Life Below Water: ‘I’ve never been to an event like this’

NFGL members share their thoughts about the Life Below Water 2017 Conference, which took place in Malmö earlier this month.

Life Below Water: 'I've never been to an event like this'

The Life Below Water conference was opened by the Mayor of Malmö, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, and brought together NGOs, city governments, academia, and business to discuss local initiatives to protect the oceans, seas and marine resources.

Several NFGL members attended the conference and were really excited about all the interesting and inspiring discussions there.

“I have never really been to an event that discusses sustainability in detail. I loved the fact that it has engaging speakers with experience in the field,” said NFGL member Eunice Muthee from Kenya.

Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria attended the conference and received flowers from the students of the Bladins International School, who performed at the opening ceremony. She also inaugurated the new Marine Education Centre in Malmö during her visit.

One Of The Students Of Bladins International School Presents Flowers To The Crown Princess Of Sweden. Photo: Kamber Güler

Sweden’s Minister for the Environment, Karolina Skog, was also one of the speakers at the conference, which focused on the implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

At the conference, the city government of Malmö and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability, formerly International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) made a commitment to support the implementation of SDG 14 at the local level.

NFGL member Kamber Güler from Turkey called the event an “awesome 3 days, 2 nights experience”.

“Sweden has taken remarkable steps on Life Below Water not only in its own territories but also over the world, and has achieved in many environmental areas from recycling to sustainability,” he said.

Sweden's Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog. Photo: Kamber Güler

The first step of this commitment, which will last from 2017 until 2030, was to hold a conference in Malmö (the Life Below Water Conference) to kick-start a global network of local governments. This network would support ocean literacy, knowledge exchange, and the up-scaling of local initiatives in support of SDG 14.

This global network of local governments was launched at the Life Below Water Conference in Malmö. It will be presented to the world in November in Bonn, Germany, at the COP 23 during the UN Climate Change Conference. It will be finalised in the run-up to the ICLEI World Congress in Montréal in June 2018.

“Sweden has taken remarkable steps on Life Below Water, not only in its own territories but also over the world, and has achieved in many environmental areas from recycling to sustainability,” said Kamber.

Judith eating ice dream during the conference. Photo: Kamber Güler

An ocean forest is an approach that produces food, feed and energy by using the saltwater, algae and carbon dioxide in the ocean, thus, that provides a solution to the environmental problems of aquaculture to some extent

They both said the presentation by Dr. Elin Kelsey, about optimism and ‘wild contagious hope’, stood out.

“She talked of how we need to change the narrative of environmental conversation from 'if we' to 'we are' and of having a collective effort towards conservation,” said Eunice.

“We need to focus on the positive information especially living in a world where most of the information from the media is of hopelessness when it comes to the environment.”

Presentation by Dr Elin Kelsey. Photo: Kamber Güler

Looking back on the conference, Eunice was also struck at the differences between how sustainability is discussed in Sweden compared to he home country of Kenya.

“Sustainability is a topic that we don't talk as much of it back in Kenya compared to Sweden,” she explained. “Attending the conference gave me more insights on to this topic, why it is important and why we need to discuss and develop solutions towards resolving the issues that threaten long-term sustainability.”

Eunice also felt the conference made her much more aware of how much waste ends up going into the world's oceans.

“That's what I hope to make others aware of too — especially in my home country — so that it can become a collective effort to conserve our environment.”


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.