Written by Michela Fieni
There is no worse feeling than seeing all the environmental destruction in the world and wanting to make a positive contribution, but barely having the means to do so.
I’m lucky enough to live in Australia, where bush regeneration was basically born. Back in 2015 when the ‘Green Army’ program was still around, I got accepted into a team that was being lead by one of the biggest and most well-known environmental companies in Australia. For context, Green Army was a government funded program that aimed to engage young people in conservation projects around the country. This is what sparked my interest in conservation, where I started learning the difference between native plant and weeds and basic bush regeneration skills. Being able to be outside everyday, make a difference in a small patch of bushland and listen to the birds was therapeutic.
Once the program finished (they were about 6 months long), I went to uni and started working in hospitality. Something massively lacked in my life even though I was studying an environmental degree at uni, it was too theory based for me. The itch to be back outdoors was real. In 2018 I enrolled in a conservation course at vocational college (TAFE) and got a job in bush regeneration back with the company I did Green Army. Whilst it was nice being outside everyday, sometimes it felt like we were doing more damage than good – spraying chemical on woody weeds to get as many weeds killed in the shortest time frame. I was constantly told that this was just what had to be done to meet contractual requirements, but was always left wondering how many insects I would have killed, whether the chemical was affecting mammals, birds, and of course, my own health. The work was very seasonal, with the job being on a casual basis, come any sort of bad weather and the day would be cancelled. It wasn’t sustainable in the long term with such an inconsistent income.
Then COVID hit. So I applied within the same company for an office based role, purely for the stability of income to be able to pay rent and put food on the table, which is still so difficult to do because of how low the pay is. This year has been tough on us all and I’m lucky to have been able to hold a job throughout the duration of the pandemic, but the lack of money in the industry I’m sure makes us all feel quite un-valued and under paid for the amount of passion and enthusiasm we put into our work. And again something just lacks – that desire to want to be outside, hands in the dirt, making a visible impact, planting the trees, restoring the habitat, hands in the dirt. Doing office work for an environmental company just doesn’t really have that fulfilment as being outside does, it’s been lonely working from home, staring out at the high rise apartments in suburban Sydney and wishing I could be out there, working alongside other like minded people, making a difference in natural area restoration. Hopefully, jobs in conservation become more financially stable and permanent, because we all deserve to do what we love and be happy, and afford to live comfortably…
For more of Michela, check out @mickeysmousepad on Instagram