5.1 Politicians and civil servants: ask the ‘why’ question!

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    Since the old doesn’t work anymore on the road to Society 3.0, many points of view have to be re-evaluated. We need to ask the “why” question:

    Why do we need an even larger port in Rotterdam? In order for us to transit even more goods through the Funnel through The Netherlands to Germany? All this funneling makes for towering infrastructural costs. Think of the modest freight train connection between Rotterdam and Germany, with its €4.7 billion price tag for a 100 mile track, and I’m not even taking the annual exploitation losses into consideration. There is simply very little margin to be made in the transit of goods. Half of our transit goods add (almost) nothing to the Dutch economy. According to the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics, a product produced in Holland and exported contributes almost six times more to our Gross National Product than an average transit good does. Ask the “why” question for your country!

    Why does Amsterdam Schiphol Airport have to be a so-called Global Main Port? According to their long-standing economic argument, it will benefit the residents of the surrounding cities. For how will it benefit them? Will the sky-high property and land prices benefit them? Will the noise and kerosene pollution? Will the enormous investments by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, as well as the municipalities surrounding this Amsterdam Airport, somewhat maintain commuter mobility around the airport? Amsterdam Airport is no longer an airport, but a mini-state, and, at the same time, a large landowner and speculator in real estate. On the Internet site www.schipholwanbeleid.nl, it says: “Schiphol Amsterdam Airport has such large airport acreage (2,800 ha) and so many runways (not five but already six!), that the two busiest airports in the world (Atlanta 1,500 ha, 4 runways) and Heathrow (1,200 ha, 2 runways) both fit in it. Yet these foreign airports process more than thrice the amount of passengers than Schiphol Amsterdam Airport…”

    Thirty percent of Schiphol’s profit stems from the development and exploitation of real estate. Schiphol has a double influence: First, through the development company Schiphol Area Development, with 25% of the shares and the right to acquire land through eminent domain “if necessary” for any possible expansion of flight activities. Second, Schiphol has the monopoly on building within the airport’s territory. It has also partakes in lobbying government. Recently, a governmental commission adapted the noise pollution and measurement standards in such a way that the amount of flight movements can increase without any trouble. Noise is not actually measured, it is now “theoretically calculated.”
    Almost 70% of the passengers who arrive at Schiphol Airport will not remain in The Netherlands as their final destination: they are in transit. Most passengers are actually transit goods as well, and their economic contribution is quite limited.

    What I especially miss in the megalomaniac decision-making about the size of the Rotterdam Harbor expansion, or the sixth runway at Amsterdam Airport, is a healthy discussion about the query if the growth of the form of transport in question is as large as one thinks.
    What is the impact of 3D printing? Will KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ owner, Air France, stick to Amsterdam Airport, or will they chose a French one when it really matters? Or do we leave the ever growing air traffic movements to the oilmoney funded, thus sponsored airports like Dubai and Abu Dabi? For whom are we investing? And, more importantly: do (or should) we actually want this growth in transport? Those are many luxury consumer goods that are being moved. The added value for our society is diminishing, but the burden on the limited financial means and the consumption of land and space is showing a disproportionate increase.

    When you replace the Dutch city names with your own local city names I am sure it makes you think twice.

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    Antonio Regalado Senior Editor, Biomedicine I am the senior editor for biomedicine for ... where I wrote about science, technolo