The golden path to make up our backlog on the energy transition

sagging houses with timber to sustain

About gold plated timber, renewables and Gasinstan

In Groningen, a province in the very North of Holland, lies an enormous gas field, formed during some 50,000 years. In the last 50 years we already used 80% of it. Such big swallowing in so little time was too much for Mother Earth, so it resulted in several earthquakes and ground subsidence’s. This caused 11.000 sagging houses, with serious damage.

Many of the 11.000 sagging houses in Groningen need timbering to prevent collapsing.

The owners have been protesting for decades. It seemed unrealistic that they would ever succeed. First, their houses are in the remotest area in the Netherlands, very far from the government in The Hague. Second, the exploration of the gas field is for 50% owned by the State, which brings in a load of money in the States purse. And last but not least, the other 50% is owned by Shell and Exxon, and they have a special place in the hearts of the neo-liberals who run the country last decade.

Now, what happens? If you write this in a book, the reader would not believe it. These remote 11.000 people managed to get it on the national political agenda. And keep it there. For years. Some 7 years ago, the government finally agreed to pay a part of their claims. And, the government agreed to squeeze the gas supply each year a bit more.

So now, Holland needs to buy gas abroad; until now this came from Russia. It is about 15% of the gas Holland uses.

15% Reduction is a piece of cake – not!

Due to the conflict with Putin, Holland can expect a 15% shortage of gas. There are reserves to survive next winter, but from then on, a 15% reduction is necessary. As you know, on ‘Ya’ we reduced our energy use with about 80%. So, 15% should be a piece of cake. And indeed, the Dutch authority on gas, Dutch Association for Sustainable Energy, made a recommendation to reduce the use.  A 15% reduction can easily be realized.

Guess what? Not! In Holland it is different. Perhaps the intimacy between our current government and the big energy companies stands in the way; however, the use and exploration of fossil fuels continue to be stimulated. Two examples:
1. While all European countries have subsidies on house insulation, the Dutch government stalled hers till January ’22. The ministry now subsidizes house insulation to a maximum of only 30%, and under special conditions. For example in France, the government simply subsidizes 100% of every house insulation.
2. The Netherlands is a paradise for oil and gas companies. We pamper them. Holland is a tax haven for them, like Guernsey and the Cayman Islands. And, they get grants easily and under sweet conditions. Hence the fossil energy could stay cheaper than the renewable energy. (That is, until the Russians invaded Ukrain and the fossil fuels prices exploded).

So, forget the reduction. Not the boycott, not even the high prices for fossil fuel that result from Putin’s actions seem to be able make the Dutch government taking reduction actions.

So the Ministry of Energy goes for energy from somewhere.

Gas instantly, a tempting Gasinstan contract

this is a great opportunity to switch to more renewable energy, and wind farms can replace gas pretty well. Holland is pretty far behind in her planning on the energy transition. Time to make up the backlog.

But, the process to put a serious wind farm at sea, takes about two to three years of bureaucracy; the government is not able to speed that up. And, we need the energy within one year,. A politician can’t wait longer, he can not leave his voters in the cold.

So, forget the renewables too. Replacing the Russian gas must go faster.

Then, let’s see…. gas from somewhere else? The Dutch government has already sent people to check it out in Azerbeizjan, Uzbekistan and other Gas-in-stan countries. Good for gas instantly.

The great advantage is that, as soon as the contract is signed, it only takes a year for the first delivery. In that year they can build the infrastructure: pump stations, gas tanks, etcetera, perhaps even a harbor extension for the gas tankers.

This requires big investments, so such contracts are always for at least 20 years. And, of course, you agree on the price for the whole period.

It takes one year to build an installation to get gas out of the gas field, treat it, and store it, ready for transport.

But, it can be done in a year. That’s a quick fix, and that’s what counts for any politician.

At any price?

The price tag

We’re talking lots of money here.
Just to give an idea, already in April the Netherlands paid Russia 34 million per day, would be on annual basis more than 12 billion Euros. Meanwhile, the price of gas is about 20 times higher than it was before the Ukrain war.

