Marine pollution in our stunning Aegean Sea demands that we come together as we have not before; aware of the problem, guided by evidence, and powered by community partnerships. Aegean Rebreath, a group conceived and led entirely by volunteers, brings central government, municipal actors, fishing communities, local communities, and other stakeholders together in a holistic circular economy model to sustainably manage marine litter and end marine pollution once and for all.
Skopelos and Alonissos islands, next to the National Marine Park, are critically underserved.
The misperception that environmentalism and commerce are locked in a zero-sum struggle is global, and Greece’s remote islands are not immune. Commercial fishing groups regularly feel sidelined in environmental policymaking and may skirt initiatives, and local governments are frustrated by the lack of awareness and civic responsibility in managing marine waste. We have one of the poorest recycling rates in Europe, and with extra pressure from tourism, the damage to marine life is immeasurable. Our nominated islands are next to the National Marine Park of Alonnisos, and, concerningly, there are no mechanisms in place to manage marine litter, no recycling taking place at all, and no local groups engaged in marine preservation, despite the presence of the park.
Aegean Rebreath was founded on principles of environmental democracy and civic responsibility. The first step of our methodology includes identifying engaged local authorities, individuals, or groups to help us map environmental problems and opportunities. Then we share our holistic circular economy model with our local partners and we mentor them in implementing our waste management models within their communities. These champions stand at the forefront in our consultation process with the rest of the local communities, convincing and growing support for marine protection among their neighbors and children’s schools. After a few months of collaboration, we identify our strongest community leaders to continue to manage civic engagement and program outcomes as Aegean Rebreath focal points.
Local societies, most particularly fishermen and environmental groups, usually feel excluded from regional policy making. Aegean Rebreath builds an advocacy collective that includes representatives from both sectors and gives local actors access to the national platform (Ministry of Environment and national research institutes) through the AR national network. We also work with local schools to raise awareness about marine pollution and the power of community action. We teach our model of civic responsibility and lead students to develop their own sustainable clean up initiative. We have worked in 20 schools, this project will allow us to change 8 more. This will have a direct impact on 7,500 island residents, while project outcomes will be shared far beyond the surrounding islands.
Our methodology is based on 4 main pillars of action. First, we reinforce the concept of environmental democracy on a local scale through awareness events and conferences. Then we activate and encourage the communities to contribute and support our efforts long-term through the implementation of clean up activities and by demonstrating the size of the marine pollution problem. The third step foresees the establishment of marine litter collection stations in both islands that will serve as hubs for many of our initiatives. As a last step we expect including Allonisos and Skopelos islands in our national network that includes other municipalities, fishing associations, recycling companies, etc. with the aim of exchanging practices and highlighting common challenges.
Two islands in a key location implementing a holistic circular economy approach on marine litter management with an active local society safeguarding marine and island environments. This is our vision a year from now. We will build a more environmentally aware local community, providing them all the necessary tools and connecting everyday issues to local, national, and European policies. By activating local society we will demonstrate tangible results on the impact marine waste has on islanders life, affecting fishing communities, tourism, and aesthetics of the islands. By educating them, we will empower and motivate locals to be active citizens and participate in consultation procedures regarding local policies, law proposals, and European initiatives affecting marine environment.
Aegean Rebreath has shown the power of committed civilian volunteers in influencing domestic environmental policy and activities. By engaging local society, in improving their surrounding environment, they get to actually see the results of their actions and develop a sense of pride for their progress. This process creates a link between local, national, and European policies and local societies get a better understanding of how all those policies affect their territory. In this way, they are empowered to participate in decision making by influencing local and regional administration and by developing good practices for their islands on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity of the EU, where decisions should always be taken on a level as close to the citizens as possible.
Aegean Rebreath was born of our deep concern as divers and beach lovers in Greece. We were horrified to see the magnitude of the underwater waste problem. Plastic, rubber, metal, and devastating ghost nets suffocated seabeds that we remember being pristine when we swam as children. Locals and travelers alike have marveled at the Aegean for millennia, but the degradation in recent decades is unacceptable. We believe in intergenerational justice because future generations deserve to enjoy and benefit from abundant, healthy, ‘breathing’ seas. We believe in environmental democracy because our seas belong to all and we all have a role to play in preserving them. And, we believe in civic responsibility because there's no waiting for someone else to fix the problem. It's up to us.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel expenses: 20.000
Accommodation expenses: 5.000
Transportation expenses: 5.000
Documentary expenses: 6.000
Underwater & coastal activities: 4.000
Marine litter stations: 3.000
Aegean Rebreath will also contribute 10.000 euros through the work of our teams (divers, researchers, education managers etc.) and the use of personal equipment, van etc.
We expect sharing ideas and practices with other participants in order to further expand our concept at European level.