On October 6, Friends of the Baltic held a trilateral Finnish-Estonian-Russian seminar titled "Environmental Education - Trilateral Cooperation for the Gulf of Finland". The seminar became the next step in the development of cooperation among the three countries in the field of promoting environmental education (both formal and informal) based on the most recent scientific data on the Gulf of Finland environment. The participants discussed the opportunities of a new large-scale joint project that is being planned for the next year.
The seminar took place at U Voznesenskogo Mosta house of children's creativity and was actively aupported by the staff members of its department of environment and biology. Among the participants were representatives of Neva-Ladoga Water Basin Management Authority, the city's Committee for Nature Use, SYKE (the Finnish Insitute of Environment), the Finland-Russia society, two local universities, the Committe for Nature Resources of Leningrad Region, as well as a number of research and educational institutions.
At the seminar, Ljudmila Vesikko of SYKE presented the new scientific assessment report, containing the latest data on the state of the Gulf of Finland environment. The report was created by scientist from all of the three countries. Among the topic that the report covers, are eutrophication, marine litter and microplastic, alien species, maritime transport, climate change and many others. Many of the topics are related, or are secondary, to climate change. For example, coastal erosion, the decrease in ice cover (which negatively affects the Baltic grey seal population that needs ice in order to build snow holes for raising their pups. Marine litter is another major issue, affecting birds and fish that get entangled in it or confuse it with food.
There is an on-going effort to adapt the assessment report in order for its contents to be shared more widely. Scientists are working on a set of recommendations for every issue that the report covers, in order to improve the situation in the Gulf.
Olga Senova, head of Friends of the Baltic NGO, told about her experience with the trilateral cooperation during the Gulf of Finland year. For the first time ever, such a big focus was on the development of environmental education and public information. Hundreds of events, including summer camps for children, took place during the project year. At the camp, young people from the three countries developed a Youth Declaration for the protection of the Gulf. Another project that was worth mentioning, was Step to Ecosupport, aimed at educating ecoadvisers from educational institutions. One more project of interest is Climate Ambassadors - for volunteers who wish to give classes on climate change, its effects and measures to combat climate change and adapt to its consequences. The main goal of all of those projects is education for the reduction of human impact on the Gulf of Finland and other water bodies in the Baltic Sea basin. There is a desire and need to build on those achievements and develop and expand those activities further.
The participants had a chance to discuss their capabilities and interests, as well as ways to further continue the collaboration aimed at keeping our water bodies clean and safe. Regional authorities are ready to support children's activities, such as camps and coastal clean-ups. University people think it is important to get other educational institutions on board with such activities. Local municipality, Sennoy Okrug, declared their support for project ideas and would like to provide assistance, for example, in terms of organizing free educational tours of the district water bodies with data collection, in order to monitor the environmental status of waters on their territory. The teachers, in their turn, voiced out the need to get simple and accessible materials, colorful and interactive.
Another important point is the task to involve diverse groups of people, from all walks of life, and apart from coastal clean-ups they could be involved in round-table discussions, workshops in key spots for all stakeholders.