Before we get dazzled, let us ask one of the world’s independent experts on gas and energy, Mr. R. Krupen. He is climate consultant to the United Nations and a former director of a multinational gas company. The inside knowledge with the outside perspective.

He says that any gas contract is extremely expensive now. No matter which Gasinstan country you deal with. Just the gas over a period of 20 years will cost Holland very very much, he doesnot dare to say.

“Problem is”, says Mr. Krupen, “we only need the gas for one or two extra years, because then the renewables  like wind farms can take over. These renewables make much cheaper energy than that expensive gas. And we have to build them anyways, because we are far behind on our energy transition agreements.”

Let us make a defensive number, based on the Russian gas price Holland payed last April. Then, a Gasinstan contract for 20 years would cost us 250 billion Euros.

So, since we are not politically able to reduce 15%, the energy question boils down to this:

Are we actually willing to pay 250 million Euro, to get us through one or two winters?

There is an alternative.

Gold plated timber, renewable energy boost, and pampering fossil fuel companies.

Why don’t we open the valve of the North Holland gas field for one or two winters? This costs nearly nothing and you’re not nailed to any Gas-in-stan regime with a 250 million contract that you don’t want for the remaining 18-19 years.

But, what would the protests be of the people with the sagging houses? They will protest, go to court, and they will win. And, what would the voters think? Like: “you see, them damned politicians never keep their word.”

Again, some price tags. We have 250 million Euros in the pocket if we don’t book a Gasinstan contract.

The 11.000 houses now get a claim from the State. The State is not clear about that, but the grand total must be hundreds of millions.
This money is nothing in relation to the billions of a Gasinstan contract.
So, can we find a bigger number than 11,000 houses? The biggest to be found is from a research that the owners of the sagging houses ordered to do. The University of Groningen made an extensive survey, concluding that the value of 180,000 houses would have dropped in the Groningen area. This is a total value of nearly 1 billion.

Let us buy every owner out, and give away the tenfold of what they estimate. The price will be 10 billion.

Then, every owner can gold plate every piece of timber sustaining his house, and build a copy next to it. This could cover much of the smart and grieves of the many years.

We are unbelievably behind on our energy transition process. We need windfarms, and fast. There are 3,800 MegaWatt on wind farms at sea right now. This has cost the taxpayer 12,5 billion euros. Now, because the improved efficiency, scale factors and experience, it can be 70% cheaper, so 3,5 billion Euros). OK, as long as they build another 3800 MegaWatt in two years, we double it for them. That price is 7 billion.

Now the production. It costs 1 billion per year to get the gas from the Groningen gas field and put it in the infrastructure. It is relatively not much extra work to putting extra gas through the existing system. But the companies who do it are used to be pampered, and spoilt as they are, they require their share. So, they want a double price, 2 billion. Well, we double that. Makes 4 billion per year. We will do that for two years, so we give them 8 billion in total to open the valves for a higher throughput for these 2 years. It is also bounty money, a last premium, a fare well present before we go for the renewables.

All together, instead of contracting ‘Gasinstan’, we open our gas field and we play SantaClaus:

We give away toThe give awayThe price (Euro)
All house owners with a (potential) risk of devaluated house (est. 1 billion Euro)10 times the prize of their estimated devaluation10,000,000,000
Windfarm buildersA double subsidy7,000,000,000
The gas production companies (Shell and Exxon)2 times their estimated costs  8,000,000,000
UsThe left over225,000,000,000
Total 250,000,000,000

In a soap you would not believe all this, but here it is reality. A golden path to make up our backlog on the energy transition, and to keep our energy much, much cheaper.

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Dragonflies on board of Ya

Traveling slowly allows us to see some marvelous creatures of the land, the sea, and the water. There is still so much worth enjoying and cherishing. Look at these dragonflies; all pictures were taken on board of Ya. 

