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.