Protecting and experiencing local nature in a pandemic

local nature
© Miroslav Liska

Studies from Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment show a dramatic increase in the number of people turning to nature amidst the COVID-19 crisis

Limited travel and social interaction enforced by efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that it is more important than ever to maximise the potential of the local outdoors. That being said, making the most of nature means we also have a responsibility to protect it.

Minister of the Environment Lea Wermelin highlighted that last year, Danish people spent an extraordinary amount of time out in nature, and on two wheels. “Nature has given us a free space to meet, and many of us need this during the Corona crisis. I hope that the Danes will continue with the many wonderful experiences that natural areas offer,” she adds.

2020 was a record year in Denmark for overnight stays in nature, with almost a quarter of a million people booking a night under the stars at one of the Danish Nature Agency’s campsites last year. That is 30,000 more than the year before, and an increase of 130% compared to 2013. Furthermore, twice as many Danes have jumped on mountain bikes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Automatic counters on the 25 km long mountain bike track in Hareskoven show that traffic increased by 49% from 2019 to 2020 from January to August.

“There is a huge demand for outdoor experiences. That is why last year I chose to open up free tenting in even more of the state’s forests, and we have also made more accommodation and campfires so that even more people can open their eyes to our beautiful nature. Nature is a much-needed refuge in a tough time”, states the Minister of the Environment.

However, to reap the benefits of what nature can offer, we must protect it. Danish municipalities are being encouraged by Minister Wermelin to participate in a competition to become Denmark’s wildest municipality until 2022, where it is important to find the wildest ideas in favour of wild nature. Biodiversity is in decline worldwide. Species are becoming extinct faster than ever before with 1 million animal and plant species in danger of extinction.

Today, the competition is in full swing, with a number of the 98 municipalities registered for the competition by March 2021. A film team is following the competition, and the recordings will be broadcast in 2023. This competition is part of the Ministry of the Environment’s campaign “Together for a WILDER Denmark”, where the goal is to vastly encourage both municipalities and Danes in general to cultivate, celebrate and embrace the wild.

As part of her 2021 priorities, Minister Wermelin has also launched a nationwide campaign alongside the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Defence, to fight for a cleaner forest floor, a cleaner sea and cleaner roadsides. This joint campaign thanks Danes for all their efforts in preserving and taking care of nature, and also aims to remind them that “we can all make a difference.” It is a thank you for helping to keep the country waste-free so everyone can enjoy it without interruption.

Upscaling green technology

New green technology is needed on a large scale to address many of the climate and environmental challenges facing the world. In December 2020, the Environmental Technology Development and Demonstration Program (MUDP) allocated DKK 56 million to four large environmental technology projects within a circular economy, green construction and wastewater management.

These are called lighthouse projects and are establishing and demonstrating innovative environmental technology solutions in each of their areas. The projects selected promote collaboration across industries and aim to benefit not only Denmark but also on an international level.

Minister Wermelin has expressed that she is extremely pleased that the government’s objectives for the green transition and especially the circular economy are supported by companies’ development of environmental technology solutions. “Denmark must be at the forefront of the circular agenda. And of course, this also applies to the development of green technology in the field. The supported projects show that Denmark is full of innovative companies that can turn green ideas into action and create new jobs. We need strong companies when Denmark is to take the lead and show the way for the green transition,” she states.

The more work being done to support and protect Denmark’s environment, the more the citizens can enjoy the many activities nature has to offer, and as we can see, more and more people are utilising the outdoors each and every day.


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