The pink/red dragonfly that visited us in Gambia stayed on board for a long time…
…. allowing us to see its wings and tail in different colors according to the angle with the light.
Gambia brought two more amazing dragonflies; one with a blue tail…
…. and one with a blue back, that resembles a head.
In Cartagena a curious urban-fashion-style dragonfly cast a long shadow on deck, even now remembering us of the permanent beat of music in this vibrant town.

Some say it’s a good sign to see a dragonfly. So, we gladly share these pictures with you.

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Trouble in paradise: Barnacles

In Cartagena, we had our hull cleaned near to perfection by Pedro and Yair. Only three weeks later, in Bocas del Toro, we wanted to free our waterline from algae. We also checked the underwatership and found our hull covered in barnacles. Trouble in paradise?

Ya’s waterline was covered in algae
Ugly and bad for Ya’s speed. Time for action.
Ya’s hull got covered in barnacles in several stages of development within 3 weeks

So, we started cleaning. The fish adored our work, and that kept us going. 

Lots of fish appeared when we started working.
The fish loved our activity, perhaps because of all the algae and barnacles that we were serving

We managed to get most of the barnacles off.

Ya’s hull: difference before (left) and after (right) cleaning the algae and barnacles
Ya’s hull after cleaning

We were happy, especially because it looks like our Biocoat is still working after 2 years of sailing. But, we also found that barnacles look a lot like humans. They thrive at temperatures between 24 and 28 degrees Celcius and they like boats a lot.

Ya at Playa Bluff, Bocas del Toro, Panama

So, to keep out of trouble, keeping our hull free from barnacles is going to be part of our daily routine as long as we are in the Caribbean. 

Wonderful Wasteless World

Tom shows a bottle filled with love and lots of plastic: a love bottle

“The ideal of Wasteless World is to become redundant”, says Thomas Wright, “but until we reach that, recycling and upcycling can work wonders”. 

Tom started Wasteless World two years ago. Using his private savings and devoting all his time, he set up a warehouse with a workshop here in Bocas del Toro, Panama. He involves the local community, companies and government, and organizes beach clean-ups. His core team now consists of six devoted ‘warriors’. 

During our beach clean-up, one of the locals is interested. Thomas discusses the possibilities of going to schools and other ways to create awareness. In the background you see a collection station. On Carenero, every 100 meter you find a collection station like this.

We learned about Wasteless World, since they organized a beach clean up at Carenero. This is the smallest island of the Bocas archipelago. The island is small enough to clean it up by us, 12 people, but big enough to make a positive statement. Our group largely had a western outlook in common, but we were enthusiastically joined by some local children.

Awareness is key

Thomas tells: “The reality here, is that we need to create awareness. It is only 15 years ago that they used a part of the beach as the dumping ground for the garbage. Now, the local government is charging the population $ 1,50 per garbage bag and brings it to a landfill.”

With cooperation of the municipality, Wasteless World has put collection stations where you can put plastic, glass and tin cans in. Obviously, this would save on what you throw away in the garbage bag. However, Tom estimates: ”People throw their waste in remote pits, burn it, or throw their waste directly into the environment. Perhaps 5% of the town’s recyclable materials end up here. So, it is still a long way to go.”

With the help of students from  the Dutch University of Applied Science ‘Windesheim’, they set up an educational program for the local schools. Then, the next generation will do better on sustainability.

The Bocas International School was the first school where Wasteless World initiated an art programme. Good for the children’s awareness, and for the exposure to the local people.

Added value: the Wasteless World warehouse

Near the airport, we find the heart of the Wasteless warriors: the warehouse. Here they create products out of waste. You see that most products are smart products, as well as statements showing the value of garbage. Here are some examples.

