My friend Stephanie Moret teaches Conservation Planning classes at University of California, Santa Barbara. She added my new book, Saving Wild, Inspiration from 50 Leading Conservationists to her classes’ required reading list and told her students to write an essay on their reaction to the book.
Here are three excerpts of the insightful, brilliant, and hopeful words from the Conservation Planning student’s essays posted on their class blog about Saving Wild, Inspiration from 50 Leading Conservationists.
Remember the why!
By Conservation Planning Student Mackenzie Forgey
Saving Wild addressed an often disregarded aspect of conservation, which was that of finding and sustaining motivation in a field that exists in response to degradation and loss. The declensionist narrative that preservation and conservation often assumes is simply psychologically grueling, even for the most strong willed and determined…
I have often wondered if I am cut out for this type of field, I don’t like losing and don’t handle it well. And when you throw in the urgency and significance of issues like extinction and climate change, the magnitude of my possible failures really scares me.
The conservationists throughout the book had varying tactics and ways to keep inspired. For Annette Lanjouw, the many people doing amazing work beside her inspire and give her hope. Tina Welling comments on the amazing ethic and potential of people to change their world, and leans on this ideal to fuel her own passions. Many look to nature itself as inspiration like Alasdair Harris amazed at the incredible resilience of natural systems and Paul Hilton captivated by the beauty and spirituality of the wild.
The many conservationists each have their own unique ways of keeping inspired, but I believe what underlies each of their statements is a connection to the question of why.
Though each leader featured in Saving Wild has different methods and principles they fall upon when faced with failure, their resilience is renewed in remembering their reasons for why their work matters. Although such an obvious statement, I think that far too many people and easily myself go through life without reflection and without establishing a strong moral basis behind their actions. Each of the testimonials in this book had some underlying and each of them live their lives in an answer to their personal “why.” For me, that self-awareness and dedication to living your life for a reason is the most inspirational thing of all and something that I want to emulate more in my own life.
The underlying challenge of conservation isn’t necessarily how to save a species or habitat but how to learn how to stay resilient and strong. It’s a brave thing to dedicate yourself to a field that will ensure setbacks and loss, but with a genuinely based and regularly revisited “why” I think we can all accomplish great things even in the face of tremendous adversity. I am keeping this book for the many rainy days of the future!
Opening Your Eyes
by Conservation Planning Student Joshua Kuha
Wow. I really enjoyed reading this book. I opened it up and I could not put it down.
I enjoyed reading about what inspires all the conservationists in the book, but of all the stories told, it was Gloria Flora’s story that inspired me the most. What’s ironic about this? Gloria is not inspired these days. What makes her keep doing what she does is desperation, not inspiration. She mentions that she has three grandchildren and then mentions that we will have sentenced ourselves to death if we do not keep fossil fuels in the ground. Put those two things together and you realize that Flora is saying that what we are doing today is putting future generations on a path to destruction and doom. If we keep this up, life will not be the same for future generations and they won’t get to enjoy the lifestyles that we are living today. I constantly think about that and it scares me that there is probably a good amount of people that do not think about tomorrow. So many people are living for today and do not worry about tomorrow until it comes. Reading Flora’s story of desperation led to inspiration for me, as this book intended to do.
Holding on in Stormy Waters
by Conservation Planning Student Carly White
Times are tough for environmentalists. Wherever you turn, there is opposition…
Where do we find motivation in a world like this? The only way to benefit our planet is to stay positive and inspire each other to continue this grueling yet ever so important work. That is why Saving Wild and other publications like it are so important.
One particular point that stood out to me was made by Paul R. Ehrlich, a professor of population studies at Stanford University. He knows better than anyone that at this point humans have a very small chance of not destroying everything. He refers to the species that we are wiping off the face of the Earth at an alarming rate as “our only known living companions in the universe”. When it is said like that, it is as if the animals are our only family, and it feels more like we are all in this together. We have to keep fighting for them, even if it seems futile, simply because we have too. You would keep fighting for your mother even if statistics suggested she wasn’t going to make it, right? It is this familial love that environmentalists share for our world that inspires many of us against all odds.
One of the most important strategies an environmentalist can employ is to share this passion with others. Many of the contributors of this book share their passion through documentaries, books, pictures, or organizations dedicated to outreach and education. Passing on our knowledge and motivation is a way to build an army dedicated to treating our planet better.
For me, it is simply inspiring to see that so many others are still inspired. If they aren’t giving up, then neither am I, and neither should you.
There is a lot of wisdom in those words! A big thank you to Stephanie Moret and her Conservation Planning students for letting me quote from their wonderful posts.