[Image: Henk Ovink in New York City | © Cynthia van Elk]
Over the past couple of years I've been hearing a fait bit about a Dutchman called Henk Ovink and some of the amazing work he's been leading on water risk management and flood prevention around the world.
With his dual titles of 'Special Envoy for International Water Affairs at the Kingdom of the Netherlands' and 'Sherpa to the UN High Level Panel on Water', he clearly knows a thing or two about some of the water issues facing the world; from scarcity in an increasing number of regions globally to the increasing threat of flooding and infrastructure damage from climate change.
I had the pleasure of introducing him to an audience of civic and corporate leaders at an event at Collaroy Beach in November where I got to witness both his impressive depth and breadth of expertise, as well as the energy and enthusiasm I'd heard he had for addressing some of the world's toughest and (seemingly) most intransigent water issues.
Like all high–performing leaders, Henk is involved in an impressive array of projects around the world, but one of his (I think) most impressive pieces of work – and a tangible example of how serious issues can be addressed in a holistic and inspiring way – is his leadership of the Rebuild by Design project in New York City.
This work was instigated in 2012 by President Obama after Hurricane Sandy had devastated 24 states, costing over than $65 billion in estimated damages and economic loss. It has since become a blueprint for addressing the uncertainties faced by communities around the world due to climate change and in 2016 began what is likely to be a highly effective partnership with the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) initiative. I'd encourage anyone with an interest in seeing how collaboration and an innovative approach to a serious issue can result in effective and lasting solutions. As I keep saying on this blog, we'll need more and more of these kinds of approaches as the impacts of climate change keep manifesting themselves in increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
But as impressive as his list of past and present projects are, it's his attitude that impressed me most last month. In spite of his daily exposure to the very real impacts climate change is currently wreaking in a multitude of locations around the world, he rarely seems to lose his passion and energy for the quest for solutions.
I just hope he maintains this can–do attitude in the multi–decade struggle that now lies ahead.
This post is the 2nd in a planned (sporadic) series on some of the unsung heroes working to help us achieve 'One Planet Living'.