In a series of portraits People of Petrotopia takes you to places and communities in post-fossil Utrecht. You will see inhabitants of Utrecht and how they survive in this situation.

People of Petrotopia portrays a future that is based on the choices of today. If we do not act upon the challenges posed by climate change and global warming, and refuse to change our lifestyles we will not be ready for the post-fossil era. This era will not be reached out of luxury (because we don't need fossil fuels any longer), but as an inevitable consequence of our depletion of the fossil resources.

When the oil ran out a turbulent time emerged. At first the Netherlands seemed to be able to safe itself by falling back on windmills to continue pumping the water away from the land in order to keep dry. Without the enormous energetic potential of fossil fuels and with the rise of the sea level, the Dutch were finally unable to keep the pumps running at pace, the way they had done for so many centuries. The water came in form the west and many people were victimized. Ninety percent of the inhabitants of the lower half of the country drowned or fled to higher areas in the Netherlands, Germany or Belgium. The people that refused to move braced themselves for the battle with the water that would have to be fought more directly from then on. Stuff left behind by the people that left now form an endless stock of supplies to the people that remain.

The People of Petrotopia had to adapt to the new situation. Communities were formed at places that had something special on offer. Traders formed a market community in Drhoog Catharijne which had remained dry and well connected. Urban farmers started farming the flat roofs in Overvecht. People started collecting solar panels and those who had the skills and knowledge to repair and maintain electric appliances became important people. At the base of one of the few windmills close to Utrecht electricity junkies came together to form their own community of Electrotopia. Others are constantly on the move collecting and trading resources, hoping to survive.

People of Petrotopia is a submission to the contest: Post Fossil City organized by the Urban Futures Studio (University of Utrecht). People of Petrotopia is among the 10 finalists to the contest. June 15th the finalists will present their projects in an exposition at the 'Stadskantoor' in the city of Utrecht.


"Drhoog Catharijne is the only dry and safe passage between the east and west of the city. The water and rail connections also make that rare goods find their way to the traders here. It attracts a lot of people, the good and the bad. It is my job to decide who gets in and who doesn't. This earns me food and shelter. This scar beneath my eye? You should try and find the other guy! Follow your nose, he's rotting away somewhere. If you don't wanna listen you gotta feel, you know. The easy way or the hard, I decide who gets in. Not that I'm particularly vulnerable to it, but if a nice looking girl has got something special to offer me, I might consider enjoying the perks of this job."

(Dhroog Catharijne, Utrecht)


"I've almost finished my penance. I spent a year in the basement because my grandfather worked for Shell. I hope it has been enough. That they are ready to accept me into Drhoog Catharijne now. It ain't particularly nice here, but at least there's food and it's quite safe.

He comes from an aviation family and they are going to put him in a smoker oven.

What did you say you were here for?"

(Stadskantoor, Utrecht)


"I don't know my parents. They say my mother was filthy. No one knows who my father was. I think he's very powerful but he doesn't know who I am. One day he will sail here, on a raft so big, you've never seen one that big. He will come save me and together we will take revenge on the assholes here.
When I can I steal food. If I can't they make me deserve it. The things they make me do, I will never tell anyone."

(Drhoog Catharijne, Utrecht)


"Electrotopia surges with energy,
batteries from the ruined city.

Your seaweed-cake will trade real well,
in Electrotopia for a power-cell.

Scavengers in houses,
farmers on the roofs.
I caught a bunch of mouses,
so I've got energy for two.

Cause the city's under water,
while there is a rising sea.
Clouds make rain and splatter,
and in it there is me.

In spite of all of our troubles,
I've got potatoes and a rat.
Come to Drhoog Cathrijne,
there's business and that's that."

(Drhoog Catharijne, Utrecht)


"I am the only one in Electrotopia that knows how life was before the big change. The people here made me their leader because I have this old knowledge. I often tell them I will only lead the towards more disaster, but they don't understand. When I look my son into the eyes I want to cry. This is not the world I would have wanted him to grow up in. And I could have done so much more to prevent this. I thought I was doing well as a flexitarian.."

