Over the past few decades, the world has seen an increasing shift in what makes up the cornerstone discussion point regarding its future, from broad and seemingly ‘out-of-reach’ threats such as the nuclear arms race, to climate change and individual’s impact on the biosphere. With this change in focus, it becomes apparent that whilst the onus for change still lies largely with the policy makers, individuals can have a much more significant impact on the fate of the world than previously thought. Like many others, throughout my life I’ve had a keen interest in all things conservation and eco, without quite knowing how to directly act upon it. After years of feeling some frustration with what was going on across the country in the areas that I cared about, I decided to take my first action in conservation. My first efforts were helping with fund-raising and raising awareness in my local community, which really began to ignite what had always been an underlying passion. I loved the feeling of making a direct impact, so when the opportunity arose of first-hand experience as a bio-diversity surveyor in the mystical land of Nepal, I jumped at the chance.
Having no previous hands-on experience, I felt a mix of trepidation and excitement upon arrival at the project. The trepidation need not have existed, as immediately I was put at ease by the knowledge and attitude of the other participants, the established staff and the local population. I won’t bore you with the finer details about day to day life, more try to inform you about what I took from it, and why I think that everyone with even a slight interest in conservation can and should try to get involved more actively. Suffice to say the day to day tasks involved different wildlife and habitat surveys, setting camera traps, interviewing locals, writing proposals, finding solutions and presenting our data to other organisations, to name a few. This was invaluable experience in a field that I’ll look to take a more active role in, in future, but as mentioned before the practical experience felt entirely secondary to the feeling that you were actually doing your bit, contributing your individual effort for the improvement of the whole. It was an incredible opportunity and a phenomenal experience, but it had been started by just the smallest shift in thought, from observing issues at home to deciding to take a more active role.
Having worked for years in an office job, my move to drop it all in favour of heading to the other side of the world on a volunteering conservation mission was an extreme one. I’m not suggesting that everyone can or should follow that path, but it really gave me a taste of a world of new possibility out there, that is not only personally fulfilling but actually helps to tackle some of the fundamental issues of our day and age. However, there are myriad things you can do whilst still maintaining your current lifestyle. Read the literature, join volunteer groups, raise funds and awareness for issues that matter to you whether they be local, national or worldwide. For me, having an interest was one thing, and taking my first step of action was quite another. That first move of helping to fundraise and raise awareness about issues that matter to me really allowed me to reassess the way I looked at areas I’d been interested in or frustrated over relating to conservation and green-living. Once you realise that you can make a real difference yourself, you will begin to look at your frustrations not as insurmountable intangibles to be feared, and your interests not as beyond your reach or expertise, but to see them both as achievable challenges to be taken on in their own way.
It’s all about taking that first step towards creating a better world. Once you do, you won’t look back.