The caps of plastic bottles can be shredded easily. When melted, they get pressed in moulds.  They make products like plastic tiles, combs, surfboard wax scrapers.
You might recognize the ‘Precious Plastics’ stamp; here you buy the machines and moulds needed for this kind of operations. But also, you can download the blueprints for building the machines yourself there, for free!
The Lionfish is an invasive exotic fish that needs to be caught in great numbers; they eat everything and they breed like rabbits. So, they endanger the rest of the fish and the coral in the region. In the workshop their fins find themselves in artistically crafted, attractive jewelry. And, the resin is homemade -, from plastic.
Bottles are great to turn into stylish glasses, if you pick the right ones. The edge is well polished, even softer than a regular glass. By the way, did you know that blue glass is about 20 times more expensive than the other colors?

Going for the mass flows; the Recycle Center

Anyone can bring their recyclable garbage straight to the Center, for free. Talking about money: only 20% comes from donations, mainly from the people from the USA and Europe living here. Seeing their environment deteriorated by the garbage, they were very enthusiastic about the Wasteless World. So, they were happy to donate, to make a next start up possible: the Recycle Centre.

The purpose of the Recycle Centre is to process the mass streams to products, especially plastic and glass. 

When we came, the Centro Reciclaje was still in its starting phase, but the machines already worked.

The value chain

People can bring in their garbage for free here. And much comes from the collection stations. As soon as the recycling station has processed one of the types of waste, they gain in worth.

The glass shredder makes a lot of noise, but does not use a lot of energy. Each color is shredded separately. Wasteless World prefers to sell the shredded glass locally, to people who want to use it for decorating their house or garden. Wasteless World sells the rest  to Veolia
The compressing machine is pure hydraulic force. It turns the plastic bottles some 5 to 10  times smaller, sizeable for storage and transport. The ferry and the transport companies bringing goods to Bocas, are willing to help Wasteless to transport the waste to the mainland  for free.
This large machine can shred plastics on a mass scale.
If you take 1 kilo of the right sort of plastic, and you press, shred and melt it in a mould, you have about a meter of really sustainable lumber. Wood needs to be impregnated regularly with biocides, to avoid rotting. Plastic lumber does not; it is near-maintenance free, and far more durable than wood. This saves forests. 
The right mix of shredded glass and plastic with some cement and water, makes bricks of high quality. 

At its start, the Recycling Centre can already employ two local employees, working four days a week. They learn all about the different sorts of glas, and will distinguish polyethene from styrene, PVC, PET LDPE and HDPE, EPS and many more plastics, so they are  able to separate the glass, cans, and all plastics, and  operate the machines. They create the added value. 

“But still, although the outlook is promising,” Thomas emphasizes, “the help of volunteers is necessary, and donations are very welcome.”

‘love bottle’: this bottle is lovingly filled with lots and lots of plastics.

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Introduction to fossil free living and sailing

Two fellow sailors passed by in their dinghy and read the text on ‘Ya’: ”Hey,, that sounds interesting!”
They stepped on board the ‘Ya’. They are Andries Bik and Jip, better known as Bik and Jip.

We gave them an introduction on how we live fossil fuel free and they filmed it. Peter with his enthousiasm and Bik’s reactions with his spontaneity, delivered a flash introduction to fossil free living and sailing.

This film is the result.

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No river sailing on Rio Magdalena

When we arrived in Columbia, we were planning to sail on the Canal del Dique. We could enter the Canal near Cartagena. Would the bridges would be high enough for Ya to pass through? Would the Canal be deep enough for Ya? The more we read about the Canal, the more intrigued we got.

Open CPN screenshot tugboats on Canal del Dique, May 2022

The first agent we consulted, said it would be better not to sail the Canal. It was before the presidential elections and “the levee channel is a little bit disturbed”. “Too little depth and too much vegetation” said the second one. Our third agent said she “sent our questions to the maritime officers and that it should not be a problem”. So, when we had the chance to ask local sailors, we did. We were lucky to be at the champions’ table after the Regatta. “Canal del Dique?” Laughter and unbelief. “Let me know how it goes, call me!” And they explained.

June 2022, the water levels at Rio Magdalena and Canal del Dique reached their highest levels.

There had been severe rain in the headwaters of the Rio Magdalena. So, there would be lots of current. Also, the vegetation in the river (waterhyacint) and logs would make sailing difficult. Heavily motorized boats can do this. Ya had better not.

