Organisms Democracy

Baltic Talks

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  • As preparation for creating an “Organisms Democracy Baltic Sea” Club Real is organising a series of online conversations about the Baltic Sea and its human and non-human water and coastal inhabitants. This process takes places in 2021. People from different Baltic coastal states who live and work by the sea and representatives of non human marine life are entering into a dialogue with each other via online talks. 

    Clupea harengus -Hering Source: wikimedia, Gervais et Boulard 1877

    Despite decades of international efforts by all Baltic Sea littoral states and the European Union, the proclamation of the Helsinki Convention and the establishment of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission, HELCOM), and numerous other legal and policy initiatives, much of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystems remain in poor to very poor condition (HELCOM BERICHT Ecosystem Health (p15f)).  The Baltic Sea continues to serve as a waste dumping ground for industrial agriculture and other industries, suffers from heavy shipping traffic, is being tunnelled and overfished, and in addition is now getting the climate crisis.  

    While in the second half of the 20th century more than 100 populations worldwide gained independence from colonial states, in parallel many states pursued an expansion of their territories into the world’s oceans. The proclamation of freedom of the seas by Hugo Grotius in 1609 was soon opposed by a doctrine of permanent possession on maritime territory, which for pragmatic reasons (guns could not fire further than 3 miles) was for the time being limited to a three-mile zone around the mainland. At present, the national area of power on the seas has expanded to 200 nautical miles (territorial sea plus the so-called “Exclusive Economic Zone”, EEZ), which means that the Baltic Sea, which is nowhere wider than 400 km, has come completely within the sphere of state national power of its littoral states. However, freedom of the high seas never meant freedom of the sea itself, but freedom for the people of the nations that were and are technically able to navigate and use the high seas according to their ideas. 

    Organisms Democracy Baltic Sea follows a new approach of “Mare liberum”: The sea as a habitat with a population of marine organisms in its territory should be given back to itself and at the same time be connected with a representative democracy of human sea inhabitants and users. In this context, organism democracy is not a conservation approach, but a plan for radical policy and cultural change, a fundamental new everyday practice in dealing with the sea and all its creatures.

    „Because of its significant levels of pollution, the Baltic is commonly perceived to be “dead”: surely it is almost impossible for any life to exist in such a “dirty” water body, in which the salinity is low and the environment hostile? But in fact, the very reverse is the case: the Baltic is inhabited by several hundred species of crustaceans, a very important taxonomic group in the functioning of the natural environment, and many of them lead a very intense life in the sea´s coastal waters.”

    Anna Szaniawska (Baltic Crustaceans, page 1)

    “…as the world continues to change, so should the law of the sea……” “Can multi-level governance respond to the challenges in the Baltic Sea? Do existing legislative bodies and institutions offer the necessary means for governing the Baltic Sea?”

    T.Koivovura et al (The Baltic  Sea  and the  Law of the Sea- Finnish Perspectives, page 112, 113)