Karela Fry

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Zonneveld’s Folly

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The Spiegel reports on a Dutchman’s attempt to get a mountain for his flat country:

The Netherlands is famous for being an extremely flat country. But now a Dutch journalist has attracted attention with a proposal for constructing an artificial mountain in the country — and some people are taking the idea seriously.

Journalist Thijs Zonneveld became a household name in the Netherlands overnight with a short column that looked like something written to fill a slow summer news day. But his idea to build a 2,000-meter (6,560-foot) peak appears to have caught the public’s imagination.

Zonneveld, a sports writer, wrote a few days later that, while the suggestion had initially been “een grap” — a joke — it had since turned into much more. “I have dreamed of having a mountain in Holland since I was 15,” he says. “I drew mountains on our map.”

The Dutch, says Zonneveld, are “obsessed” with mountains. “We spend all of our vacations there. We drive to Germany, France and Switzerland.” They also go to the mountainous Sauerland region of central Germany to learn how to ski, sometimes making the journey for just a day. Given the effort and expense involved to make such a trip, it stands to reason that the Dutch would also pay to use a mountain in their own country.

“I didn’t take it very seriously myself at first, at least until three weeks ago,” says Zonneveld. But then came his July 29 column.

Zonneveld insists that his Alpine challenge is surmountable — for example, if the mountain was hollow.

A hollow mountain would save an enormous amount of material. If it consisted of a mass of reinforced concrete, the colossus would weigh an estimated 5.2 trillion kilograms. If it were built out of stone, the mountain would be even heavier, and more expensive. But lighter doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper. Blogger Erik van der Zee has already calculated that building the mountain out of ordinary Lego pieces would be unaffordable, if only because of the astronomical wages it would require. At a rate of one Lego piece per second and worker, the superstructure alone would consume about 729 billion man-years. Put differently, the entire human population could be employed around the clock for the next 104 years.

Even Zonneveld knows that the mountain project won’t be easy. “The only way to build something like this is to involve the entire Dutch construction industry.” At least.

That last idea could just be what the Netherlands needs in an economic slump.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

September 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm

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