Vjosa Forever

Way back in Ethos 6, Andrew Beattie spoke to sustainability giant Patagonia about apparel, activism, and the importance of remembering your roots. They talked about Blue Heart: The Fight for Europe’s Last Wild Rivers, a film which Patagonia co-produced and financed. Three years later, Andrew catches up with Patagonia and finds out more about the Blue Heart campaign, and what else they’ve got in the works…

Published:

04.06.21

Writer:

Andrew Beattie

Patagonia’s Blue Heart campaign was launched in 2018 with an aim to protect the last wild rivers of Europe. Located in the ‘Blue Heart’ Balkan Peninsular, these rivers were threatened by over 3,400 proposed hydropower projects. The Balkan region has preserved these rivers, and Patagonia’s Blue Heart is continuing to help that effort today – but there’s still new battles to fight.

“At Patagonia, we’re in business to save our home planet. This is our mission statement and it runs through every action we take as an organisation. In fact, environmental activism has been a part of the business since Patagonia was founded by Malinda and Yvon Chouinard.

“In 2018, in partnership with NGOs across Europe, we launched Blue Heart, a campaign and film to protect the last wild rivers of Europe.

“We have continued to support these groups and earlier this year, we produced a follow-up film, Vjosa Forever, to shine a light on the situation in Albania where conservationists and local activists are campaigning for Europe’s last big wild river, the Vjosa, to receive the protection of becoming a national park.

“We are now committed to using the resources we have available in order to protect Europe’s last big wild river, forever.”

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“Thanks to the tireless work of these NGOs such as EcoAlbania, RiverWatch, and EuroNatur, the campaign became a major issue in the run up to the Albanian federal elections at the end of April. It is important to everyone that we protect the last pristine river system, and recent research shows 94% of Albanian citizens are in favour of establishing a Vjosa National Park.

“The next stage in our work is to lobby the new government to establish a national park. This demand has become even more urgent since it was recently uncovered that Shell has been undertaking geophysical surveys on the Vjosa with a view to exploring for oil – the threat is no longer hydropower alone.”

Clearly, Patagonia’s work is far from done… but with Vjosa Forever making waves all over the world, the campaign is turning heads in the right direction.

“People around the world are showing solidarity to the campaign. Influential environmentalists such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Jack Harries have all come out in support on their social channels. And in may cities around the world, people have posted the message #VjosaNationalParkNow alongside their natural and cultural landmarks, in order to demonstrate to the people of Albania that they have support of conservationists and concerned citizens everywhere in their fight to protect this unique river.”

It’s not just the film that’s got everyone’s attention. Alongside Vjosa Forever, the Blue Heart campaign is still fighting the good fight – and it’s getting results.

“Back in 2018, when we launched the Blue Heart, in partnership with the NGOs, we managed to achieve some hopeful results: over 120,000 people signed our petition, which we then delivered to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, one of the big financial stakeholders in the dams. And as a result, the EBRD has adopted stricter requests for the transparency for loans and grants for renewable energy projects, specifically for small hydropower plants, in the Balkans.

“We screened the film and held a debate in the European Parliament, which has since passed a resolution highlighting the environmental risks of small hydropower dams and pointing out that they are not in line with the European Union’s own environmental standards.

“But we know the fight is far from over and we are now committed to using the resources we have available in order to protect Europe’s last big wild river, forever.”

Interested in getting involved and making a difference? Add your voice to the fight for #VjosaNationalParkNow – share the documentary and get others involved, too.

Watch Vjosa Forever here.

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