Finding Your Spark

Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

A conservationist is defined as any person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife. An all-encompassing term that describes anyone who is a good steward of the land. For most, the journey down the conservationist path  started far before they ever realized. It started with some innocent or seemingly insignificant experience that ended up being the foundation in which the conservationist was built on.

For this conservationist, the spark for caring about our natural resources was lit in a rural part of southern Michigan.

It wasn’t much. A few acres of glorified mud puddle that was referred to as simply “the lake”. Except for a small swimming area and fishing dock, the shoreline of the lake was untouched and only discernible by where the lily pads met the cattails. It was on this body of water that I was introduced to my first love, fishing. While trying to understand what made the fish tick, I began to see how everything was connected – my own personal Ecology 101 course that came years before I received any kind of formal schooling on the matter. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that there is an entire career field dedicated to conservation. What I didn’t realize at the time is that this job is much more than fish and plants.

Using the words “Uphill battle” to describe implementing conservation would be a gross understatement. It’s a constant fight against invasive species, people that refuse to care, and, of course, a lack of funding. Not just in non-profit organizations either, they’re problems that nearly every job in the field of conservation is facing.  I’ve seen it push plenty of people to pursue a different career path simply due to job security and a higher earning potential. Though it may be easy to get discouraged and dwell on the daily challenges, it is important to remember what got you started on your journey in the first place.

Aldo Leopold said it best when he said, “We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall see absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

When it feels as though you’re fighting a losing battle, sometimes all it takes to give yourself some perspective is rediscovering your spark.