Learning to paddle in Australia, I never had the chance to see what was lost to dams in Tasmania, but I did have the honor to experience what was saved. After several journeys down pristine wild rivers in Tasmania I was left in awe and inspired by the previous generation which had lined up in front of the machinery, determined to stop dam construction going ahead. Without their fortitude and action, those places would not exist. It was easy to appreciate what was right in front of me, but almost impossible to imagine what was no longer there. If the last wild rivers are lost, how will the next generation learn about the riches we once had? How will they know that some things are worth protecting? As the wild places diminish, will those willing to defend them also disappear?
There is a theme running through the world today; the stated need for development and progress, with seemingly little attention given to what we loose in these transactions. What we gain in cheap energy we loose in experience and appreciation for the world around us. If you gain a television, you loose the peace, tranquility and sense of community you had before. Every extra megawatt gained helps to expand a distant city, helps to cover some piece of land in concrete. Is that really our goal, to keep expanding bigger and bigger until everything is covered? Where will it end? Why is development automatically accepted as a worthy goal, while protection of our natural treasures shunned to the sideline? If we follow the current path, it will end when no river remains free flowing. Then how will the city continue to expand?
They are all in danger; the last pristine rivers of Europe through to the last free flowing tributaries of the Amazon. As long as there is a fortune to be made by someone, the wild places will remain under threat. As long as the river flows free, someone somewhere will want to stop the flow. They have money; they have purchased power and have billions to gain in meaningless dollars. We, the people that appreciate the wild places, are only as strong as we stand together. All we have are our voices and our actions.
The Balkan Rivers Tour is an incredible initiative; uniting those who care for the river and helping to connect with more people who do not know its wonders yet. How will it make a difference? Simply by going out there, seeing these places and connecting with them you are making the difference. Creating conversation, creating knowledge of what might happen and what will be lost. If we realise we love the places we visit, we will find a way to protect them. We must.
The Balkan Rivers Tour is a joint activity by Leeway Collective, EuroNatur, Riverwatch, and WWF, organized within the framework of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign.
Without any regard for protected areas, endangered species or local communities, about 2,700 hydropower plants are projected to be built between Slovenia and Albania. With this campaign, we want to stop this dam tsunami. Find out more here: http://www.balkanrivers.net/