Last week I preached in the Adventist church in Emmen. The group of Adventists in Emmen is a relatively small but stable congregation, where I like to preach. The distances in the Netherlands are relatively small, but for someone who lives in the west or in the center of the country, the province of Drenthe feels like far away. Because there was a special offer for two nights with breakfast in the Van der Valk Hotel, just outside Emmen, my wife and I decided to leave for Emmen on Thursday and spend two days exploring the largely unknown surroundings. On Thursday we visited the new zoo, Wildlands, in Emmen. The fact that we had free tickets was an extra enticement. We were happily surprised by what we got to see. The way this zoo is designed makes it very worthwhile to visit!
On Thursday we decided to follow a route along a number of villages in the Hondsrug area. The Hondsrug is a region in the province of Drenthe that is so geologically interesting that UNESCO has chosen it as a geological nature park. It is a narrow strip of about 70 kilometres in length, which is a little hilly and is also considerably more wooded than the surrounding parts of the province. It is also home to most of the 52 or so ‘hunebedden’ –the oldest monuments in the Netherlands.
I don’t know anything about geology, but a little reading gave me some background knowledge about the origin of this special type of landscape. Allow me to quote a paragraph from a Wikipedia article: ‘During the penultimate glacial period, the north-western ice flow plowed through the northern part of the Netherlands, resulting in the straight and parallel ridges, the so-called megaflues’. The article goes on to mention that this unique process, some examples of which can also be found in Canada, took place some 150,000 years ago. It was a nice experience to get better acquainted with this interesting part of our country.
Large boulders came along with the enormous ice mass that was propelled from Scandinavia. Much later, in the so-called New Stone Age, these were used by the ‘Hunen’ to make elongated tombs–sometime with a length of some 20 meters–in which they could bury their dead. These ‘Hunen” were part of the funnelbeaker culture, which lasted from about 3400 to 2850 BC.
Our visit to the Hondsrug made us think about a number of things. It is rather difficult to fit the dates mentioned for the ice age that created the Hondsrug, and even for activities of the hunebed-builders, into the time scheme of a creation that supposedly took place in the recent past, between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. However, to be honest, I am not overly concerned about this.
How the ice ages of the past fit into modern climate research does raise some more questions for me. According to the geologists, their research has shown that in the course of tens of millions of years there have been about 23 ice ages – a very long process in which a number of times the earth (or at least a large part of it) became a lot colder and then considerably warmer again.
While I was thinking about this on the Hondsrug, thousands of climate experts and politicians were meeting in Madrid to discuss the recent global warming of our planet. They tried to agree on measures that could limit this warming to around 2 degrees Celsius. According to most of the Madrid participants, mankind is to blame for our current climate change and there is therefore an urgent need for mankind to take action on a global scale. As far as I have followed the discussions (and as far as I am able to follow them), it is indeed important that we realize that we are stewards – at least to some extent – of our climate. Like Donald Trump (and also some horrible Dutch populist politicians), we cannot claim that the climate issue is a huge (left-wing) hoax. But at the same time we should perhaps also realize that in the past there have been major fluctuations in the earth’s temperatures and that there may also be factors at stake that we do not know or understand, and that are not under our control. Unfortunately, many things are often much more complicated than they appear to be at first glance or are described in media reports such as De Telegraaf (a Dutch newspaper that I tend to compare with the FOX news channel).