Making a difference. It’s what drives my core and my identity. It’s why I stepped down the environmental path and pledged my career to the third sector. I want to fight for our planet, its wildlife and its people.
But the desperate urgency to make a difference sometimes plagues my thoughts. Why am I not better? Why do I always let myself down?
People tell me I care too much, to not worry. That I’m privileged so whatever happens I’ll be ok. That no one else cares so why bother? Like I can just not care about what happens to everyone else, to the wildlife and nature I love and depend on. Like I can just change who I am.
For every step forward I take it seems I take another 10 back. Every time I drive my car, waste food, buy single use plastic or buy something without checking its sustainability credentials. Everytime I make a transgression I am filled with guilt and turmoil.
But I’ve slowly come to an accordance with myself. It’s not constant, I lapse into guilt and anger at myself still. But mostly I’ve come to accept I cannot change the world on my own. That’s it’s ok to live my life too. If I don’t enjoy life, how can I have the will to protect it? But I am willing to give some things up.
Many people say it’s too hard, that any effort they make is just a drop in the ocean so what’s the point? But enough drops in the ocean can create a tidal wave.
At the end of my life I want to be able to look back and truthfully say to myself that I tried.
I didn’t just sit back and do nothing. I tried my best. Yes, I was very far from being perfect. Even in giving my all I could not give everything. But that’s ok because I’m not perfect. I have limitations and weaknesses. I will fail sometimes, but I know that trying is always better than not.
The irony is we see humans and what they are doing to the planet as unnatural but we are only a product of nature itself. The driver behind what we are doing is a series of overly effective mutated genes. Invisible forces dictate our every step. But that’s not an excuse.
Nature’s greatest gift to us was the ability to step back and see what we are doing. We have the capacity to feel empathy for other species besides ours. We have morality and a clarity of thought that few, if any, other species have. The ability to understand our own psychology and ability to break out of it is a gift.
So what I am trying to say is let’s try our best. Let us not feel apathetic because we can’t do everything. Let us find the balance of trying to making a difference but not letting our limitations drown us in misery. Because being an environmentalist or a conservationist is not about being perfect. It’s not a competition, we’re all in this together. Let’s build each other up and accept not everyone is capable of all things. And that’s ok.
It’s about being pioneers lighting the way for society to follow. However small the light. Do what we can but don’t put ourselves down or give up when we make mistakes or hit barriers we cannot surpass. Just keep going. After a setback, keep your head up and remember there’s always a new day.
But let us not settle for less or ever think our job is done. Let us not think one good act can erase any one impact we make on the planet. We will keep trying and accept our work is never finished. Focus on the small things we can change in our lives. And when the opportunities arise, let us add our voice to those calling for the big change.
And sometimes as an individual we might be able to find the strength to be the one who leads the big change. But if we don’t that’s ok.
Join Chris Packham’s Peoples Walk for Wildlife on 22nd September at Hyde Park at 10am.