Green Spotlight: Pandemic leads back to nature

Holding the selfie stick with such nonchalant dexterity … Skills! (photo: Visit Denmark/Niclas Jessen)
August 16th, 2020 4:54 am| by Sibylle de Valence 
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Staying local this summer has led to many of us spending more time in nature and exploring more of Denmark.

A new way to connect
Camp Adventure and its recently erected observation tower is a full immersion experience that encourages its visitors to contemplate nature. The tower, the first of its kind in Scandinavia, is the key element of what is a unique experience.

Visitors follow a 3.2 km trail along a wooden walkway to and away from the tower, where the route spirals its way to the top. Hourglass-shaped, 45 metres high, and built using steel and locally-sourced oak, the impressive tower was designed by Effekt architects. Effekt in Danish means impact.

“Nature is staged to provide new perspectives, understanding and learning of nature,” one of the guardians of the sacred place explained.

Time Magazine listed the site among the 100 Greatest Places in the World for 2019.

Doin’ it for ‘Gram
The connectivity is less obvious in Dyrehaven (the ‘deer park’ near Lyngby), a forest renowned for the 2,000 deer that roam there freely. Included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 2015, it is a reminder of the essential role that nature plays in our well-being.

But try telling that to the hordes of travellers wandering around the park just to see a deer and pose with it. Some desperately approach peaceful walkers with a photo of a stag on their cell phones. “Where is it?” they ask.

The delicate, graceful creatures move freely on the 1,000 hectares dedicated to them. But that was scant consolation for tourists from a faraway land in search of the perfect photo, who had to turn back to the bus waiting to drive them to the next activity on their tight schedule. 

Their disappointment was palpable. So much for communion with nature.

Rocking it, #Nature
Many park rangers all over the world are complaining that natural sites are being invaded by a new wave of tourists in a surreal quest for the perfect picture – often at the cost of the fauna and flora surrounding them.

Close to us, Trolltunga in Norway is the most significant example. Its scenic, spectacular rocky peak hovering some 700 metres above a lake attracts thousands of amateur photographers looking for Insta-popularity.

On the other side of the camera, the picture is less idyllic with hundreds of casual hikers ready to line up for hours to immortalise the same perfect picture.

Up until 2010, the photogenic place was only visited by some 800 visitors a year. In only six years, this number has dramatically increased to 90,000.

Its popularity has exploded thanks to smartphones and social media. At the time of writing this article, Instagram has over 545 million posts with the hashtag #Nature.

Renewed interest
But at least social media is getting people outside. The 10-hour hike up into the mountain to reach the Norwegian cliff is not a walk in the park. This is good news because recent research has proven that people only need to spend two hours a week in nature to feel better physically and mentally.

At the same time, Google Trends has shed light on people’s evolving habits and concerns through their online searches during worldwide lockdowns. Topics related to nature such as ‘growing plants’, ‘bird sounds’ and ‘identify trees’ appear to have doubled.

Let’s also not forget that forests are one of the most efficient ways to absorb carbon dioxide and fight climate change. In Denmark, forests currently cover 14 percent of the territory and have been growing steadily since the end of the 19th century.

Sibylle de Valence 


Sibylle is a French journalist, columnist and author who writes for a variety of French, English and Italian language-publications, specialising on the green transition. Having lived and worked in San Francisco, Milan, Berlin, Rome, Calgary and Paris, she speaks five languages. Follow her on Instagram at sibdevalence