(Lopikse Baai)


"I am the most important person in the Electrotopia community. Without me there wouldn't be power and everything would collapse. My father taught me a lot about how the world worked before the fossil fuels ran out. With what he taught me and what I learned from old books I try to keep things running here. We often get electronic devices from scavengers and traders, we trade them for batteries. These devices are often totally weird. They get hot, they vibrate, sometimes they spin or they make a lot of noise. It must have been a time of abundance, they had so much stuff that is utterly useless."

(Lopikse Baai)


"We are sent out every day to look for valuable stuff, if we don't go we don't eat. Because we're small we get sent sent into the houses that are under water. Seeing those houses makes me wish I lived in that time, before the water was like this. We don't have time to play or find stuff for ourselves. We have to get the bosses what they want or else we get a beating, or wore. Today we found a wetsuit, those are valuable. I hope we get to eat rat tonight, instead of always eating seaweed soup."

(A2, Utrecht)


"Building a timegate, have to warn the world! People before have to know the truth! Now we are in the shit, yes! Nothing can be done? No! Yes! Not now but then! Oil is bad! Just go back, back in time! I have to warn them!
Ruin the world! All is water. Everything was better in the past, yes! Highly inconvenient! Look what I have, technology, Magical stuff! Something can be done! Then!"

(Nicolaïkerk, Utrecht)


"I used to have three kids, our first we lost to the measles. My second was taken by a damn trader! I cried for three days, that was the last time I cried. If God wills it I get to keep my youngest daughter with me. I have to teach her everything I know, about food and about how she must defend herself.
One of the flats collapsed because we put too much weight on it. That doesn't happen anymore. The weather does remain hard to predict. Harvesting is difficult and if we cannot deliver I feel tension building up. Sometimes we get something in return for the food they take from us. A scavenger gave us chia seed he had found. It tasted weird and wouldn't grow so I gave it to the pigeons."

(Overvecht, Utrecht)


"Three years ago my wife died, because the energy factions refused to give her medicine. even though they have a huge supply... Right there and then I swore revenge on them. It's insane that they think they are better just because they have more stuff. With my comrade Johanna I go around plundering the faction's supplies and gardens. We always share our loot with those marginalized by the factions. We think in the current situation we have a responsibility to help each other survive."

(Maartensbrug, Utrecht)


"Losing my family to cholera has given me a purpose. I have taken up the duty to care for people in need. Some medicine I can craft myself, others I trade with the people I help and cure. In old books I found knowledge on plants and their medicinal properties I'm still looking for this plant with magical powers, it's called Ganja.
I feel respected and safe to move around. Because of this I see a lot of the city and meet a lot of people. It feels good to be able to help, but unfortunately I also often see people in despair. Sometimes its curable but I haven't found a cure for human cruelty yet."

(Vismarkt, Utrecht)


"There we go, and now lets get back inside. We do not enjoy being among the plebians. Luckily, usually we do not need to. Our forefathers have done a marvelous job and managed to aquire all the things we needed to be self sufficient in our glorious bastion, just in time when the bad times started.

Besides the good folk, they also let some of the others in to supply us with all our needs, but only in pairs. Two technicians, two farmers, two to do the cleaning. You know, the bare necessities, according to the book. But oh my goodness! Inside, inside the rooms just get só small, it is easy to get bored. So then some fresh meat is in order. Daddy sends me out with some food across the water. Because he knows, that I know, what he likes"

(Bastion Binnenhof, Den Haag)


People of Petrotopia has collected all the stories, narrated into an interactive map. For the full immersive experience behind your pc, you can follow the link by clicking on the map and decide which Petrotopian's story you want to hear.


For mobile users, People of Petrotopia has a tour visiting several of the locations in the city, starting at het Stadskantoor. Following the link, you will be brought to a site that has several Stereoscopic images processed to be used with cardboard VR glasses.

By watching these videos with your headphones in at the locations, you can see both the present as well as the future imagined in this project.