Written by Jessie Panazzolo

Speaking to individuals of the Lonely Conservationist community I am amazed at their knowledge, field skills and general attitude towards conservation. After speaking with them for a while I realise how fortunate I am to be learning so much and having a conversation I know a lot of others would benefit from. It is at this point where I urge them to tell their story in a blog for the rest of the community to listen in on, because if I can learn so much from just a small conversation with them, I bet many others would too. It is at this precise moment that 95% of the time, the person in question says something along the lines of:

“But I don’t even have a degree.”

“But I haven’t finished my degree yet.”

“But I am not a real conservationist.”

But but but but but but BUT! SO MANY BUTS!

But I digress.

The most interesting thing that has come out of making this community is how worthless everyone thinks they are. People are never as good as the next person or they feel as though they could always be better or do better. I wonder if this is a side effect of the industry.

This week someone called me up about an interview I had. They said they had some bad news for me and that I didn’t get the job. They then went on to say that I had an incredible interview, was so easy to talk to and I sparked a long conversation after I left between the interviewers about changes they could make in their business structure. They also invited me to related environmental group events to network and help share my ideas with them. I was the best I could be, and I impressed them enough for them to consider their own work practices, but I still wasn’t good enough to be on their payroll.

When I sit there talking to people in this community I  see how great their ideas are, how incredible their actions have been and how much they care for our world. What I am not seeing is how many similar situations have most likely happened to them. Maybe they were rejected from gaining experience because they didn’t have a degree, maybe they were perfect for a number of roles but were rejected because of funding or some other reason that was very specific to that business. Throughout my life I am constantly told that I am great for x or y position but not good enough to pay. After a while that takes a toll on your self-esteem because people are constantly reminding you that your best is not good enough.

This is why I created this platform. These stories are not elitist and you definitely don’t need qualifications to explain your own personal journey. These stories are a chance for you to say “I don’t feel good enough because I have been treated this way and I honestly don’t deserve it.” This is a platform for you to tell people how hard you have tried to make a difference for our environment whether it be joining school clubs or volunteering or making changes in your local community. Even influencing your family to make a difference in their waste management or how they act ethically during your family holidays is huge!

It really makes me so sad to hear that you all don’t think you’re good enough to even tell your story, even on a platform where people are encouraged to talk about the challenges of getting where they want to go in life. Because of this, I feel it is necessary to say the following:

You do not need a degree to make a difference for the health of our planet. Just by your day to day actions, interactions with people and life choices, you can make tangible differences for our environment and this is a FACT.

You can be a mother or a father and raising your kids with no time to volunteer or study and still contribute to conservation, because hello, you are teachers and you are influencing the next generation which is powerful stuff.

You are enough. You don’t need a job or an organisation to see worth in you for you to be worth something. To tell you the truth, working for a fruit and vegetable distributor every morning with good people and having time in the afternoons to work on my own projects has made me happier than I have ever been. I don’t think about what people will think of me because when people ask what I do, I tell them I am a conservationist, because I am. You don’t need a fancy job title to tell you that you are.

If you want to do science right now, literally right now, no matter how old you are, your background, your gender, your location or whatever! GET INTO CITIZEN SCIENCE! Get on your computer, go outside for a walk and contribute to the world’s database of natural phenomena. It’s so easy and you can even do it from your bed if you want.

Listen, I know it’s hard when you never get congratulated for that whale that you saved one time because you didn’t use plastic bags or for that forest you saved because you contributed to a local community’s education by hiring local guides on your holiday. But you need to look in the mirror sometimes and give yourself a little pat on the back because you decided at some point in your life that instead of being a door to door salesman, or a CEO of a technology company or an accountant, that you were going to trade a life of a decent wage and having a simple job title for an opportunity to help protect our planet. That my friends, is pretty damn bad ass and you deserve a hi-5 from yourself or a muffin with your coffee today or whatever congratulatory thing you like to do.

On behalf of all the whales and forests and everything else that you have saved over your lifetime with your personal actions, I would like to say thank you for deciding that you would make it your personal mission to save the world.

You’re a friggin’ hero.

If you ever need a pep talk about anything, go and give @ecolojesst a visit on Instagram