I’ve posted a few times on this blog about conservation and environmental issues. And after almost every single post, there has been a voice in my head which asks, ‘what good is this even doing? What authority do you have to be writing this?’
It’s true that I care passionately about the world around me and I believe wholeheartedly that we need to protect it. I cried my eyes out when I watched The Cove, Blackfish and Sharkwater. I get angry when I read about poaching in Africa or animal abuse in the UK. I get frustrated when I see piles of rubbish discarded at the beach.
But equally, I don’t have any qualifications in environmental science or conservation, and I don’t spend my time travelling to different countries to directly help teams of scientists, conservationists, researchers and volunteers (I would love to do that, but typically time and money don’t always allow for that).
So what is my authority? Why should I be writing about this?
This seems to be the thought process for a lot of us. We care about our environment and want to help protect it but we often feel like we can’t make a difference. We talk about conservation projects we’ve heard about, but we don’t feel enough of an authority to keep the conversation going.
But actually, we can all do something.
Not so long ago, I felt full of self-doubt and wondered how I could actually ‘make a difference’. Inevitably, I turned to Google. I ended up on the website for Global Wildlife Conservation. I clicked on ‘Get Involved’ and was confronted with :
‘SPREAD THE MESSAGE.
YOU ARE THE BEST SPOKESPERSON.’
Intrigued I read on.
I’m going to quote direct from the website now, because the words I read really hit home and reminded me why I even write some of these posts.
‘The conservation message is an important one. Have conversations with people you know.
Start with yourself and examine your lifestyle. Lead by example.
Global Wildlife Conservation suggested doing just a few simple things if you want to get involved – share information, lead by example and raise funds.
They believe that word of mouth can help protect our planet and the species that live here. They appreciate that not everyone can afford to take time out or pay for trips to conservation volunteer programmes. But they know people still want to help.
And it makes sense.
If we talk about things that we feel passionate about, we spread a message. The more people that converse about something, the more others become aware of it. And when that happens, it’s harder for those in power to ignore the issue.
As a member of Born Free’s Activate volunteer programme, I understand this idea all too well. Born Free send us campaign updates and newsletters every few months. And on the reverse, there is always a call to action; a project which they need extra voices to speak out about. They ask us to write letters to politicians or travel companies; they ask us to sign and share petitions; and they tell us about protests and events where we can show our support just by turning up. There is strength in numbers.
My one letter to a politician might get an automatic reply, or be thrown discarded on an unread pile. But it might not.
I’ve had a few replies on campaigns lately and, even if it’s not the answer we wanted, it still means that someone has read your message. And if they’re sent the same message by hundreds of different people, letter after letter, maybe they’ll change their mind and decide to do something.
The day before publishing this, something else got me thinking.
I believe that most people out there do respect other people’s opinions, and have the ability to listen when it comes to topics they don’t know or understand. But then I heard someone being mocked the other day; someone who has become more interested in the environment, and had recently spoken to friends and family about specific campaigns. It was like being back at school. Now the comment may have been in jest, but it was really disappointing to hear someone use the term ‘hippy’ in a deprecative way, sneering at someone who was trying to do something positive …
My advice for this is to remember that often, these sorts of actions stem from pure ignorance. Not understanding the severity of the problems in our environment make people think that those who care about the planet are just ‘tree-huggers’ and ‘hippies’. Rather than realising that we’re all just normal people who would like our planet to remain intact for the other creatures that live here…
Now, if you want to do more than just talk and share ideas, consider joining groups that are trying to make a difference. Show your support by sharing their message, then make donations or taking part in fundraisers so their hard work can continue. Once you join various groups, you’ll also get notifications about upcoming events. By joining Born Free, I found out about the protest against the Taiji dolphin hunt – and for anyone considering it, there’s nothing more empowering than a protest.
I’ve mentioned lots of organisations on the blog previously from Surfers Against Sewage to Born Free and the Marine Conservation Society. Many more exist, with focuses on individual species to ecosystems as a whole. Find a group or society which you believe in, and support them. There are also quick courses you can do online to brush up your knowledge. Have a look at United for Wildlife for bitesize chunks and introductions to conservation.
Finally, if you want to feel like you’re doing something, make a few changes in your own life and lead by example. I’m conscious to pick up litter when I see it out and about (thanks to Take 3 and the Plastic Resistance messaging) but I also try to recycle everything I can. If we all did little things everyday, the world would be a better place.
So next time you feel like you’re not making a difference or there’s nothing you can do, or someone mocks you for caring, remember that negative thoughts get negative answers.
Everyone can do something.
So keep talking, keep listening and keep helping to make the world a better place.
And for now at least, I’ll keep writing.