The Port of Antwerp is very hungry. In the last century, it has been eating several villages and thousands of acres of land to meet the requirements of being a globally competing economic center.
I find it interesting to wander in and around this massive economic monster, and study its behaviour. It feels as if the port is a giant dragon, ready to consume everything in its surroundings.
On a sunny winter day, we hiked through the little village of Verrebroek, on the eastern side of the port and currently not yet consumed by the endless hunger of the port-dragon. There, it is only a grassy green dike that separates you from Europe’s second largest sea port.
But that is the funny part, at our side of the dike, there was only nature and agriculture, and no sign of a port at all. This sudden boundary made me wonder. I am used to gradients in my work, relatively slow changes from one condition to the other.
We study these gradients in the mountains, where they range over hundreds of meters or a few kilometers from the mild and more densly populated lowlands to the cold and desolated alpine zone. But next to the port of Antwerp, there is not much of a gradient. There is a port – a busy economic center with virtually no place for nature – or there is none.
For travelling species, there is a big difference between a gradient of hundreds of meters like the one in the mountains, or one of only a few steps, like here next to the major connection to Europe’s hinterland.
One moment, you are flying over your own nice little puddle, the other you are caught amid the smoke of the dragon…