September 12th – 8h37pm EDT – Philadelphia International Airport
I’m exhausted and my head is still at the World Conservation Congress, the debates of the IUCN Member’s Assembly ringing in my ears. The book Hawaiki Rising, a gift from the Young Professionals Pre-Congress Workshop, rests on my lap.
Island sand in my shoes, sea-salt snarls in my hair, landing in the Phoenix dry heat, a stop amongst many. Making my way home in body but not in spirit. Airports are weird that way.
A man in a suit sits next to me on the plane, and earnestly sparks a conversation. He asks me where I’ve been.
“Conservation? What does that mean?”
I share some of the amazing experiences from these past few weeks. Of all the incredible, inspirational people working hard toward sustainability. Of how important it is to guarantee Nature for All. Of how a healthy environment is directly linked with healthy people. Of stewardship, of protected spaces and species.
“Ah. Like pandas…” clearly disinterested.
My bubble bursts. It didn’t take very long, it seems.
A congress like the WCC is a universe of like-minded individuals, filled to the brim with kindred conservationists. These past weeks were spent amongts allies, despite our possible disagreements and debates. There was really no one to convice: the devout were hearing their surmon.
But out in the world, very few people would called themselves conservationnists. Many still don’t know what such a role implies, or worst would sneer at the word.
After all these years, this is still our greatest hurdle. Ignorance, indifference, apathy.
This is why my trust (and hope) lies with education, with campaigns and with activism. Take a page in the book of the movements fighting for social justice: be engaged to change minds, so that valuing Nature becomes an integral aspect of modern society.
Demand to live in that better tomorrow today.
In the end, I didn’t convince that man of much. But he did tell me how he loves the many lakes and parks of Minneapolis, and how he thought it made his home city a vibrant place to live.
I smile at him. “Well that would make you a conservationist too”.