The year 2020 marks 75 years since Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson wrote her first story about the Moomins, The Moomins and the Great Flood, which takes place in the middle of a natural disaster. To celebrate the anniversary, Moomin Characters Ltd together with its partners is launching a one-year campaign to save the Baltic Sea from blue-green algae.
Sadly to admit, but the Baltic Sea has become one of the most polluted seas in the world. It needs urgent, concrete action on multiple levels and time is running out. The goal is to collect one million euros for John Nurminen Foundation’s work to save the Baltic Sea and its cultural heritage for future generations.
For every 10 euros donated 40 kg of toxic blue-green algae will be removed from the Baltic Sea. To take part in the campaign you can make a direct donation, buy a campaign product from Moomin shop, learn more about the sea, the challenges it faces and solutions needed to help improve the situation, as well as influence others to take action. Don’t pee in the sea! It is one of the things you can start with. (If you pee like seven times, you help to grow four kilograms of toxic algae.)
“Sea is an integral element in Tove Jansson’s life. She spent her summers on a small island in the Baltic Sea. As a symbol of freedom and adventure, sea is also an organic part of Moomin stories.”Roleff Kråkström, managing director of Moomin Characters
Tove Jansson lived by the Baltic Sea – both in her hometown Helsinki as well as in Pellinge archipelago which served as her summer home. “Sea is an integral element in Tove Jansson’s life. She spent her summers on a small island in the Baltic Sea. As a symbol of freedom and adventure, sea is also an organic part of Moomin stories,” says Roleff Kråkström, managing director of Moomin Characters, over the phone from Helsinki when I call him from the other side of the same sea, from the Sea Library.
In the summer of 2018, when blue-green algae volumes shocked the people living by the Baltic Sea in an unprecedented way, Roleff Kråkström had an epiphany of using Moomins as an inspiration to save the sea. His experience of the algae bloom was first hand.
“I’m married to Tove’s niece Sophia and we spend our summers on the same island where Tove once lived. We do not have running water there, and all the collected rainwater goes to our tomatoes. So we have to wash in the sea, but it wasn’t nice at all when the sea bloomed with toxic algae.”
The most significant environmental problem affecting the Baltic Sea is eutrophication. It is caused by the excessive phosphorus and nitrogen loads that end up in the sea mostly via urban wastewaters and rainwater from forests and fields, and to some extent from traffic. Eutrophication is also one of the main threats to the biodiversity of the Baltic Sea. What’s more, climate change further accelerates eutrophication in the Baltic Sea.
John Nurminen Foundation is a private Finnish Foundation founded in 1992, whose mission is to save the Baltic Sea and its heritage for future generations. As a result of the foundation’s projects, the eutrophying phosphorus load to the Baltic Sea has been reduced by thousands of tonnes, significantly reducing the amount of blue-green algae in the sea.
Foundation’s measures to protect the Baltic Sea have been extremely successful. Thanks to their efforts and co-operation across the Baltic Sea, the annual eutrophying phosphorus load of the Gulf of Finland has been reduced by as much as 75 percent. This is a world record in marine protection. But it still isn’t enough, and #OURSEA campaign seeks to secure the future of the Baltic Sea.
Moomin books encapsulate a unique philosophy, one that keeps us returning to them again and again. I ask Roleff Kråkström if he has a motto in his pocket for hope and inspiration, borrowed from any of Moomin characters. He quotes Too-Ticky, a friend of the Moomin family, craftsperson and practical philosopher. She is seen as very knowledgeable, practical, and wise, and is a good problem solver.
“All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured. I think, her words give a lot of hope, because although you can’t control everything and you don’t know, what’s going to happen next, you can feel calm just because of that, and you do not have to panic,” says Roleff.
The first book about the Moomins, The Moomins and the Great Flood, was published in 1945. In the introduction of 1991, Tove tells that she wrote this story during the war when amidst the chaos and grief she felt an urge to write a fairytale. “Anyhow, here was my first happy ending!”
What did the sea mean for Tove Jansson? “I think people in Latvia will find it very easy to relate, how women after the war, especially if you belonged to a sexual minority, felt living in a very hostile society with a very certain omnipresent political agenda and pressure from the Soviet Union, so the sea always meant an opportunity,” says Roleff Kråkström.
“The archipelago for Tove’s generation, for artists and friends, also meant a very hands-on experience of freedom. Apartments were very small and you had to share them with several generations, while in the archipelago you could go wherever you wanted to go. You could live in a tent on a small island or even outdoors and didn’t have to spend all the time with your parents or siblings. More than anything the sea was a symbol for freedom.”