But, we got curious about the Canal anyhow. In the Naval Museum we found its history.

The canal was necessary because it was impossible to sail in the mouth of the Magdalena River was virtually impenetrable, and Colombia’s two main colonial ports (Cartagena and Santa Marta) had no access to the river. It was built by the Spanish in 1582 and was rebuilt in 1650. However, by 1821 it was again completely blocked. Trade moved from from Cartagena to Santa Marta. By 1831 traders in the city began to lobby for the canal’s reopening, but repeated efforts to redredge the channel failed and by the end of the 19th century a railroad had replaced it.In 1923 and 1952, the canal was improved, but again undone by increased sedimentation of the Magdalena River. Currently, a modernization of the channel is being considered in order to boost trade in the port of Cartagena.

Within a few years, the Canal will be undergoing major works in the years to come. These works will be assigned three days before the new president starts his term. The work is supposed to create over 60.000 jobs, construct two locks, a control gate and interconnection works between swamp and canal. The works will be done along the Canal del Dique from the Magdalena River to the delta of the Caribbean Sea. 

The project intends to regulate the flows and floods, sediments, salt water influx and enable scenario’s for adaptation to climate change.

Wetlands near Cartagena

The government organized over 100 meetings, yet there are some who question if these have reached those who need to know. For cargo, the importance of the Canal is immense; 67% of all river transportation is on Canal del Dique. And through the Canal, 92% of the liquid cargo of petroleum products is transported. 

However, Colombia’s total petroleum and other liquids production fell considerably in recent years. This was the result of COVID, but also of social protests and attacks by guerilla groups. The protests were targeted against the social inequalities and the environmental damage of the oil industry. 

We understand a bit better our first agent when we learn about Gustavo Petro. This newly elected president of Colombia promises to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

We like Colombia. And we wish Colombia and the new President a flourishing fossil fuel free future!

Sources and further reading:

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Mompox Meat

In Mompox, we first saw the cows and afterwards ate ‘carne a la plancha’, lovingly prepared by Davide.
He even shares his secret recipe for the marinade!

Is eating meat part of a sustainable lifestyle? Not when we eat lots of it. And also not when the animals are raised without respect.

But especially in parts of the world where agriculture is difficult, herding some cattle is necessary.

Emission of greenhouse gasses is not the only thing to take into consideration when discussing cattle. Also the use of fossil fuels and chemicals can play a role.

And so, we think that eating some meat can be part of a sustainable lifestyle. As long as you know where it comes from, prepare it with love and eat it with respect.

Sweeter than sweets

What is sweeter than sweets? When you are in the tropics, like here in Columbia, it is easy. But come to think of it, it was also easy in the Netherlands. If you don’t eat or drink sugar, fruit is the sweetest thing on earth. Especially when you eat it in the season, nearby to where you can pick it. No plastics, no chemicals. Enjoy! 

Inge asks the young street vendor about the unknown fruit

We had a young guest in Cartagena, Columbia. An amazing 8 years old girl. She wants to be an environmental scientist when she grows up, ‘just like Peter!’. And, she politely refused the ‘juice’ we had brought with us from Suriname. ‘This one is not too bad, but some drinks have only water with sugar and colorants’. She was right. And it made us think.

When we are working on our computers it is easy to eat sweets, like these:

Appealing? yes, but… plastic bag, plastic coatings, plastic straws and no fruit other than the ones on the image.

We will enjoy these artificial sweets as a ‘guilty pleasure’ and dispose of the plastic responsibly. But, we certainly will eat less of them, especially now we are in Columbia where you can buy incredible fruit from the street vendors!

A selection:


A little gem. You can slice the peel of or just crack the shell with your teeth and suck out what is inside. That may take a while but it is sweet and a little acid closer to the pit. When you feel like binge eating, it is a great alternative for peanuts.

Yellow Dragon Fruit

This exotic fruit is believed to originally come from Colombia. The pitahaya generally has yellow or red skin with white flesh and black seeds. You can only eat the inside. 

