Big Jump for Wild Rivers
River Action Toolbox reloaded
In 2017, the Youth Network for River Action and its partners will focus on wild rivers. Questions such as What are wild rivers?, Why should we protect them?, and How can we protect them? are at the centre of several online teaching modules in the 2017 update of our river action toolbox. The toolbox enables youth groups and school classes to learn about wild rivers and to take practical action to protect them. As in every year, the network will seek to make a “big splash” on the European River Swimming day (“Big Jump”), 9.7.2017. Especially active groups will be invited to a wild river camp in Slovenia in September 2017.
What is a wild river?
A wild river not only flows freely and naturally but also often has high-water quality and unmodified banks, often with exceptional biodiversity. Yet, in Europe, most rivers have been heavily modified: straightened, dammed, or channelized. The last big wild river of Europa – from source to mouth – is the Vjosa (Greece and Albania). However, it currently faces great pressure due to the boom in hydropower development. Likewise, many other smaller, wild rivers and river sections are also under such pressure. Unfortunately, the most important European Water legislation, the Water Framework Directive, does not specifically recognize such excellent, high quality rivers. Therefore, there are also no specific monitoring or protection programs in place. “With the ecology module ‘What is a wild river?’ in our toolbox, youth participants can discover and explore their own wild river”, says youth leader Lucie Galland from France.” The module is inspired by the pioneer “wild rivers” label from France.
Why are wild rivers important?
There are many reasons why the protection of free flowing rivers offers a unique opportunity across Europe. Free flowing rivers are rich in endemic biodiversity. The creative force of a wild river is beloved for its scenic beauty and recreational values. As areas with low industrialization and agriculture, free flowing rivers offer a space for different lifestyles and cultural heritage. As rare and unique entities, they offer Europa the opportunity to protect a heritage for future generations. Especially if the preservation is achieved in such a way that the legitimate energy and lifestyle requirements of everyone, i.e. also in a country like Albania, are taken into account and supported in solidarity.
What can we do?
It’s important for younger generations to learn about wild, free-flowing rivers – as long as they are still there – and to create a public discussion about their protection. Wild rivers also present an opportunity for Europe to come together: to act together and preserve our common heritage and a lifeline that connects the diversity of European lifestyles.
Get Active for wild rivers!
The new 2017 teaching modules are available free of charge for download from the homepage of the network. They are available in English, French and German. Every month one topic will be made available, for example “ecology” with the question “What is a wild river?”, “ethics” and the question “Why we should protect wild rivers?” Additional wild river aspects covered in the modules are political instruments, art, making a riverwalk, kayaking and amnesty for wild rivers – a cross-European letter writing campaign. Neža Posnjak youth leaders from Slovenia says: ”As we put the spotlight on the wild rivers of the Balkan Peninsula, we also need to take action – that is why we prepared the letter writing module, where you will have a chance to appeal to decision makers to protect our pristine natural rivers.“ The modules were produced by youth leaders in the Youth Network for River Action in co-operation with its advisory board.
How to get involved:
Visit the river action toolbox: http://en.bigjumpchallenge.net/toolbox_english.html; subscribe to the YNRA-newsletter to get the monthly module update (subscribe at the bottom here: http://en.bigjumpchallenge.net/home.html); and follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BigJumpChallenge)
The Youth Network for River Action (YNRA) was founded in 2015 in Brussels, where river ambassadors from all over Europe (and beyond) presented their local actions, discussed water protection and worked together on a Youth Water Manifesto (here). The manifesto was then presented in the European Parliament in Brussels. Its slogan: “We borrow water from future generations.” The manifesto includes this important demand: Water is a heritage for all living beings. The preservation of the remaining wild rivers and recognition of “no go” areas should receive special priority. Team: http://en.bigjumpchallenge.net/our-team.html
The YNRA partners for the tool box preparation (in alphabetical order):
European Rivers Network (ERN) seeks to promote the sustainable wise management of living rivers and water in opposition to the exploitation, pollution and degradation that has occurred in the past. It organises and coordinates information about, action around, and struggles against environmental damage in order to protect the basic equilibrium of rivers and aquatic environments in France and in Europe. It organises events (expos, symposiums, conferences, etc.), lobbying campaigns, information campaigns, as well as educational projects combining art and the scientific exploration of rivers and their ecosystems. Based in France, ERN is the initiator and coordinator of both, the Big Jump (European River Swimming Day) and "Wild Rivers" program. Further information : www.ern.org
GETIDOS is a social-ecological research group at the University of Greifswald. It focus on innovations in the water sector (see Ziegler, Rafael; Partzsch, Lena; Gebauer, Jana; Henkel, Marianne; Lodemann, Justus; Mohaupt, Franziska: Social Entrepreneurship In The Water Sector. Getting Things Done Sustainably, Cheltenham, 2014). In 2012, the group launched the Big Jump Challenge together with further partners, including the ERN. This educational initiative aimed at creative ways of including youth in European river protection, and prepared the space for the Youth Network for River Action. Further information: www.getidos.net.
GRÜNE LIGA (Green League) is an environmental NGO based in Berlin. GRÜNE LIGA's Water Policy Office works on water protection, living rivers and water policy in Germany, Europe and internationally. Currently GRÜNE LIGA hosts the Wild & Scenic Film Festival from Nevada City, California on a Alpine Wild Rivers – Film Event tour in Germany. www.wrrl-info.de. / www.flussaktionen.de
Guardians of Ecology is young organization from Georgia. We encourage youth to protect environment. We give training how to care about the environment, how to solve problems connected with pollution. We make flash mobs and have meetings with students and school pupils. By involving them all in these activities, we try to rise interest of the society about pollution problems. Our meetings and activities are often shown by the local TV channel. Radio stations and press also help us to inform society about the problems and about the point of our view. For the Youth network of River action we co-ordinated 17 youth teams from Georgia in 2016.
Leeway Collective is a young NGO from Slovenia that focuses on the promotion and protection of wild rivers of the Balkan Peninsula. In past year, they led the biggest European river protection action “Balkan Rivers Tour.” Further information: http://leeway-collective.com/.
WWF Austria- Generation Earth is a colorful network of young people who inspire, motivate, educate and take action for a more fair and sustainable world. We create a space where engaged young people meet to learn about new things, connect with inspiring people and places, and design and implement projects to make the world a better place. Since 2014, WWF - Generation Earth has organized annual “Riverwalks”. Drawing on this experience, we also contribute a river walk module to the 2017 river action toolbox update. Further Inforamtion: www.generationearth.at, www.river-walk.eu