What is happening in the conservation world at the moment? Is it climate change, illegal wildlife trafficking, habitat loss, overfishing etc.? Conservation and sustainability can sound very depressing and overwhelming at the moment. It is easy to get discouraged, angry, sad and depressed, not knowing what to do or how you can help. But, on the other hand, sometimes you may be doing all the right things, like planting trees, recycling, being sustainable, volunteering at your local nature reserve, not wasting water. However, these efforts could start to feel rather tiresome.
Images like these can get you down and despondent
Unfortunately, it may happen that one day you might wake up and think to yourself, what kind of impact am I having on this world. Just little old me, trying my best while governments don't keep their promises, billions of people still leave litter everywhere, and the poaching and illegal trade of animals is as rife as ever. At the end of 2019, I found myself wondering if my efforts were benefiting my cause. After two years of writing blog posts about the never-ending struggles in the environmental world, I found myself experiencing burnout. Not being paid can be somewhat disheartening because of the amount of work I was putting into the blog. Now I'm not saying money is more important than the environment, but it is nice to reward all the hard work I completed. It was at this stage that Covid 19 hit the world.
We went through hard times during Covid -19, some more than others
Although Covid was a bad thing for most people across the world, it actually helped me clear my mind and focus on other things, including playing PC games, reading non conservation type books, building puzzles, and setting a more regular exercise plan. I didn't look at any news headlines concerning nature, bad or good. I got so invested in bringing awareness to others about our floundering earth and its beautiful habitats that I lost sight of my own needs.
I played Call of Duty WW2
So how do I get back on the horse and continue this all-important awareness campaign? How do I encourage you, the reader, to not get conservation fatigue? Well, I know what worked for me, and it may help you as well.
Find different interests in your life other than nature, try out a new sport like tennis, cycling or running. You can also find yourself a new hobby like chess, model building or art. Most of all, if you begin to feel overwhelmed, unhappy or anxious, take a break. Go for a short outdoor walk and maybe a cup of coffee; another way to ease the problem or stress is by talking, talk to a colleague, friend or family member, always remember a problem shared is a problem halved. Another solution to avoiding burnout is not always looking at the bigger picture but focusing on smaller goals and celebrating those goals when they have been achieved.
I recall a scene from the movie The Lord of the Rings, where one character named Frodo is tasked to destroy a powerful evil ring. Frodo struggles to come to terms with the hardship of the route and the struggles faced by his companion Sam and himself. This is his friend Sam's response:
Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong By rights, we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, And sometimes, you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened. But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in these stories they had lots of chances of turning back, but they didn't. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.
Good old Sam
(Quote taken from lord of the rings trilogy, The Two Towers)
Things may get tricky sometimes, and it may seem that the problem is too huge to overcome; that's ok, and it's natural; we are only human after all. But, as our lecturer told us before, we were going to spend a year out in the field completing projects: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Disclaimer, this is a metaphor; please don't go out and eat an elephant.
I’m sure you are doing the best you can and that’s good enough. Just remember, you don’t have to be captain planet to save the world. Just by doing one small thing a day such as recycling or even not wasting food can have a large impact on the world.
You can do it.