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The Mediterranean Sea is our mutual responsibility

The Mediterranean Sea is our mutual responsibility

Lessons learned from the Let’s Do It World! network

Let’s Do It Mediterranean is a part of worldwide movement Let’s Do It! World Cleanup that aims to engage 5% of the population of the world by 2018, to participate in country-wide cleanups or related activities that serve the purpose of the clean world.

The movement was born in 2008 in a little country of Northern Europe – Estonia. 50.000 people came together to get rid of 10.000 tons of illegal garbage from roadsides, forests and towns, cleaning the entire country in just 5 hours. The solution of Estonians seemed simple: let’s involve the whole country to clean it up! To get to know the real extent of the problem an online tool was developed. World Waste Map is an easy-to-use free online tool that everyone can use to map the illegal garbage in any area in the world. In many places people and organizations have been working hard for many years to clean local areas. But until let’s do it events and the waste map there was not even a clear understanding how big is the problem.

Soon the success of Estonians found many followers thanks to the Youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5GryIDl0qY) and long story short - in 2012 the first World Cleanup campaign took place. The network grew to 96 countries who organized clean-up events in their country. By the end of 2013 the number of participating countries was 110. Today, when 7 countries have already managed to organize cleanups which involved at least 5% of their population, the aim is to continue supporting Let’s Do It activities until 2018, and during this time concentrate at the root causes of littering to stop the waste flow that is generated in the first place.

Let’s Do It dives into the sea!

In 2012 a new idea emerged from the Let’s Do It network. It is known that over 7 million tons of litter reaches the oceans every year. We have cleaned so many countries, but what about the seas and oceans? But why start with the Mediterranean Sea? Many countries around the Mediterranean Sea had organized country cleanups already. Mediterranean Sea is a fragile ecosystem which is under immense pressure of human civilization – notably the greatest sources of all marine litter are dumpsites near rivers and beaches, tourism, fishing industry activities – the same applies to the Mediterranean Sea which is surrounded with dense human population and accounts for about 30% of all worlds tourists.

Although the disposal of garbage to the Mediterranean Sea is prohibited since 2009 (MARPOL Annex V) there problem of marine litter has not gone away from the region. Plastic marine debris has been found in the stomach of loggerhead sea turtles and there have been many other findings that suggest direct threat to marine wildlife. Around 80% of all marine litter is plastic which is known to emit many dangerous toxins and biodegrade extremely slowly. Usage of plastic is said rise about 5% per year.

Thus on 10th and 11th of May Let’s Do It Mediterranean! clean-up will aim to set the record for environmental cooperation in the Mediterranean region. A massive coastal and offshore cleanup will be organized by all Mediterranean countries to clean the Mediterranean Sea of floating and sunken garbage. The aim of the campaign is to stop waste inflow to the Mediterranean Sea, so that in five years’ time, it will be a clean and biologically diverse environment for which every citizen takes full responsibility. Our objectives are:

1) Involve at least one million participants in clean-up events by the end of 2014!

2) Determine some of the biggest polluters of the Mediterranean Sea by 2014 and help remove/mitigate 10 biggest of them by 2018

3) To create a competition for novel techniques to clean marine debris (incl. micro-plastic) from the water and support the implementation of the best models by 2018.

Cross-border cooperation between Mediterranean countries: A whole new world of possibilities

Let’s Do It! is not a network of people who clean up after others. It’s a network of people, organizations and nations who are willing to work hard for a clean world. So as written in the objectives the clean-up events are important for wildlife protection and human health but their main purpose is to raise awareness of the citizens living around the Mediterranean Sea.  Besides the awareness we hope to create a sufficient scientific and legislative public database of the environmental state of the Mediterranean Sea for making recommendations to relevant governments in 2014. This will not happen without the help of very different people and organizations.

A distinctive characteristic of our campaign is that it targets not only environmentalists but namely the broader population living around the Mediterranean Sea. There are several researches carried out about the current state of the Mediterranean Sea, many non-governmental organizations have organized clean-up events for years, governments have put together strategies, many people have invested their time and energy to give the Mediterranean a brighter future but it still does not seem to be enough. In the end we have to face the brutal truth that no event targeted to a narrow target group or governmental strategy prevents a common person from acting in an unsustainable way. That is why the project aims to involve at least one million people to reach the consciousness of the whole population of the Mediterranean region. Our previous experience is that person who has cleaned nature from illegal waste with his own hands, will not litter anymore nor will do his family and friends.

To reach our goals we have already created a wide network of different governmental and non-governmental organizations (www.letsdoitworld.org/mediterranean) and we intend to cooperate even more with NGOs, municipalities, business sector, science and governmental institutions. We will show that big things can happen from small steps. Let’s Do It! has an experience to mobilize people in great extents and we want to give this experience to all organizations that will join the initiative. With the involvement of this wide audience we drive governments to implement stricter legislation for example mandating installation of sewage systems, storm drain filters, to relocate open dumpsites from coastlines and to introduce modern waste management techniques, even to ban plastic bags where necessary.

As mentioned before an idea of a coastal clean-up is not new in itself. What is new and powerful is the will to actually do it – to reduce the waste flow, to remove the current waste and to involve all parts of the society to the change. So far there has not been a civil society movement targeting so huge cooperation between Mediterranean nations in the history as does the Let’s Do It Mediterranean! actions. In the end it all comes down to how to change the throw-away consumer society to a more sustainable and healthier community so that the Mediterranean Sea will be a clean and biologically diverse environment for which every citizen takes full responsibility.