Tristan Baurick

Chris Granger / Times-Picayune | The Advocate

By Tristan Baurick, Times Picayune | The Advocate

ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands -- Eveline Bronsdijk knew she'd done her job when the people of Rotterdam began debating whether pigs should be allowed on rooftops.

In 2012, Bronsdijk, the city’s sustainability adviser, was trying to promote green roofs, thin layers of plants that make buildings cooler, the air cleaner and — most importantly for Rotterdam — gutters and storm drains drier.

Chris Granger / Times-Picayune | The Advocate

By Tristan Baurick, Times-Picayune | The Advocate

NOORDWAARD, The Netherlands — Vic Gremmer walked through an invisible garden and reached for a doorknob that wasn’t there.

“Here was the opening of the front door,” he said, holding out his hand in a marshy landscape of reeds and willows near a river about 10 miles from Rotterdam. “Here was my home. Over there, the road. But all of it is changed.”

Times-Picayune | The Advocate

By Tristan Baurick, Times Picayune | The Advocate

TER HEIJDE, The Netherlands — With a surfboard strapped to his feet and the reins of a giant kite in his hands, Daan Vijverberg skimmed over whitecaps on the Netherlands’ windy south coast. Nearby, other kiteboarders caught gusts strong enough to fling their wetsuited bodies several feet into the air.

“It’s addictive,” Vijverberg said, emerging from the water with a red face and the sniffles. “I have to come two, three times a week.”

Chris Granger / Times-Picayune | The Advocate

By Tristan Baurick, Times-Picayune | The Advocate

Up close is not the best way to see the world’s biggest gate.

Standing alongside it from one end, where a three-story hinge links to a massive steel lattice, the Maeslant storm surge barrier resembles three crane towers toppled across one another. From the opposite end, nearly 280 yards away, it’s an imposing white wall, like a drive-in movie screen stretched the length of 2½ football fields.

And that’s only half of it.