Early in my time with Environment America, I learned that one of the things that makes our organization unique is that we base all of our campaigns in hope. Yes, things are dire. But there are solutions, and we have the proof and the track record that they can work. Consequently, much of our work centers around trying to get our evidence and perspective out into the world so that we can build the people power and the political will to put these solutions in action.
This was striking to me. So often when we hear about the problems we face with nature and conservation, it’s presented to us with a “fire in the second row!” tone. I am personally guilty of doing this, from “no bees, no food” to lectures on recycled toilet paper (seriously though, your toilet paper may be destroying the boreal forest). My ability to work in environmental destruction to even the most relaxed conversations led my partner to dub me “Killjoy Kate.”
You may be surprised that I, Killjoy Kate, started a series called Conservation Conversations with my friend and colleague, Bridget, with the intent of celebrating nature and connecting people to new and exciting perspectives on conservation. Given my inclination towards existential terror, I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to learn about nature solely for nature’s sake, and not to feed my ever-growing list of Reasons to be Scared About The Future.
Over the last four months, we’ve had some incredible guests on Conservation Conversations: beekeepers, shark experts, caribou scientists, lawyers, activists, legislators, native plant experts, water conservationists, wildlife rehabilitation specialists, artists who use their talents to show the interactions between humans and nature, and more.
They’ve all come on these webinars to share their work and to teach us how we can help improve the world around us. And you know what the craziest part has been? Every single one of these people has spoken about their work from a place of reverence and love. Have we talked about climate change? Absolutely. Have we touched on how many environmental issues are worsening? Of course.
But we’ve also talked about how bees have a special dance to communicate where a good stash of flowers can be found. We saw a video of a great white shark that was either a) dealing with a hairball or b) dancing. We learned that owls make wonderful foster parents. (Orphaned owls can be placed into nests with similar aged babies, and the parents will take them in and care for them as their own.) We learned that native plant gardens, when designed correctly, can replicate a natural process that mitigates stormwater runoff in our cities and that root systems are truly works of art.
Nature is incredible, and nature is a paradox. It is resilient and endangered. It is kind and brutal. It is beautiful and terrifying. There is no end to the lessons that we can learn from it, and there is no part of it that isn’t impacted by human behavior. We need urgent action, but we also need to create space for awe and wonder.
These conversations have reignited my childlike sense of wonder around nature, and they’ve reminded me why I started doing this work in the first place. You may ask, at this point, how does a sense of wonder for nature change the fact that we’re cruising towards ecological disaster?
I’m glad you asked. I’ve learned that people protect what they care about. We show up for the things that we love, and you continue to show up because of hope. Because of the belief that something can change, that things can be better, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
If we allow ourselves to get stuck in thinking that it’s too late or that there’s nothing we can do, it limits our ability to engage in meaningful dialogue about the benefits of protecting nature, and fighting climate change. We get so bogged down in the cons of inaction that we forget to celebrate the pros of action.
Furthermore, if you’re like me and you tend to stay in a constant state of panic, then you run the risk of missing the incredible natural processes happening around you. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
This series has reminded me that my fierce desire to protect nature by educating people on the threats we’re facing is based in an unwavering love for this planet. While I am predisposed to fear, these conversations have helped me lean more towards hope. Meeting all of these incredible people who are working each and every day to save this planet we call home has been inspiring and comforting.
So to the experts who have joined us, I say thank you. Thank you for educating me and for assuring me that our very best people are on the job. Thank you for inspiring me and for reminding me of nature’s grandeur.
To our guests who log on every week, I want to thank you as well for joining me in this journey. I hope that you’ve learned from this and that Conservation Conversations have given you an opportunity to shift your perspective and to have conversations about nature that are joyful.
And to my partner who, after reading this, may hope that Killjoy Kate is a thing of the past: not so fast! I will always scold you for leaving the faucet on while you brush your teeth, but then I’ll also launch into a fascinating anecdote about the water cycle and our oceans! Balance achieved.
** This blog post was written by Environment Maryland's Director Kate Breimann, co-host of Conservation Conversations with Environment Missouri's Director Bridget Sanderson.