The Baltic Sea is clear, beautiful and glistening on the May weekend when the Baltic Sea ambassadors from all over Finland got together for a training session on Örö island. The salty, seaweedy fragrance of the Kasnäs harbour reminds us of who the real star of the weekend is. The camp was made possible by the John Nurminen Foundation, and implemented by the Finnish Nature League as part of our third year of cooperation for a plastic-free sea. The goal of this cooperation is to disseminate information on the Baltic Sea particularly amongst children and youth, and to inform them on ways to save the Baltic Sea. In this blog Kirsi Kurki-Miettinen, the communications specialist in charge of cooperation coordination, describes the highlights of the camp.
An island full of history and unparalleled nature
The Örö fortress island shelters a great deal of history, horrific tales from the past, and also extraordinary nature. Humans have shaped the landscape, though, at the same time creating habitats for various species. This island where the nature and culture of the Baltic Sea meet was, in fact, a most excellent location for training Baltic Sea ambassadors.
Many endangered butterflies have been observed in the area, and not just because of the open, sunny and dry habitats, but because the area has been intensively studied for decades. Lepidopterist Jaakko Kullberg told us of the special features of the Örö island, and of his experiences in studying butterflies.
In addition to butterflies, we learned to identify birds on early-morning birding tours, admired the rare small pasque flower and the meadow anemone, stared on occasion at the horizon, and came to the conclusion that the Baltic Sea is beautiful both during a storm and in calm weather.
The campers, already surrounded by scents, sounds, and landscapes, were also given a huge amount of information on the Baltic Sea. We dove underwater with a movie, learned about the Baltic Sea’s habitats, heard of the curriculum of Baltic Sea lessons at schools, and, naturally, learned how to save the Baltic Sea following the example of the Foundation. We engaged in concrete action for the Baltic Sea: we picked up sack after sack of trash that had drifted from the sea to the shores of the national park, and cleared open and sunny habitats for rare species. The delicious food served at the camp also had the Baltic Sea in mind, as the dishes served were Baltic Sea-friendly vegetarian food.
The Baltic Sea speaks to our emotions and makes us take action
On sea-themed postcards, the young participants wrote what the Baltic Sea means to them and what emotions are awakened by the sea.
“The Baltic Sea makes me feel saudade [a Portuguese term for longing and yearning], a deep nostalgia for the summers of my childhood, which will never return. The autumn.
Perhaps also an experience of my own isolation; the loneliness of not being at one with nature. The yearning to be whole, a part of all existence, happy, and at peace.
This longing feeling also encompasses the memory of the clean and clear waters of the Archipelago Sea, which now, in the summertime, come mixed with wafts of filamentous and blue-green algae.
The scent of the Sea alone brings back dear memories of summer vacations in the archipelago, together with my family.
By the Sea I can also experience how tiny I am in the midst of nature. Its vastness fills me with silence.
Saudade is also linked to the sadness I feel over the status of the Sea. What people do to nature is hard to bear.”
– Ville, Finnish Nature League volunteer
As the text above makes clear, the Baltic Sea is extremely dear and important to the young volunteers, and brings up many kinds of emotions in them. On the one hand, the emotions can be longing and yearning for the times when the seawaters were still clean and good for swimming. On the other hand, there is hope that you can make a difference in the status of the Baltic Sea through your own actions. Next summer, we will in fact see wonderful events all around Finland, free for all to participate. Follow Nature League’s Baltic Sea group and the John Nurminen Foundation on Instagram and know where the action is!
When autumn comes, schools can also book a Baltic Sea ambassador for a free presentation on our unique sea in Finnish schools. Book the lesson here.