Chop of the head and you easily spoon the inside out in one move. It tastes nice, refreshing and sweet. The seeds are not hard but crunchy. 

As beautiful as it is, it’s not known to be a love potion, but it is supposed to be good for your bowels.

Tomate de árbol

This fruit has a smooth skin that is orange and red when ripe. You cut it in half. You can eat it out with a spoon, or just take a bite out, mold it a bit, take a bite again, till you hit the skin. The intense orange pulp is fleshy. It tastes a bit like a tomato and is rich in vitamins A, C and E as well as iron, potassium and magnesium. 


Guava is used for the most exquisite pink drinks. You can also eat them; peel and slice or spoon it out. They also make all kinds of jams and jellies, but then the colour turns into a slightly dull brownish orange. 

The flavor of guava is complex and rich. Despite the hard seeds, it is definitely worth a try. It is fruity, but it is not very sweet. But you can also taste hints of flowers and spices. 


The sweetest fruit we met so far. It looks a bit like a kiwi, but bigger. We cut it in half around and were surprised to find a big pit. Take it out. Mamey has a custardy texture with a flavor reminiscent of sweet potato, mango, and papaya. 


You can find Papaya anywhere in Middle-America. It is well known for its specific taste and a good source of vitamin A and C. You cut it over the length and take the seeds out. The taste of this fruit is very specific and kind of heavy. When you also eat a coincidental seed, there is a pepperish addition to it.

We like to eat Papaya with something else, like with some yoghurt and muesli in the morning. The combination with lime adds freshness.

They don’t keep really well. So, if you get a big one (which is not uncommon here) you can easily make lots of jam or ‘dulce‘.


Lime is indispensable. You can buy them everywhere, in large quantities, and cheap. They keep long if they’re not in the sun. Even if they turn yellow or brown on the outside, they are still fresh and green when you slice them open. They are served with every dish. Rich in vitamin C and less sour than lemons, they have become our favorite addition to afternoon tea. 

So, you can imagine that this sweeter than sweet fruit has drastically reduced our bad taste for artificial flavours and plastic wrapped ‘sweets’.

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Fossil free city transport in Cartagena

a street vendor pushes his car loaded with columbian fruit

Here in Cartagena, Colombia, we see, as simple Western people, what we have lost on fossil free solutions. One of these solutions is definitely the flexible and cheap and accessible means of transport. Look what we’ve found!

There’s noisy cars, vans and taxis everywhere.
But also… other vehicles, without engines!

Colombia has the advantage here. All variations of fossil free transport are still present. In Western cities we gave them all way to the bigger means, “for safety reasons”. And indeed, all smaller transport is pushed to the margins and the big cars and trucks have that much space, they can’t do harm anymore. Now, with much pain and difficulties, planners and traffic planners are experimenting, like in a Paris area around schools, where they forbid all cars. Or like in Amsterdam, where they stimulate the bikes again. Well, reluctantly, not too much, because the Amsterdam county needs ‘her’ parking fees. Better do it as in Cartagena, where still all is possible. And in the mean while, many people have a proud living from it.

Larimar, the spirit of the Caribbean

Looking for the ‘spirit of the Caribbean’ we found the beautiful beach of Bayahibe, and we found the colorful market in Barahona, but we also found Larimar. This pectolite can only be found near Barahona, Dominican Republic. We talked to David of Casa de Larimar. What makes Larimar so special?

Davide Bolques tells us all about Larimar, and more!

It is not all roses. One day after we went to Casa de Larimar, the New York Times published an in-depth article on Larimar. Two miners had died in April, so, the government had shut down the mine. Let’s hope the improvements come fast; the artisans need the income from Larimar. They benefit most if you buy Larimar jewelry that is produced in the Dominican Republic itself. So, if you are in Santo Domingo: visit the museum and the museum shop. And if you are in Barahona: visit Casa de Larimar!

Do you want to know more about these treasures of the Dominican Republic?


Organic coffee

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