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Cmas: the "Blue helmets of the sea" in Paestum

To set up an international task force focused on removing plastic islands of the oceans and give an answer to the myth of Atlantis

di Chiara Taccioli

Within the programme of the XIX edition of the BMTA (Borsa Mediterranea del Turismo Archeologico), immediately considered by UNESCO and UNWTO as "best practices of intercultural dialogue", dedicated this year to the Palmira tragedy that has deeply affected the Middle East and is endangering the existence of men and women as well as the cultural heritages. Anna Arzhanova and Silvia Costa, President of the World Confederation of Underwater Activities (CMAS) and the Commission's culture, education, sports, youth of the European Parliament respectively, launched in Paestum the "Blue Helmets of the Sea" as part of the 19th edition of the Archaeological Tourism Exchange, where various worldwide eminences of archaeology will be present. "A year of independent management of the Archaeological Museums of the South" is the title of the theme, following the director Ugo Picarelli’s strong wishes.  


The core element of this four-days event will be the "Blue Helmets of the Sea", a project promoted by the CMAS - the sports federation founded by Jacques-Yves Cousteau (the French explorer, navigator, military, oceanographer and film director who passed away in 1997). One of his most prominent activities was dedicated to the underwater archaeology field, always ready to intervene anywhere in the world for the sake of research and the protection of the archaeological heritage in the sea -. Andreas M. Steiner, Director of "Archeo" moderated the official set up of this project, with the presence of Arzhanova and Costa, Ilaria Borletti Buitoni (Undersecretary for Cultural Heritage) and Sebastiano Tusa (Superintendent of the sea for the government of Sicily Region and president of Italy's underwater archaeological groups).  


Enthusiastic words for Silvia Costa: "I am delighted to present this initiative of great sporting, educational and cultural value: the Blue Helmets of the Sea will be operating from today in Italy, in Europe and in the world, to serve the community in order to bring to light our archaeological underwater treasures and will be ready to intervene anywhere in the world to protect and clean our seas". As part of its activities, the CMAS (a federation founded by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, a French explorer, navigator, oceanographer and director who died in 1997) promotes initiatives related to underwater archaeology. "We want our CMAS members - said Arzhanova – to be able to put their skills and experience at the service for culture and for sea preservation and cleanliness anywhere in the world. The CMAS will work in harmony with the UNESCO and with all the scientific committees, universities and non-profit organization, forming a common front aimed at retrieving the hidden underwater treasures and freeing and cleaning our seas. We can no longer tolerate plastic islands in the sea". The "plastic islands", to which Arzhanova refers are "5 huge agglomerations of garbage floating in the oceans and killing thousands of marine and bird species. An enormous ecological disaster". Two of these garbage islands are located in the Pacific Ocean (the first one was discovery in 1996 and it is as big as Europe), two in the Atlantic Ocean and one in the Indian Ocean. But these are just the main ones. Even the

Mediterranean Sea is polluted with 115 000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre, only the coast of Portoferraio (Elba) registered 892 000 micoparticles per squared kilometre.  


Arzhanova explained: "We have to engage in this task force and thank publicly the people who have worked, one way or another, to highlight this disaster such as the ocean researchers: Charles J. Moore, the American researcher Kara Lavender Law, the Dutch Boyan Slat (who, as an engineering student, devised a no cost concept aimed at cleaning the seas) or the artist Maria Cristina Finucci, founder of the Garbage Patch State Project. Our goal is now to clean up the sea and launch a worldwide campaign to raise awareness and influence education, involving the younger generations in schools and universities. In order to join forces around this problem we wanted to create this task force called “Blue Helmets of the Sea”, to symbolize the value of our global efforts". Arzhanova and the CMAS have also expressed their willingness to realise a dream, a myth: "To combine all the relevant authorities to provide the answer to the age-old search for the myth of Atlantis". The most modern theories would place Atlantis, which was initially thought to be located in the Atlantic Ocean (not far from Canary Islands), right in the Mediterranean Sea between Crete – Italy - (Argentario, Sicily or Sardinia, the latter being the most likely hypothesis, as the archaeologist reporter Sergio Frau described) and Spain.  


Speaking of the seas, the CMAS wants to turn the spotlight also on a social emergency that disrupts Europe and the Mediterranean countries: migrants. To this aim, it was launched the idea to establish, with the cooperation of local authorities and associations, a training course for underwater activities for migrants of various nationalities, who flee from their countries and the war. A project through which the world federation wants to turn the sea from the scenario of a nightmare, in which migrants have risked losing their life, into a redemption opportunity through an active role in the culture and archaeology, the reopening of an interethnic comparison of great social value. Culture and sport are able to speak a universal language that can unite all and break down barriers and walls that separate us. Archaeology is definitely our past, a past that can helps us to understand and better explain our future in a context of peace. After completing the course, the participants will join the "Blue Helmets of the Sea" to form a real international force. A first pilot course will be set up as part of MigrArti, a Mibact project at the S. Caterina Institute in Amendola (Salerno), which stands out for projects on international cooperation and solidarity, knowledge of migration processes, identifying causes and consequences, in the light of the principle of equal dignity of the person, of national, European and international rules, universally recognized and focused on the respect for the environment and the historical and artistic heritage of the nation and protection of land and sea. The school director Annarita Carrafiello and Paolo Masini, adviser to the minister Franceschini and coordinator of the project MigrArti, said “We wanted to take this important opportunity in the region (Campania), where it represents a key issue for the growth of future generations in an increasingly multicultural society. The strong relationship developed between Mibact and Ministry of Education extends the MigrArti project even to school situations that take place daily in the territories of social development activities outside school hours. A first pilot course which we are sure will soon be extended to other territories".  


And to promote this intercultural dialogue, with the event #pernondimenticare the Bardo Museum - March 18, 2015 - since last year the BMTA commemorates the bombing of the Museum of Tunis, because every citizen of the world, beyond his/her religious affiliations or policies, should be aware that the cultural heritage is a common good and representation of national identity. At the conference, moderated by Elena Capparelli (Deputy Director Rai Culture), there will be different speakers: Anne-Marie Afeiche (Director of the National Museum of Beirut), Moncef Ben Moussa (Director of the Bardo Museum in Tunis), Ilaria Borletti Buitoni (Undersecretary of State for Heritage and the Culture and Tourism), Silvia Costa (President of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education), Stefano De Caro (general Manager ICCROM), Muriel Garsson (director of the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology of Marseille), Dimitrios Pandermalis (director of the Museum Acropolis of Athens), Paul Giulierini (Director of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples) and Gabriel Zuchtriegel (Director of the Archaeological Park of Paestum).


During the event, Silvia Costa President of EU Culture, Education, Sport and Youth Commission with Anna Arzhanova President of Cmas, declare the intention to launch in the next June a Flash mob in the most important cities of  the Mediterranean, where Cmas will show how to keep clean the coast and the marine from the plastic pollution. “Our aim is teach the children, the students and the families the value to respect the Ocean, a crucial element in the life” said Anna Arzhanova.

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