a step too far.

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    2. Certain buildings and views are certainly UNESCO worthy and shouldn’t be touched. But we must also remember that a city isn’t a static object. The city breathes, lives, and sometimes never sleeps .
      I believe that there are also sites that can be turned into rain-gardens, without diminishing the attractiveness of the city. In already existing flowerbeds one could change the plants or redesign the layout.

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  4. Although I like your progressive mind @maaikblog, I identify more with the line of thought @mvengelenburgblog presents. The centre of Leiden is one of the most beautiful historic places of the Netherlands. The celebration of ‘Leids Ontzet’ is the brilliant annual proof of this. We shouldn’t make that history into a ‘jungle book’ story with raingarden rooftops. Imagine what you would tell your visiting family when admiring the view of the once-proudly-red roofs of the city from the burrow! Instead, we could explore the possibility of more subtle drainage systems. Or what do you think about gargoyles? 😉

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