Walkthrough: Meadow under construction

Welcome to our project. We would like to ask you to fill in a questionaire before you enter our construction site. The questionaire includes questions about daily life habits, like what kind of milk do you drink, how often do you eat meat and where did you to travel last?

The construction site

Welcome on our construction site! We are building a structure out of planks that represents the polder landscape of Terschelling. The goal is to reach the next crossroad at the end of the Oerol festival. Every day we try to move our structure 50 metres. If we covered this distance, we 'save a meadow bird'. If this succeeds depends on your answers. If the answers lead to a more intensive agricultural landscape, the sea water level will rise and we will have to raise our structure accordingly. If the answers go more in the direction of a bird-friendly landscape, our structure can remain low, and we can cover the 50 meters easily! Underneath your questionnaire there is a contract. Please read it as it requires you to wear the protective helmet we will provide to you later on! Once you signed your contract, I will give you your first stamp! Good luck!

The researchers

Hi there, can we have your questionnaire? Because our individual influence on the landscape is marginal, we average the answers of our visitors each hour. If your answers demand a more intensive agriculture, you will get a stamp of a cow on your contract! But don't feel ashamed! If we only use the polder for bird protection, we would have to import meat and dairy from the mainland, which is also not sustainable. It is about balancing agricultural production and conservation of meadows for local and migratory birds. This holds true both for the Netherlands as the other places where the birds travel to, such as West Africa. There they live on rice fields. When intensive farming is introduced there as well in the coming decades, the migratory birds will have to change their routes and destinations. If they decide to remain in northern Europe, a single harsh winter could wipe out the entire population.

The safety advisor

The safety advisor

Hello dear guests! We would like to ask you to wear these protective helmets and gloves. It is not unsafe near the construction, but some people don't pay as much attention on others as they do on themselves. Consequently, it is possible that someone hits you with his or her plank. Thus please err on the side of caution and wear you helmet tightly! The freshly cut pine-wood planks can splinter, so please be careful! If you bring back your safety helmet and gloves, I will give you a stamp!

The supervisor

Welcome! As you can see, we are constructing at the far end of the structure. Because there were more 'cows' in the last hour, we have to reach a height of two meters! So we need your help to build the structure up high! You can take out a plank from the beginning and customize it at the next point. I see you took the advice and wore a helmet and gloves, great! Here's a stamp!

The customizer and the photographer

Please put down your plank and customize it! You can write a message or draw an image on it. If there are already messages on the plank, you can respond to them to form a discussion or a poem. What you write is up to you to decide, but we suggest it could be related to the meadow birds, the polder landscape, the impact of lifestyle choices or something else you experienced or learned during the project.

Hi! Can we take a picture with you and your plank? If you wrote on the back side of the plank, we will need another photograph with the identification number of the plank! You will find the picture on our website, along with pictures of other people that wrote on your plank. Thank you, and good luck with the construction!

The construction workers

The end of the construction

Welcome at the end of our construction! You can put your plank where you want, but a hole must fit in another hole. You can put your long planks forward, so that we can cover a lot of ground to save the Grutto today, but in order to reach the height of the hour, we need to build the structure upwards.

44, 11, East! 342, 4! Great! We need to document each plank movement carefully so that we can rebuild the structure digitally. Thanks! You succeeded in helping us to save the Grutto by putting your plank in the structure! The person that reaches the daily goal gets a handmade bird nest to put between the planks. We will collect all of the nests in our structure throughout the Oeral festival.

Frequently asked questions:

"Why do I have to build higher? I had a bird!"

Our construction responds to the needs of the population (the visitors). The landscape is shaped by their demand: if there is high consumerism, mass production is required, leaving less space for the meadow birds. This high production also raises the sea level, which in turn demands a higher investment in new sea barriers, offshore or saline agriculture, and bold choices in landscape design. Our individual impact in the (agricultural) landscape is only marginal. Because the combined lifestyle choices of the population greatly impact the landscape, an hourly average was taken of the visitors through a questionnaire.

"What are those long sticks?"

The long blue sticks are used to measure how high the structure has to be built up to remain dry and productive. The first half meter is missing, because the bike path in the polder is about 0.5 meter above sea level. Every hour we set a height goal. If we achieve this goal, we place a green plank in the structure. If we fail to achieve it, we place a blue plank.

"What is better, cow or grutto?"

Both are necessary. Without the grutto, the Netherlands would lose a unique migratory bird; a piece of (agri)cultural heritage. For bird lovers (of whom in the Netherlands there are many), the meadows, lakes and islands offer a place of solitude, connection with nature and benefits to mental health. They also bring many tourists to places like Terschelling. Without cows on the island, meat, dairy and grains would have to be shipped in from the mainland. There needs to be a balance.

"What can we really do for the meadow birds?"

While on the islands, you can support local farmers that offer birds protection. By participating in our project, you got 10% discount on Terschellinger cheese. If you buy these kinds of products in coastal areas where migratory birds reside, like in the Netherlands, or while on vacation in for instance Scandinavia or Africa, you directly support bird protection.

"Why does the structure move?""

The forces of nature continuously move the island. The wind blows the sand towards the east, while the tides play with the low-lying sand of the coastal plains. In their natural form the islands were not suitable for human settlement and agriculture. It was only by fixing the island in some way, for instance by an endikement, that it became suitable for intensive farming. In recent decades a realisation has come that natural forces need to be given more space to develop the Dutch coastline. The movement of the structure represents this dynamic relation between man and nature; like the rest of the coastline of the Netherlands, human interaction has shaped it and kept it in place. For the polder of Terschelling specifically, higher seawater levels will mean that in some decades salt water pressure under the sea dike will be so great that the soil will turn saline. A solution will have to be found in a different type of agriculture, or the landscape of the polders in the Wadden sea has to be re-evaluated.

"What do I actually contribute?"

This is a difficult question. Our project was mainly about awareness. Fortunately, many people are already aware about some of the subjects addressed. Besides building on awareness, you have contributed to a research and education project. The construction team learned a lot by interacting with the visitors, making a 3d model based on your plank movements, building a website and writing blogs. By sharing your experiences or (gained) knowledge, you can contribute further to the protection of meadow birds.

"Why do you shout numbers?"

We are digitally rebuilding the structure, so that we can make visible how it changed throughout the whole Oerol festival. As a visitor or construction worker, we can only view snapshots. In order to make the model, we need the orientation and location of each plank, and how it is connected to the rest of the structure.