It was the middle of the night and I was lying in bed mid way through a busy week of wildlife, climate change awareness and assisting with running an eco-lodge. My boss has been working 15 hour days, motivated by the positive response of years of his hard work, and about to add three more awards to his vast collection. Suddenly a wild thought came soaring into my head. Last year I was lying in another bed across the world, still in the comfort of my blankets while my boss worked 15 hour days, thriving off of the positive response of the years of his hard work and dedication. It was then that I had to think
“Why was it that I have been working with so many dedicated, award winning people in my field rather than dedicating myself to work and winning awards for my own life long projects?”
My whole life I wanted to change the world. Throughout my schooling, people would always ask what I wanted to do when I left school. My answer was always:
“I want to save the world”
In my young, invincible brain, this seemed like an easy task to achieve. I just work hard, never give up and I will save the world right? Simple.
The problems began when I entered the real world post-schooling where I discovered very soon how vast the corruption, hate and greed spans on a terrifyingly global scale. When I was 18, I saw a very legitimate and successful wildlife sanctuary raided by the DNP, where hundreds of rehabilitated animals were brutally hurt, confiscated to horrible conditions or murdered. When I was 19, I saw people make decisions based on their personal feelings and conditions, rather than based on what the animals in their facility needed and so hundreds more animals were stripped of a life they deserved because of human social issues. When I was 21, I saw forests stripped bare and diminish gradually over a 6 month period. I saw over-fished waters and a hammerhead shark head float helplessly in a boating dock. At 22, I saw the drought, the dust and the sadness caused by oil palm plantations. I saw 40 dead elephants on the news in the neighbouring province because a farmer had poisoned their water supply to prevent animals from eating their harvest. At 23, I saw that I was only respected due to my “masculine qualities” and that I could never be accepted as a woman in science, but rather I had to be compared to a man just to be respected in a community. I saw top scientists in their field releasing animals based on what the media wanted, and I sat in sorrow as these animals died in a drought stricken forest. At 24, I saw elephants dead in landfill as they congregated there to feed. I saw tourists go to see them and think it was the most wonderful time of their lives.
At this point I had become too jaded to be invincible anymore.
In just 24 years of trying to understand the world, the environmental processes and all that inhabits this blue planet, I have fallen deeply in love with what I have seen, but deeply saddened at the rate of it’s demise. I have paid witness to millions of people on social media supporting people and institutions I now know are causing much pain for wildlife and ecosystems all over the world just because nobody knows what is happening in the real, scary, ugly world, and I don’t think anybody wants to. I feel like I keep climbing mountain after mountain and getting to the top and realising that the view is no better here than it was on the ground, but standing there, I just feel exhausted and defeated from the hike up.
I think for now, I can take solace in the fact that there are genuinely good people out there in the world, people who are honestly making great decisions for the fate of species and ecosystems everywhere, not because of external factors, but because they are honest and right. I am young, and I am still learning, and I don’t want to work for 15 hours a day because I still want to be able to enjoy the wildlife I am working so hard to protect. If you take just one walk in nature, see one bird, one butterfly or one lizard, you may step out of your closed minded focus for two seconds and understand that you need to not sacrifice yourself, your sanity, your family for something that is not totally in your control.
I cannot save the world myself and neither can either of my two bosses, past or present. But with our combined energy, passions and small smidgens of belief that we have left, maybe we can each make the world a better place in our own niche ways. In the end nature has taught me that it will find a way, if trees can grow in pure rock, I can find the view at the top of the mountain. You never can tell if one journey is ending, or another voyage of discovery is only just beginning.