The Baltic Sea has been an important life line for Sweden and the other nations around it. Since ancient times, when the first Nordic people moved into the region, the Baltic has been a vital source of food, trade and security.
Throughout the early Middle Ages, Scandinavian traders built a commercial empire around the Baltic coast, founding settlements along the sea line that would one day become the foundations of countries like Russia, Finland, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark.
From the 13th Century onwards, the Baltic would again grow in importance for the entire of Northern Europe as the Hanseatic League became one of the worlds first free trade areas. The transfer of goods along its shipping lanes would see Northern Europe become the economic powerhouse it would continue to be up until the present day.
Trade continues to play an important role in the region, with Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, headquartered in the former Hanseatic city of Copenhagen.
The Baltic takes on a further importance when it comes to security. As we all know, Russia is a Baltic state. It’s largest naval ports are on to the Baltic. Both Kaliningrad and St Petersburg are bases for large numbers of warships, submarines and troops. And be under no illusion, they continue to have malicious intent when it comes to their neighbours in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Just look at their actions in Ukraine and Georgia.
And lets not forget about the constant sightings of Russian submarines off the coast of Sweden. As recently as October last year, there have been sightings in Stockholm harbour. And in 2014, the Swedish Navy launched a large scale search for similar vessels. It’s time to tell Russia, enough is enough.
It’s easy to see, how important the Baltic is for commerce and security, but what is not often seen, is the toll that humans have had on this body of water. Irreversible damage has been done to the Baltic over a number of years, from munitions dumping to over fishing.
Perhaps one of the worst culprits in all of this is Russia. They are currently polluting the Sea itself through organised negligence. Russia pours a daily dose of 150,000 cubic meters of raw sewage into the Baltic. That’s the waste of 450,000 Russians and their industry.
This raw waste causes mass algae bloom. Which in turn uses up all of the oxygen in the water. As a result, the fish in the Baltic are suffocating because of Russia. Herring and Cod, both staples of the Baltic fishing industry, are dying out.
What’s more, is it is no longer safe to swim in some parts of the Baltic as a result of this. Meaning that the tourism industry is being damaged just as much as the fishing industry.
This is perhaps one of the most understated environmental disasters of our time. And it is for us to ensure that we can take the moral high ground. As conservatives, we must ensure that we take good care of our waterways and the wider environment. If not for future generations, but to make an example out of Russia.
And as conservatives we are the heirs to a great tradition of conservation and environmentalism. From Republican President Theodor Roosevelt in America establishing the National Parks system to the concerted efforts of European conservative governments today banning single use plastics to clean up our oceans. We have always led the charge.
Whilst the greens cause disruption and protest, we legislate and deliver results. It was after all a Conservative MEP who managed to update the Carbon trading scheme. It was a Danish conservative who recently passed through changes to EU regulations governing the transport of live animals in order to protect their welfare. We have been and will continue to the lead the debate when it comes to sensible and sustainable green policies.
But it’s not just government that holds the answer to our environmental problems. Responsible businesses and private citizens can also make a big difference.
New start ups appear every day promoting smart solutions to end our dependence on single use plastics and to clean our oceans. From biodegradable water bottle, to disposable plates made out of plant matter, the market can provide affordable alternatives.
And after all it is the free market that has given us companies like Tesla, that are producing electric cars for the masses and driving innovation in energy storage technology. And because of Tesla, electric cars are going mainstream. 39% of new car purchases in Norway in 2017 were electric cars. The International Energy Association estimates that by 2030, there will be another 220 million electric cars on the roads.
Voluntary society is also providing us with solutions to cleaning up our oceans. Take the Ocean Clean Up project for example, started by a Dutch teenager in 2013, it raised over $2 million in funding via crowd funding websites, and today has grown to win corporate backing. This project has made huge inroads into cleaning up the Pacific Garbage patch.
Hunting is another unexpected source of good practice when it comes to conservation. Hunters are some of the best conservationists in Europe. Because without wild spaces such as thick uncultivated forests, there is nowhere to carry out their sport. Ownership of the land by hunters has protected it from being built on. And what’s more, they do more work than anyone else to ensure that the nature returns to these areas. That’s why we must protect Europe’s hunters from meddlesome and poorly thought-out regulations.
Finally smarter technology in the energy industry means that we can cut down our reliance on fossil fuels. In particular Nuclear Power is now safer than ever before and could provide us with almost unlimited green energy. If the political will was there, nuclear power could fuel Europe with few side effects.
Preservation of the Baltic, both environmentally and in terms of security, should be a top priority in the years to come.