Resistance to Change

10 years ago today, the Great Belt Fixed Link opened, connecting eastern and western Denmark and slicing off an hour’s travel time between most cross-nation trips. It includes the second largest free span in the world, and is a massive engineering feat, but more importantly it’s been a tremendous success. The usage has far exceeded expectations, and Denmark has become smaller, more inter-linked.

What is interesting to note is that in 1989, when construction began, a substantial part of the population actually were opposed to building the bridge. Some claimed they would miss the ferry ride – nobody actually does. Some claimed it would destroy marine biology – it hasn’t. Only a year after its opening, the large majority had a positive view of the connection.

Fast-forward to yesterday, where Irish voters (with a turnout of just 53 %) rejected the Lisbon treaty. They are of course not the first naysayers in the history of the Union (Denmark 1992, France and Netherlands 2005), but whatever one may feel about the EU, I think the primary force at work here is a misconstrued conservatism and fear of the new. Lisbon would actually enhance the democratic structures, not reduce them – but nobody seems to care.

We know what we have, not what we will get. This is apparently a common way of thinking for most people, around the globe. No matter if people tell us things can be better – it’s probably not worth the hassle, and if we’re happy to be content and not take any risks. But no wonders of the world are built without taking risks. Nobody can claim centuries of fame for sitting around, saying: we’re doing fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day – but if somebody hadn’t moved forward in faith, it would never have been built at all.


Author: Kenneth Mollerup Birch

Living north of Copenhagen, Denmark. MA in Information Science. Interests include communication, internet, sociology, language, politics, religion, theology, travel, music, and food.

4 thoughts on “Resistance to Change”

  1. I think the reason for the irish no vote is because of shear egoism. Ireland was one of the poorest countries when they joined EF, and therfore have been one of the greatest receivers of EU money. Now they have the largest BNP pr. person after Luxenburg, they are forced to be contributers to the EU. So they have used the EU for what it’s worth, and no they evidently don’t it anymore. I think a history lesson to the irish would do them some good.

  2. What happened to “If it aint broke…”? 🙂

    The more I look at the picture the less I understand how the bridge was build.

    I actually miss the waiting for the ferry part (But I’m surely a nut case in these matters, I also like Stau in Germany). I still prefer the bridge though and would also like to see a bridge to Germany soon (and maybe Norway (and Bornholm (and when do they ever start building that non-air-tunnel through the Atlantic??))).

    btw… I totally agree on the moving forward in faith thing… One could wonder, what would have happened, if they had moved on in faith with the freeway through Silkeborg as well (a bit sooner).

    When it comes to the EU, I have actually changed my mind from NO “I don’t want the benefits of a nearer relationship to other countries” to YES “I don’t any longer acknowledge that we draw borders on a map, but now that we did it, we might as well share some of the wealth we have in Denmark with some of the poorer countries around us in Europe”, which I think will be the result of a nearer relationship between countries: A kind of levelling. But I don’t have a need to make the EU a world power with a President and a foreign minister so that we can be a world power along with the others (USA, (Russia?), upcoming China and so on…).

    Hope the above wasn’t too confusing…

  3. @Andreas: Thank you for pointing that out, it does sound like a somewhat plausible explanation.

    @Niels: Well, balancing the two is the challenge, isn’t it? 😉

    If you miss the ferries, why not try Mols-Linien? (Which I rather enjoy, btw) The bridge is about connecting people – I think that’s a good thing. Breaking down borders is a good thing, and since globalisation is not a reverisble trend anyway, we might as well make the best of it.

    This is the case with the EU, too – it could be better, of course, but let’s not sit outside, pointing fingers… instead, let’s try improving it from the inside. Having a President and a Foreign Minister address practical concerns – mainly about communication. Who does the U.S. president call, when he wants to talk to Europe? I also believe that viewing the world in terms of world powers is a bit outdated… but even if you do, then what is wrong with acknowledging that Europe is one?

    Re. Silkeborg… a sad case indeed of decades’ worth of incompetent politicians not wanting to make up their minds.

  4. Trying not to say what is right and what is wrong, but simply looking at the argumentation used, I just want to say:

    You can’t use one example where history shows that it was a good idea to change things and move “forward” in faith, to prove that it is the case in all other situations as well. No matter how many examples you can find and use to show your point it doesn’t prove that it would be the right step to take in this particular situation. You can claim that it most likely is, but that opens up for the opportunity of being wrong.

    This is why you can have your opinion of seeing it as “forward”, while others can see it as “backwards”, and it is not until it is history that everyone can see who was right – except that it is only possible to see one of the outcomes – the one that actually happened.

    Then you can try to argue that the way of deciding what is the best is to count numbers of arguments – taking their “weight” into consideration as well, but again, a lot of the arguments – if not all – are not possible to verify since they are also based on “ifs”.

    What I think I try to say is, that although it often shows that a lot of good things has come from taking risks, you can’t use this as argument for other situations since there is no causal relationship between the two situations.

    But besides this I think that my feelings are telling me something like what Niels said… 🙂

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