For the Conservation Curious

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Choices: Blessing or Curse? November 21, 2011

Filed under: Science — newdomino @ 6:30 PM

Today’s blog may be a bit more introspective than previous posts.  A lot is going on in both my personal and professional lives that have caused me to stop and reflect about what it is to be a conservationist.  How does the calling fit in with my life goals? Am I on the right track? Could I be doing more?  I have a feeling a lot of environmental professionals stop and think about those questions from time to time, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts and uncertainties here with you and maybe get some feedback.  When you’re struggling with issues like mine, what do you do?  How do you come to a decision?  I’d welcome any input.

Things in Pennsylvania, and indeed in the world, are changing, and not necessarily for the better.  The Occupy protests, unrest in the Middle East, the retirement of long-standing politicians in Europe, the divisiveness of the Republican candidates for U.S. President – all of these examples and more highlight the level of financial and political instability common throughout the world right now.  The conservation world is also in flux – protests over the Keystone XL pipeline and Canadian tar sands, the Solyndra solar loan mess, oil spills all over the globe, climate change denial (mostly in the U.S.), and the list goes on and on.  People are up in arms over inequalities both economic and environmental in nature.  The feeling of helplessness is pervasive.

I too suffer from that feeling of helplessness, although probably to a lesser extent than many.  Unlike many of the Occupiers, I have a job with benefits.  Unlike many of the people in the Middle East, I enjoy freedom of speech.  I am certainly thankful for all that I have, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t sympathize with them.  My helplessness stems from uncertainties.  It’s tough to picture exactly where I will be six months from now because of circumstances out of my control.  Some days it looks like my future will be brighter, while other days I can’t tell what my future will look like.  All I know is that the uncertainty is unpleasant.  I need to take more control of my future, but how?

No one can predict the future but we can try to shape it.  What does the ideal future look like to me?  The passing of an extension of Growing Greener funds would be nice.  Expanded influence of the Wild Resource Conservation Program sounds good.  A tax on Marcellus gas extraction that benefits both the communities where it is taking place and ensuring that larger-scale environmental impacts will be paid for by the companies that make the messes, not taxpayers, is essential.  More respect for the environment and all the benefits it provides for us, by all, not just a minority.  Real action and legislation in the U.S. on climate change.  I could go on, but you get the picture.  Some of those items may seem far-fetched but lately I have begun to think more optimistically about the future, even as uncertain as it is.

But that leads me to my personal future.  Where will I be a year from now?  How much say do I have in the outcome?  I love my job and feel like I am helping to expand the conservation message to a wide audience, but could I be doing more?  Will my next role be as a non-profit director, an author, a Foreign Service Officer, a Broadway singer (I wish!)? So many choices; I guess I should be happy to have all those options.  During this week of thanks I am truly thankful to live in a place where almost anything is possible if you work at it, but it can be overwhelming at times too. 

Writing this has helped me see that although I am living in uncertain times, with many diverging paths ahead of me, I am grateful to have the luxury of choice.  Too many people out there are not as lucky.  Unfortunately the environment is not as blessed either; it cannot defend itself from poor policy choices and overzealous economic practices.  So I ask every one of you reading this to spend part of the holiday season protecting the planet and conserving our vital natural resources.  Let’s leave some choices for future generations.