“Great projects to save the sea, and thousands of tonnes of phosphorus removed permanently from the sea. A myriad of award-winning marine non-fiction books. Aesthetic experiences, exchange of thoughts, insights and continuous learning.”
On August 29th, the John Nurminen Foundation celebrated its 25 years of history in the premises of its new partner, Allas Sea Pool. Invitees included the Foundation’s partners and supporters from throughout the years. After an introduction by our host Peter Nyman, the Foundation’s founder and chairman of the board Juha Nurminen looked back on the turning points of the Foundation’s first quarter of a century, and expressed his thanks to the hundreds of partners who have worked with the Foundation. Alpo Tuurnala’s book about the history of Finnish sailing ships was also published at the event. Finally, we moved to the Baltic Sea Centre to discuss new measures to bring cost-efficiency for the protection of the Baltic Sea (NutriTrade project), and to the award ceremony, where forerunners in the field were given recognition for their groundbreaking work in Baltic Sea protection. To celebrate the anniversary, awards were given to the water utilities of the world’s first phosphorus-neutral cities, i.e. Helsinki and Kotka (Kymen Vesi).
Juha Nurminen’s festive speech:
“Dear friends and partners, dear friends of the Baltic Sea.
By all accounts, 25 years is a marvellous age.
In general, one has managed to accomplish something by that time. And there is still an endless reserve of time, energy, and will to embark on new paths.
During this year of our anniversary, I have on various occasions pondered the chain of generations.
As we saw in Peter’s introduction, the history of the shipping company John Nurminen Oy, a family business, is a major force behind the history of the John Nurminen Foundation. It makes me particularly pleased to see that in this 25-year anniversary event, we can also celebrate the history of Finnish sailing ships with Alpo Tuurnala’s magnificent book. More on that later today.
During this year of celebration, Johan’s grandson and my father Matti Nurminen has been in my thoughts particularly often. He was still with us to witness the establishment of the Foundation, but the realization of his hopes and dreams was, in the end, to be my task.
My father was an avid collector and a friend of maritime art. This enthusiasm was passed on to me. We established the Foundation 25 years ago to ensure that the cultural capital, maps, maritime art and marine artefacts accrued during the decades would be conserved for future generations – regardless of what would happen on the business side of things.
This task of preservation turned out in the end to be just a short phase in the history of the Foundation. We quickly and naturally expanded into the field of disseminating information, as we began to publish books and organise marine exhibitions which we believed would interest the public at large. And interest they did. The books and related exhibitions on the Northeast Passage and the history of discoveries in the north alone drew the interest of thousands of friends of the sea. The same happened with our exhibition featuring the masters of naval art.
Our third leap ahead turned out to be more dramatic than we had been able to foresee.
A few words on why we expanded our operations to cover also the protection of the sea.
The idea of projects to protect the Baltic Sea was hatching in my brain long before the projects were actually launched. Through my hobby of diving, I had observed with great concern how the status of the sea had been deteriorating for a long time already. The horrendous algae summer of 1997 was the turning point. I went boating with my son, and we were forced to realize that what was happening was not just a local phenomenon. All of eastern Gulf of Finland was covered by a thick layer of algae.
My first reaction was frustration. I wondered if there really was nothing we could do about this.
The road from awakened interest to action was still a long one. First, I needed to gain a deeper understanding of what was going on. In 2004, the time was ripe, and we decided to launch projects to protect the sea, based on our very own recipe: concrete measures, cost-efficiency, and the greatest possible impact. Results had to be measurable and recordable. We compared ourselves to lifeguards, the fire department, or an ER physician. We would go where the distress was the greatest. This continues to be the recipe we follow today.
In my eyes, the first 25 years of the Foundation comprise a unified and logical arc. The line between cultural preservation and saving the sea is very thin.
In addition to our role as saviours, we also have the important – and to my mind vital – task of structuring knowledge and culture, and passing that information on in a reliable manner. Without making concessions on quality.
In the end, the matter is very simple.
Once people know the sea and its history, their perspective and their horizon will expand. It will be easier to understand why we need to protect our unique sea.
The question is, what kind of a sea are we going to leave to our children and to their children.
We need to ensure that the sea we leave behind is ecologically viable. A sea where we can swim, which will refresh us, and where fishermen and others can engage in the natural livelihoods of the coastal area, preserving natural values.
I believe that my father, a sailor, would be very happy to see the results of our work so far.
For me, the Foundation has been a deeply personal task and journey. I have given a lot to it, but received even more. This initially very personal dream and passion of mine has become the shared and treasured task of many.
The results our Foundation has achieved would not have been possible without our hundreds of partners, both in Finland and abroad. Great projects to save the sea, and thousands of tonnes of phosphorus removed permanently from the sea. Aesthetic experiences, exchange of thoughts, insights and continuous learning. A large number of marine non-fiction publications that have won prizes both in Finland and elsewhere.
I am lucky, as the board of the John Nurminen Foundation has always been able to find members who are wiser than me – and, of course, the employees of the Foundation also need to be mentioned. 25 years ago we were a small ‘workshop’ for a few enthusiastic amateurs. Today we have 15 stellar professionals who time and time again reach new heights in their performance. The Foundation’s secretary generals have always been bold in moving the Foundation forward.
Also, a great number of companies and private individuals. We have always received unselfish support from outside the Foundation. In addition to monetary support, the Foundation has during the years received donations of considerable value in the form of effort or expert help.
For 25 years I have been at a vantage point, witnessing the abundance of good will and cooperation in Finland. Without you, our partners and supporters, we would not be where we are today.
I would like to express my warmest gratitude to you all who came here today to celebrate the Foundation’s first quarter of a century.
Let us raise a toast to the 25-year-old Foundation!”