Global warming etc.

Exposure or ‘De Hurkende Man’ (The Crouching Man) is a 25 meter high metallic sculpture in Lelystad by British sculptor Antony Gormley. We paid a visit on a dull, cold January afternoon after reading about it in the inflight magazine on our way from Singapore.

Lelystad was founded on reclaimed land in the 1960s and lies 3m below sea level. The sculpture rests on a polder. As global warming causes the sea levels to rise and the dykes around the sculpture are mended, it is supposed to get buried progressively.

Close to the sculpture, is a huge shopping complex with an enormous car park – perhaps the largest I’ve seen in the Netherlands. The complex looked like it had been modelled after a citadel. Naturally, there was a McDonalds here.

At this McDonalds, you could only place your order on a large touchscreen. Once you had paid, you’d get a number on your receipt and wait for it to be called. Very few McDonalds outlets here carry vegetarian burgers on their menu. This one did. Our order was assembled with the typical speed and efficiency of a fast food chain – except for the vegetarian burgers. Hardly anyone orders them, so they are never ready in time. We took our trays sans the burgers but with another number to display on our table so that someone could find us and give us the burgers once they were done. And someone did. Within 10 minutes.

They’ve probably honed the process to handle such exceptions over years. There was no crowding at the counters, orders kept rolling in, food trays kept flying off the counters.

I tried not to choke on the guilt and profound irony of indulging in the sort of consumerism1 that has gotten our planet on the brink, this close to a sublime monument to global warming.

As we went past it again, the statue seemed to be gazing into the water longingly – like a stranded merman waiting for the sea to claim it again.

1To say nothing of the fact that I found about it in a 13-hr long flight when returning from a vacation halfway across the world.

p.s. You can see the flood sirens in the right edge of the last photo. There are several of them throughout the country and are tested regularly at 12 noon on the first Monday of every month.

p.p.s. Sometimes I wonder if I should continue living in a country that is already partially below sea level. A part of me thinks that this is precisely what makes the Netherlands the right place – they’ve had years of experience of dealing with water and will probably be best prepared for the rising seas.

p.p.s. From below, the sculpture looks like a confused jumble of scrap metal. I also understood why a plaque at the entrance forbade visitors from climbing it. For those who have appetite for this sort of adventure, those bolts must appear like footholds.