From 17 to 21 July, 42 participants from Latvia, Estonia and Finland took part in the camp “Five Days about Nature” at a seaside campsite in Salacgrīva, Latvia. Participants went on hikes, took part in workshops and educational lectures and engaged in creative activities. The camp’s central theme was biodiversity and climate.
On the first day, everyone travelled to Sindi, Estonia, to see the demolished dam on the left bank of the Pärnu River, 14 kilometres from the Baltic Sea. The dam was demolished in 2019, restoring the historical spawning and migration basin for salmon and sea trout.
After a brief stop in Estonia, the road led to Latvia and the camping site “Milleri” in Salacgrīva, 250 metres from the sea. The evening was followed by socialising and networking activities, as well as a concert by the band Ekosistēmas.
The second day of the camp was devoted to a visit to the nature centre of the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve, where the young people were greeted by the head of the centre, Inta Soma and nature tourism and education expert Andris Soms. Inta and Andris offered the opportunity to explore plant and animal diversity, human integration into the environment and its impact on natural processes and learn about Salaca and its fish. The visit to the centre served as motivation and inspiration to explore nature, gain diverse experiences and raise awareness about the diversity of nature and human interaction with it.
The water in the Salaca River and beach litter were monitored at the end of the visit. Experts discussed the instruments used for monitoring, what and how they can tell about water quality and waste found using these instruments and the significance of such methods. Everyone had the opportunity to experiment with instruments such as the Secchi disk (designed to assess water clarity), to evaluate the PH level of water by its colour and the organisms living in the water. On the beach, there were various rubber, metal and fabric building materials and other products, all of which were collected and recycled. Every piece of litter discovered prompted us to think about and reflect on the problems we face, as well as discuss potential solutions.
At the end of the second day, there was an opportunity to go on a mindfulness walk, where all of the senses could experience the peace and tranquillity of nature and appreciate its proximity and beneficial effects.
On the third day, there was a short trip to the nature reserve “Karateri”, where the sand toad (Epidalea calamita) has its habitat. The sand toad is extremely rare in Latvia, and young people had the opportunity to participate in a habitat restoration project for this endangered amphibian. The sand toad’s typical habitat is shallow puddles on the seashore or in river valleys, but it is also increasingly found in sand and gravel quarries, such as the Karateri Nature Reserve. This quarry is no longer in use, but the area is prone to overgrowth, so the site is gradually filling up with small trees, shrubs and grasses. This reduces the number of open sandy areas, which are necessary for sand toads. The primary goal of the clean-up was to weed small trees, bushes and grasses.
Following the clean-up, climate expert Jānis Brizga gave a climate lecture back at the campsite. The lecture gave an overview of climate change trends, projections and causes. The lecture was followed by a workshop on climate emotions, led by Karola Kivilo from Estonia (Eesti Roheline Liikumine organisation).
At the end of the day, a folklore group visited the campsite and the campers participated in games and dances.
The fourth day of the camp was dedicated to a hike in the Randu Meadows. A total of 10 kilometres were walked while observing and learning about birds, plants and insects. The hike also included weeding for Tatarian lettuce (Lactuca tatarica). Since it is an aggressive and invasive species, it has a significant negative impact on Latvian plant species and habitats.
Following the hike, there was a vegan dessert masterclass. Throughout the camp, food was an important part of the programme. All of the meals were vegetarian, with plenty of vegan options. Reinis, the camp cook, made certain that all produce was seasonal, local and not wasted, which meant that if oatmeal porridge was eaten for breakfast but left uneaten, oatmeal cookies were then served for dinner. Each meal was an adventure in discovering new foods and expanding one’s palate as the food was presented in a way that allowed for different combinations. During feedback, the young people expressed their appreciation for the camp chef and his cooking and presentation skills.
Two more lectures were held on the fifth day of the camp. Baiba Ladiga-Kobayashi, a fashion designer and illustrator who spent several years of her professional career in Shanghai, gave a lecture on sustainable fashion and waste in the fashion industry. The second lecture was on sustainable agriculture and permaculture, delivered by Elgars Felcis, sustainability researcher and lecturer at the University of Latvia.
In between lectures and activities, young people went for walks in the forest, swam in the sea, played board games, built fires, relaxed and made new friends. The five days in nature flew by, providing new knowledge and skills as well as the opportunity to enjoy the closeness of nature.