We, a group of about twenty students, embarked on the sailing boats “Willem Jacob” and “Confiance” in the port of Lauwersoog – a small Dutch fishing town behind the dikes of the famous Wadden Sea. Both boats were more than one hundred years old! We were to board for a summer school on the topic of “Sustainable Islands”. One week of natural beauty and learning first-hand.
The Wadden Sea is a unique area for its mud flats and changing landscapes. There exist several islands such as Ameland, Schiermonnikoog and Terschelling. They host a relatively small permanent population, but in summer the places boast with tourists due to their dunes, peace and nature.
In the last two years the islanders have decided to become completely autonomous from the mainland by 2020. They aim at living less dependent on the imports by ferry and to re-establish pride in local production.
Our group visited the three before mentioned islands and learnt about and discussed the topic of sustainability on the islands. Everywhere we met inspiring and committed personalities. Joop Mulder, for instance, created the theater festival “Oerol” on Terschelling. It works with natural landscapes and expemlifies a changing environment to spectators – for instance by an installment catching the sand patterns. Another interesting visit was to the school of Ameland, which is entirely energy self-sufficient with solar panels, state-of-the-art heating and energy saving materials. On Schiermonnikoog we met a couple, which fights for the installment of renewable energy sources on the island. Personally, I got to truly appreciate the effort people put into their passion to make their community a better place. All of them talked about bureaucratic hurdles and disagreements with people who think otherwise. Nevertheless, they are standing for their cause of making the islands sustainable.
Apart from discussing sustainability, we spent an amazing week sailing through the Wadden Sea. The waters are very very shallow, so that during low tide our flat bottom boats would stand on the mud. I also was reminded, how staying with the same people in a tight environment forms a bonded group out of individuals.