The EUROPARC Conference 2019, the key event for Protected Area professionals in Europe, is annually hosted by one of our members. In 2019, the Nature Conservation Agency of Latvia was the host of an amazing Conference that took place in Jurmala, a coastal city on the outskirts of Kemeri National Park. Check also the outcomes of EUROPARC General Assembly 2019, the annual gathering of our members that opened the Conference.
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Nature on your mind – understanding our values
4 days, 370 participants from 40 countries and one guiding question: how can we put nature on our minds?
This year, the emphasis of the Conference was on the role of nature in human health. We challenged our Delegates to find solutions in the form of “EUROPARC Green Prescriptions”, that will help us increase the value of nature across multiple sectors of our life: politics, business, health, arts and the creation of spaces.
After being inspired by a panel of international experts (the full recordings of our invited speakers are available below!), Delegates were given the mission to “diagnose” the challenges existing in their sector.
From sustainable agriculture to Parks’ governance, arts & music or climate change, there were 14 thematic workshops, all looking from a different perspective at the role of Protected Areas, from which delegates identified the 3 main challenges in that area of work, and captured them in the form of “EUROPARC Green Diagnosis”.
What happens after a diagnosis? You look for solutions and prescribe the medicine (or means) to achieve it.
In a second working session, our delegates embodied the profile of a Protected Area Doctor to find nature-based solutions for the diagnosed diseases of each sector. 5 participatory working sessions took place, and the EUROPARC Green Prescriptions came to life!
The Jurmala Communique: Healthy Parks, Healthy People Europe
Based on the outcomes of the Conference, and with the precious input of EUROPARC Health & Protected Areas Commission, we’ve launched the Jurmala Communique, a first step towards the creation of the Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative Europe. We firmly believe that our parks and Protected Areas are a health-promoting asset. They have a crucial role in nurturing healthy ecosystems that sustain our societies, and EUROPARC Conference has given us the opportunity to analyze these roles, needs and opportunities in detail.
To assure Protected Areas are recognised by the opportunities they provide for people to experience and enjoy nature, and the contribution to the mental, physical, social and spiritual health and well-being of people and communities across Europe, EUROPARC will further develop the Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP) Europe. The HPHP programme will support EUROPARC members to develop policy, practice and partnerships in order to build stronger relations
with the health sector. Keep tuned, soon we will launch further guidelines!
Nature on your mind in…
The Plenary Session is the key inspirational moment of EUROPARC Conferences. We invite some of the most outstanding speakers to enlighten us and give us the needed fuel for the practical workshops that run throughout the afternoon. The session opened with the inspiring story of a young entrepreneur in Latvia, perfectly bridging with our conference last year in Scotland, where we looked youth involvement in Protected Areas.
Then, divided in the 5 key topics of the Conference – Politics, Business, Health, Arts and Creation of Spaces – our invited guests sparked our imaginations and challenged our minds… Below, you can download the presentations or even watch the recordings of each speaker.
To welcome our guests in Latvia, Edvins Balsevics, state Secretary of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Latvia, opened the session highlighing Latvia’s vision for nature conservation. Ignace Schops, EUROPARC President, followed Mr Balsevics, with some inspiring words on the power of nature to spark intense emotion in people, and called for an ‘Earthshot’ to dedicate ourselves to our dependency on nature.
Our constitution is among the few in the world which explicitly refers to the principle of Sustainability, and the shared responsibility we all bare for environment and nature protection.
Elina Pinto, Adviser of the President of Latvia on Modern State and Sustainability Issues showed us how Latvia’s Constitution is a front-runner in promoting sustainability and environmental conservation. According to Elina, “responsibility towards nature is such an important part of our cultural identity”, as it is expressed in Article 115 of Latvia’s Constitution “The State shall protect the right of everyone to live in a benevolent environment by providing information about environmental conditions and by promoting the preservation and improvement of the environment.”
Rauno Väisänen, former Executive Director of Parks & Wildlife Finland, shared his 40 years of experience in government positions working for nature. How to deal with politicians on sunny days (in national parks) and during political crises (in busy offices)? Rauno gave us precious tips on how to address each key (political) audience and adapt our messages, to ensure nature is a priority in politicians and decision-makers mindset.
Two young entrepreneurs, Anete Vabule, deputy director of Madara Cosmetics, and Mara Lieplapa, the creator of Plukttea (who was also the European Young entrepreneur of the Year!) showed us how nature is at the core of their businesses. From natural cosmetics to organic tea, these two entrepreneurs not only have nature on their mind – they make nature the inspiration and key ingredient of their business-model.
Dr. William Bird from Intelligent Health and author of “Nature and Public Health: the role of health in improving the health of a population“, showed us how nature experience directly affects our minds and well-being. From cognitive performance to intracellular metabolic changes, Dr. Bird revealed how contact with green spaces can diminish stress levels and positively correlate with a decrease of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety.
From an individual level to a healthier society, nature and access to green spaces can positively shape our feelings of happiness and well-being by impacting the quality of our social relationships. In fact, recent studies show evidence of green spaces as key to reduce health inequalities and improve social cohesion.
Despite her position ad Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection Department at the Latvian Ministry of Environment, Silvija Nora Kalnins was invited to show us how art and music can bring us closer to nature. Her project “Nature Concert Hall”, which over the last 10 years has been widely awarded for its ingenuity, combines science, art, education and nature protection.
Every year, a group of committed artists, scientists and nature educators, join their creative forces and conceive unique experiences to raise awareness on a specific species. The event, which always takes place in a different location in Latvia, starts with engaging workshops on the species biology and ecology, and ends with an amazing performance combining music and spectacular light effects. Reaching minds and arts to show that “Nature is always good”…
We are sure our delegates will never forget it… as we had the incredible opportunity to watch a live concert of their most impacting spectacles, during the cultural night event held at the Kemeri National Park visitors’ center.
Simon Bell, Landscape Architect, and Professor at the Estonian University of Life Sciences introduced us to the world of planning and design of green spaces. As Protected Areas authorities, we want to encourage e people to visit nature to improve their physical, mental and social well-being, but how can we design facilities that are meaningful whilst respecting the capacity of those sensitive natural spaces?
From strategic to operational planning, Bell showed us several examples of biomimicry and true integration of man-made items into designed spaces, as well as wise solutions for sustainable co-existence of man and nature: increasing connection to nature whilst minimising impact.
Celebrating success is one of the fundamental values of the EUROPARC Federation. Every year, on the last day of our Conference, we invite delegates to celebrate with us…
- the updates in the Transboundary Parks Network – this year, we welcomed a new member! Get to know the Binntal-Veglia Devero Transboundary Nature Park (IT/CH)
- the winners of the Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarships in 2019
- the recipient of the Alfred Toepfer Medal 2019: Kaja Lotman from Estonia
- and of course, the great work that the team in Latvia has endeavored to organise such an amazing Conference. Our huge thank you to the Environmental Agency of Latvia!