“Alone maybe we can’t do much, but with each other we can do it all.”
Sara Lovrović, the Mayor of Silba, Croatia, invited environmental experts to think about how to best sustain the island. Islands cope with various challenges, including accessibility, lack of public infrastructure, a more vulnerable environment, dependency on seasonality, and demographic imbalance. For example, Silba and its less than 300 inhabitants accommodate some 7,000 tourists during the summer. These vacationers bring a lot of plastic onto the small island. Silba’s public and private sectors decided to form a number of ecological sustainability actions, one of which is to turn the island into a plastic-free zone.
By Paksy Plackis-Cheng
I understand you are turning Silva into a sustainable island. What does that entail?
This project brought together foreign and domestic experts and enthusiasts from various fields, from social and natural sciences to local authorities and local policy makers. Small island communities face a complex web of challenges. Their culture, diet, and income are interwoven with their marine environment, while their small-scale places limitations on sustainable resources and waste management. Project Silba is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the community of the island of Silba, scientists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs); it aims to create sustainable, long-term interaction between the community and its surrounding ecosystem through research, education, protection, and actions.
With great determination, the necessary knowledge and skills we are pursuing common goals, starting from actions that engage and inform the locals of Silba about sustainable development for the well-being of the community. We also plan to engage the large number of tourists the island receives every year in order to form what we call the fully engaged public.
The goal is to show the different segments and problems of island life that need to be improved to achieve island self-sustainability. Each segment and its accompanying problems are accompanied by an innovative solution.
Give me an example of what spurred you to make this part of the island’s mission?
There are so many problems on the island and less and less people living on it. In the world we have great solutions to various problems, so we know we can solve many of the issues we face, it just takes time. Persistence and patience is key.
What was the main challenge so far?
The main challenge is to be realistic and honest with yourself. To take one step at a time, and not to start out with too many and too large of goals. We have to mark a starting point, lay the foundation, and conduct research. These actions are needed to understand what we are dealing with and to track our success along the way.
What has been a surprising learning?
Honestly, I wasn’t surprised that in the field of local community involvement, the people part is the hardest nut to crack. The most difficult job in the world is trying to change people: their way of thinking and their habits. People think that they cannot contribute, because they don’t know how. But we believe that by making small changes in everyday life, all of us can achieve big things.
Is there another island that has been an example for what you are trying to accomplish?
Yes, several bigger islands in Adriatic Sea went through similar transformation and have had great success.
What are some of the steps that other islands could take to make their communities more sustainable?
In my opinion each of the islands should be approached in their own way; they are all different and do not face the same challenges.
Who has had an impact on your professional DNA?
In everyday life I find my small heroes. Whomever change part of him/herself to become a better version than yesterday is a good example and in a way influences me.
Our desire is to bring together as many partners as possible. We are working in joint forces and through various programs. We want to present the project as an innovative life product and investment primarily intended for the locals of Silba and tourists. The goal of revitalizing Silba is in line with the vision and mission of every island lover, and there is a need to accelerate the development of Croatian islands. The goal is to carry out more fields at the same time: to get closer to equalizing the living conditions on the island and the land, to promote and raise interest in island development while simultaneously protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the island.