BSSSC Youth Event in Klaipeda 2019: How to make the Baltic Sea blue again

What can youth do to make the Blue economy in the Baltic Sea Region more sustainable? 

26. September 2019
Written by Christopher Lucht, BSSSC Youth Coordinator

This was the main question for twenty-five young participants from seven Baltic Sea States during the BSSSC Youth Event 16-18 September in Klaipeda, Lithuania, back to back with the 27th BSSSC Annual Conference 18-20 September. In order to be able to give valuable answers to this challenging question the youngsters were first given an introduction to the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the Baltic Sea region are. Indre Augustiene from the Global Citizens´ Academy in Kaunas gave them an inspiring theoretical and practical input on the SDG´s. After building the outlines of the six continents with colored ribbons on the floor the youths guessed what proportion of the worldwide GDP, water supply and CO-2 emissions each continent has. The eye-opening result was: If the countries in Africa and Asia wants to reach the same development level as the western world the world would have to cut the CO-2 emissions all over the world drastically – and even that would not be enough to meet the UN Paris Emission goals.

In the next step the youth tried to find out how tourism in the Baltic Sea can become more sustainable. They indicated five different activity zones; Water activities, Culture, Non-Beach-Activities, Cruises and Nature and discussed their negative SDG effects and what could be done to improve the situation. They also discussed the question whether a top down (EU-legislation) or a bottom up approach (protests, manifestations, strikes) is more effective to protect the Baltic Sea. Finally, the youths reflected on what actions could be taken by the youths themselves to make the Baltic Sea cleaner – for example with "cleaning beaches days" and “no smoking beaches”. In the afternoon the youth experienced on their own how the Klaipeda region can be transformed into an active water sport spot. High waves and strong winds could not stop the youth from taking their first surfing lessons.

The second day was dedicated to youth specific perspectives and regional development in the Klaipeda region. After a visit to the Klaipeda Tourist office the youths understood how difficult it is to get valuable statistics about visitor numbers and that a special youth tourism strategy would make no sense as nobody can define what “youth” is. In the City hall of Klaipeda, the youths got some background information about the youth situation in the town. Thousands of young Lithuanians leave their country as soon as possible after their graduate from school to study and work aboard. The campaign “European Youth Capital 2021 - #chooseklaipeda” aims to improve this situation and make the youth want to stay.  Every participant then got the chance to reflect on unique youth problems and challenges in their home region like nationalism, xenophobia, no free time for volunteering, technical internet gaps, low youth participation, lack of LGBT- tolerance and marginalization.

Later that day the youth did a sightseeing tour by boat in the Klaipeda harbor area, organized by the Port of Klaipeda. The tour gave the youth further insight about the economic and ecologic challenges of the prosperous region connected with LNG Terminal, the expansion of new harbor areas and measures to protect the nature reserve "the Curonian Spit". At the end of the day the youths met at Klaipeda University to discuss their role at the BSSSC Annual Conference 18-20 September. The youths were invited to participate in three parallel sessions and also in a plenary discussion with Baltic sea stakeholders. The youths prepared the formulation of their political claims concerning the topics “Waste reduction”, “sustainable tourism” and “involvement of youth in green growth of blue economy”.

On the issue of "waste reduction" the youths mentioned several ideas:

  • The implementation of single use plastic directive

  • The requirement of producer responsibility and the pollute pays -principle which means that producers must factor production connected environmental damage into their prize calculation.
     

On the topic of "sustainable tourism" the youths mentioned:

  • Sustainable education, traveling

  • An integrated sustainability strategy,

  • Involvement of NGO´s

  • Cleaner cruises

  • Cleaner and greener tourism industry as a holistic approach.
     

On the topic of “involvement of youth in green growth of blue economy” the youths proposed cooperation with schools, job agencies offering internship, traineeship – not only at the seaside but also in the back country. 

The last point of the day was the election of the new board member. Former BSSSC Youth Board Member Martin Rümmelein (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) had to leave the board after his two years mandate. Venla Hatakka, Häme Region, Finland, was elected as the new Youth Board Member. She will sit two years. For the next twelve months there will be a double female team as Agnes Lusti from Norway stays in the Board until the next BSSSC Annual Conference 2020 in Kaliningrad. In her first statement Venla Hatakka said:  
 

- I’m excited to join the board. I think it is very important to meet other youth from different countries, and thus learn about new cultures. It is broadening and gives new perspective.
 

The final panel of the BSSSC Annual Conference was an improvised “Jazz-session” of youth asking experts about questions or concerns that arose during the conference. The youngsters Hedda, Maja and Mathias addressed some crucial points such as: Are the measures that was discussed during the conference really sufficient to make the Baltic Sea blue again?  All panelists agreed that cleaning up the Baltic Sea is the most important task. All projects should serve this problem. On the issue of how the youth be involved Tom Kleppestö, CEO Shipping & Offshore Network, Norway said: "Pick up the phone and call someone. Be daring and talk to decision makers." The discussion ended with the remark of Aaron Vuola, HELCOM Project coordinator: "Study what is needed - want it specific? Start taking classes in GIS (Geografic Information Systems)."  


Some of the young participants had their doubts that enough is being done to make the Baltic Sea blue again. One thing is for sure: changemaking is like a marathon and the youths are prepared to carry on being the disruptive factor in BSSSC, confronting experts and decision makers with uncomfortable questions.

The BSSSC Team would like to thank all organizers from Klaipeda Region for hosting the BSSSC Youth Event and BSSSC Annual Conference. We invite you all to our upcoming youth event next spring 2020.  Stay tuned!

Youth Booard Member Agnes Lusti (left) with new Youth Board Member Venla Hatakka.

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Eastern Norway County Network
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