If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen me talking a bit about Patagonia’s latest campaign, Save the Blue Heart of Europe. So, what’s it all about?
Patagonia are certainly known for their ethical and environmental stance on things, and when it comes to protecting our natural environments, they’re not afraid to shout about it. A billion dollar cooperative, Patagonia famously donate 1% of all sales to grassroots charities every year, with a total of $89 million dollars currently donated. Last year, they also donated every penny of Black Friday sales to their grassroots charities; totalling $10 million dollars on that day alone, five times more than the previous year.
But, it’s not all about money. Patagonia are making headlines in the States and beyond at the moment, as they controversially attempt to sue the White House for its proposal to significantly cut the size of public lands. ‘The President Stole Your Lands’ stated the website, boldly yet truthfully, as the company encourage activists to sign the petition against the US government’s proposals.
Indeed, Patagonia’s Mission Statement alone is enough to understand what they stand for:
"Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."
Now, Patagonia have introduced their first ever Europe-based campaign, Save The Blue Heart of Europe. The campaign attempts to stop the construction of 3,000 dams on the Balkan Peninsula, an area that is known to hold the last wild rivers in Europe. The construction of these dams, funded by Western banks, threatens to destroy the culture and natural ecology that surrounds these rivers - forcing communities from their homes and contributing to the extinction of some already endangered species. Local opposition is fierce, yet these people can’t fight alone; Patagonia are campaigning alongside the local people to stop 20,000km of beautiful rivers being ruined by dams and river diversions.
What’s wrong with dams?
Patagonia boldly claim that ‘All Dams Are Dirty’ as the tagline for the campaign. In truth, I’d argue that when done correctly, Hydropower has numerous benefits. It’s one of the only renewable energy sources to provide a consistent power output, and can be controlled so you produce more energy when you need it and less when you don’t. However, when the construction of dams means displacing whole communities and sending species into extinction, the negative impact obviously greatly outweighs these benefits.
More than 91% of the dams proposed will divert water from rivers, and in some cases run the rivers dry. This obviously drastically changes the environment, killing fish and wildlife and even sending some species into extinction. Indeed, since 1970 dams have contributed to an average freshwater wildlife decline of 81%. As for humans, dams have displaced 40-80 million people globally. At a time when two thirds of the world’s population live in areas that need more water, the construction of dams and water diversions only intensifies the problem. Furthermore, far from being a ‘clean’ source of energy, dams actually cause greenhouse gas emissions, as well as emitting 104 million metric tons of methane annually - 4% of the total warming impact of human activities.
What’s the alternative?
What we need are healthy, free flowing rivers where species can thrive; thick, lush forests that absorb carbon dioxide from the air; and happy, local communities that can enjoy the beautiful rivers and freshwater outside their homes. There are a number of other renewable energy sources that have much less of a negative impact than hydropower. Indeed, two small hydropower dams produce the same amount of energy as one wind turbine, which makes a significantly lesser impact. Other options are solar power and geothermal, both of which produce energy naturally and cleanly.
How can you help?
Patagonia are aiming to get 1 billion signatures to put pressure on the western banks who are investing the dams; to encourage them to stop their support for the irreversible destruction of Europe’s last wild rivers. You can support the campaign by signing the petition here and sharing Patagonia’s Facebook post here.
A new documentary about the campaign will be shown around the world, with viewings in the UK at the following locations:
May 2nd - London, Crate Brewery - Tickets
May 2nd - Manchester, Patagonia
May 19th - Hathersage, Outside
May 24th - London, The Brokedown Palace
May 24th - Chertsey, Snow + Rock
May 27th - Keswick, George Fisher
June 28th - London, Farlows of Pall Mall
Please feel free to ask any questions about the campaign, oppose it if you wish, and support it if you feel strongly about protecting the world’s natural environment like I do.
Sign the petition here: blueheart.patagonia.com/take-action