Students for Rivers Camp
SRC 2022 – A Week of Inspiration
The Students for Rivers Camp (SRC) in the Ötztal Valley, Austria, was a week-long gathering where the River Collective engaged young university students in the protection of free-flowing and healthy rivers through interdisciplinary and intercultural education, combining science, art and action. In collaboration with WET (Wildwasser Erhalten Tirol) and WWF Austria, we hosted 25 bachelor, master and PhD students from around Europe and from a diverse range of disciplines. The SRC was located along the banks of the alpine Ötztaler Ache River. Here participants learned through workshops and lectures, from each other’s experiences, and from the local river-defending community, inspiring creative collaborations between participants.
This page gives an overview of the week’s activities and reflects on the impact the camp had on the participants, as well as how it contributes to the protection of the Ötztaler Ache. You can download a PDF with more photos below. Thanks to all our supporters for helping us to make this camp a success!
The SRC gathered 25 students with geographical origins spanning from Mexico to India, studying in Institutions from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Slovenia, Albania, and the UK. With diverse backgrounds reaching from Geography to International Land and Water Management, and from Comparative Literature to Architecture, the participants brought a wealth of knowledge to share. The invited experts shared their knowledge and experience from fields as varied as ecology, history, geography, education, river protection, civil society, landscape design, cartography, and climate action, which created a collaborative environment in which everyone had a chance to learn new perspectives on river protection.
Have a look at this video to hear from some of the participants!
During the first full day of the Camp, we explored the Ötz Valley from its confluence with the Inn River, all the way to its source in the glaciers. Geographer Werner Schwarz explained how the valley got its shape through years and years of geological processes. A visit to Edith Hessenberg at the Heimatmuseum in Längenfeld gave insight into how humans started to settle in the valley, and how they started to influence and interact with the landscape. Through a mapping exercise the following day, the participants had a chance to reflect on the gathered knowledge, and the relationships between nature and humans in the valley.
Throughout the week, many experts joined to give a wide range of perspectives on river protection. Every day was kicked off by specific questions: ‘What is a river?’, ‘Why protect rivers?’ and ‘How to protect rivers?’. The questions set the topic of the day, which was further dissected through lectures and hands-on activites, in which we had the chance to discuss the many definitions, values and perspectives that are associated with rivers, and our own personal motivations to protect them. We thank the experts from academia, industries, NGO’s and civil society for their valuable contributions to the camp.
What better way to learn about the river than to dive right in? The Imster Schlucht on the Inn River was the scene for an afternoon of rafting and kayaking. Several stops allowed us to discuss the landscapes and the functioning of the river, as well as reflecting on the big role that tourism plays in the area.
Full of fresh impressions, the discussions were taken some 100 meters up, to a beautiful campfire spot overlooking the valley. On Tuesday, all of Sölden town was invited to join us for a movie night in the Pavillon made available by the municipality, where we watched the movie RIVER, in addition to various short inspiring films. The last night of the camp brought us to the Live bar, where an expert of the previous camps, prof. Steven Weiss, brought his soulful band from Graz to play some tunes. Needless to say, these evenings were probably the most important moments in which participants connected and became friends.
With the camp, we hope to inspire the students to turn their knowledge into action. When we heard that the Tumpen dam would be officially opened on the last Saturday of the camp, the students did not hesitate a moment and prepared a letter to the soon-to-be-elected regional governor of Tirol, sharing their concerns about the impacts of the Kaunertal Hydropower Expansion. Read more on this action here.
Many students have given highly enthusiastic feedback and are taking back the inspiration to their local rivers. Some are currently planning to organise a next Students for Rivers Camp in the UK, others are involved with an artistic participatory mapping project of the Ötztaler Alps.
The week brought a wave of energy not only to the students, but also to the organisations already active in the protection of the Ötztaler Ache. Marianne Götsch from WWF Austria was involved in the planning of the SRC and takes inspiration into her campaigns against the Kaunertal Expansion Project. Marieke Vogt from WET (Wildwasser Erhalten Tirol) and Janine Hoffman from Lebenswertes Kaunertal came to share their experiences with the students and felt a wave of support for their actions, as well as being grateful for the extra positive attention generated by the camp for the Ötztaler Ache. The currently ongoing ecopolitical mapping project lead by Chiara Hirsch continues to bring together students, experts and the river protecting community.
This Students for Rivers Camp is supported by our local partner WWF Austria, and by our business members NRS, Spade Kayaks, Toros Outdoors, Floss&Co and Packraft Europe. For more info, see www.rivercollective.org/support.