In the land of the Frisians – coastal identity in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands

13.02.2014 13:36 Age: 5 years
Category: Internationaal, Cultuurhistorie, English
By: Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht

The Wadden Sea arouses the same feeling of regional identity in people living on the German coast as it does in their Dutch and Danish counterparts. This is the conclusion reached from an online survey of the inhabitants of the Wadden Sea in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands which was carried out by the Institute of Coastal Research at the Helmholtz Zentrum in Geesthacht, in cooperation with the Wadden Sea Forum.

Sunset in the wadden area. Photo: Beeldbank RWS, Harry van Reeken.

As the presenter of the study, Prof. Dr. Beate Ratter of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, pointed out, “What is new, is the realisation that there is a sense of coastal identity which reaches across the borders. Whether Danes, Dutch or Germans – for these coastal inhabitants the Wadden Sea is their homeland. They all feel at home and at ease in an area in which they are surrounded by the forces of nature”. This transboundary study will be presented by the geographer on the occasion of the Trilateral Ministerial Conference on the Protection of the Wadden Sea, to be held in Tondern (Denmark) from the 4-5 of February.

The study reveals that the coastal inhabitants of all three countries express a love of their homeland – and in particular of the wide open landscape, the peculiar weather conditions, the exceptional natural environment, the neighbours and their traditions. They depict themselves as a bit stubborn, with a tendency to be introverted but nevertheless friendly.

Besides their shared love of the landscape, the people of the Wadden Sea region are united in their concern that they their homeland will be lost. This is how their fears regarding the impacts of climate change are expressed. They are unsettled by the commercial utilisation of the region and by new industries and technologies such as offshore wind installations, fracking or carbon dioxide storage. However, it is not only companies which are subject to criticism. In the survey, some segments of the coastal population accuse the relevant nature conservation organisations of excluding coastal residents from their deliberations. Some are also anxious about politicians, as political decisions can often have unforeseeable consequences for coastal residents, in particular if they are made without their involvement.

Environment ministers from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands will be addressing these fears regarding changes to the Wadden Sea at the Trilateral Ministerial Conference from 4-5 February. The topics of this year’s conference are the coordinated protection of the Wadden Sea ecosystem and also the shared cultural heritage of the Wadden Sea region.

Link to original press release.

Download the report: Cultural Identity in the Wadden Sea Region of Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands; Results from the online survey of July 2012 to December 2012.