Scuba divers know to look, but don’t disturb

Omar photo of Joe with turtle

From my early days as I scuba diver, I learned one valuable lesson: keep my hands to myself. Not only can coral cut, but our hands in all their human griminess can destroy the living organism. Shipwrecks can also fall victim to human destruction. There’s also the matter of not always knowing what’s lurking under the sand or in the tiny crevices or corners.

Danger! Don't touch!

Danger! Don't touch!

This philosophy of “look, but do not touch” is followed closely by Sweden and its Environmental Protection Agency. The country allows for the right of public access, allowing citizens to roam the countryside and explore if they respect the landowners and anyone else out enjoying the views. It is even guaranteed in Sweden’s constitution! The Swedish belief in “Don’t disturb – don’t destroy” extends to their sustainability effort to solve the environmental problems within their country by 2020.

It is a bold goal, but as a recent press release from the Swedish council overseeing the process states, there is still a “major risk of irreversible changes to the environment.”

The marine environment is particularly threatened along the Baltic Sea. The official website of Sweden points out that 80 million people populate the sea’s drainage basin, joining industries and wastewater treatment plants in harming the water. As any good scuba diver knows, this means trouble.

Sweden now has an opportunity to educate its citizens and mobilize them to make a difference. Rather than throw their message out to everyone, Sweden EPA should treat the Baltic Sea as a “brand” and target their environmental message to the one audience that would listen intently to anyone speaking about the sea’s problems … Scuba Divers!

It may be hard to believe given the water temperatures, but there is an avid scuba diving population in Sweden. They might have to don dry suits and cut through ice to see what lies beneath, but they dive to explore flooded mines, caves, and pristine shipwrecks.

Diving a flooded mine, Photo: Nicklas Myrin,

Diving a flooded mine, Photo: Nicklas Myrin,

Divers are a close knit group, loving to trade stories about the deepest dive, most interesting find, or best wreck. They also trade the bad stories of damaged and dying coral and poor water conditions. These stories travel quickly among friends, spreading out through word-of-mouth, e-mail, and social media. Among Swedes (and other Scandinavians), a diving site called Dykarna allows divers to share their photos and dive logs, plus communicate with one another. Overall, the site has more than 19,000 members with most of them coming from Sweden. Dykarna provides a can’t-miss opportunity for the Sweden EPA.

Time for the EPA to start scouring their environmentally-minded employees for bubble lovers to start a conversation. That one diver will speak out on Dykarna, one more will join in the conversation, and another, and soon divers will unite! By taking this action, the Baltic Sea, a salty playground for Swedes, will be saved and meet Sweden’s environmental objectives

of zero eutrophication and a balanced marine environment.


One Response to Scuba divers know to look, but don’t disturb

  1. Great blog post. You zone in one one area of environmental concern, and link it to a subject that you obviously have a personal affinity for and knowledge about. Then you apply what you know to the online environment, prove your point with data about how divers are using the web and offer a concrete suggestion to the EPA about what to do in order to tap this community. Nice work. (4)

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