Feeling right in the center of Europe

Hello everybody, my name is Jonas and I am an IVY at the European Wilderness Society since July. Here at the European Wilderness Society or EWS the idea of the European Union is at the very heart of what we are doing. Our goal is to create a network of areas in Europe, where real wilderness still exists. Many people think of beautiful cities, impressive buildings or cool Instagram spots, when they think about their favorite spots in Europe. I, as a biologist and nature conservationist, think of the huge primeval forests of the north, the inaccessible ridges of the alps and the beautiful rivers all over Europe. As a volunteer at EWS, I can be part of connecting all these unique areas to protect the remaining wilderness of Europe.

Photo: My colleagues and me on a work trip to Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Part of this effort to connect wilderness areas in Europe are the two Interreg projects we are currently part of, Centralparks and Beech Power. I am an IVY volunteer for Centralparks, which connects eight organizations in seven countries. The project aims to increase cooperation between protected areas in Central Europe to improve their management. Nature does not care about borders, which means a country cannot protect nature on its own. That is especially true in times of the climate crisis. So, I am happy to be involved in a project, that tries to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services on a transnational scale.

Photo: The Team of Centralparks

The European Union and its programs to promote mobility and cooperation within Europe are a personal matter for me. I come from Frankfurt, Germany, one of the traffic hubs of Europe, from where you can reach several countries within a few hours. For me it was always normal to travel freely within Europe, be it to the sea in the Netherlands or the mountains in Switzerland. During my studies I first did an Erasmus exchange to Finland, where I met students from all over Europe, many of whom felt more like Europeans than their respective nationality. Later, I did my master in the Netherlands and travelled through Europe a lot, always eager to explore more of the endless different cultures in Europe.

Photo: All the countries I have visited in Europe

That´s why I decided to organize a Citizens Engagement Activity soon after starting the IVY program. These events are meant to show people in different regions how they profit from the Cohesion Policy of the EU. As nature is my passion and now luckily also part of job, I wanted to combine both. With a lot of help from EWS, I came up with WILDArt Majella. Majella is a national park in Italy near Rome with unbelievably beautiful und unique nature, where you can go for a swim in Pescara in the 30° warm sea in summer and go skiing on 3000m high mountains just 40km away in winter. Unfortunately, this natural wealth does not translate into economic wealth. The European Cohesion Policy tries to change this, and I wanted to do my part in it. So, we invited artists from several European countries and even the United States to go Majella and be inspired by the picturesque Wilderness. After a few days in the Wilderness, we presented the artwork to locals to show them, how moving and inspiring their home is for outsiders. This experience was really touching to me, to see how the artists transform nature into art and how that can help local to appreciate the natural wealth of their home.

Photo: Some of the artists, EWS-team and Majella-team at WILDArt

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