Few things support climate education more effectively than hands-on experience. In that spirit, the beautiful slopes of Rila National Park helped 20 young Bulgarians understand how climate change and human activities are impacting biodiversity in the subalpine and alpine belt.
Just picture it: one slope at a time, you are journeying into the heart of Rila National Park, the largest of its kind in Bulgaria in a total area of 810 km2. Your breath floating up through the peaks' altitude range, 800 to 2925 metres above sea level, you are refreshed visually and physically by the beautiful Skakavitsa waterfall; the violet colour of the Rila primrose, endemic to the Rila Mountains' peat bogs and lakesides, accompanies your moments of contemplation; the Balkan chamois, on cliffsides that look quite inaccessible, amble along. Rila is a piece of art on its own, a living fresco – but in its corners, the unmistakable fingerprints of human presence and climate change threaten to stain it irreversibly.
For this reason, in late August, the Game On! project gathered 20 young Bulgarians — with backgrounds in ecology, communications, law, power engineering, landscape architecture, medicine, pedagogy, etc. — for a series of expert-led lectures in Rila's most amazing locations. In mountain lodges, beside lakes, and on the slopes themselves, the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation introduced our participants to the history of this protected area and the challenges facing its conservation.