I have always thought of myself as a conservationist.
As a kid, I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau, David Bellamy and David Attenborough on TV and I just knew instinctively those guys were “my people”. I related to them and respected their ideals (and I still do). But I would have had a hard-time demonstrating my conservation ethics as a youngster. My first inklings may have been, developing an understanding of why it was important to return those small brown trout, caught with my Dad in the streams and rivers of northern England, and not to take too many. I didn’t realise it at the time, but that was my realisation that sustainable-use was a mighty important part of conservation to me—particularly in a landscape with booming public access.
The importance of that principle of sustainable use has stuck with me throughout my life, both professionally and personally. I went on to be a Fisheries Biologist and an Associate Professor of Wetland Ecology on the other side of the world and in a way that, and now my present work as an ecological consultant, has satisfied my deep need to feel like a conservationist. I am quite comfortable with my professional contribution to the practical knowledge of conserving fish, their fisheries and habitats (there’s that sustainable-use thing again).
Personally, I have always self-identified as a recreational-fisher, and as a hunter. Wild ducks, rabbits, pigeons and fish helped feed me through my lean University years. I have always derived deep satisfaction from putting wild game and fish on the table for me and my family. It just seems right—and for me, it always will. In that role, as many people do, I have tagged along, and dragged my kids along, to fishing club working-bees on riverbanks and tree-planting weekends in deer habitat restoration projects and have bought numerous raffle-tickets for fish-and-gamey causes. I have always maintained memberships of at least one of the leading hunter advocacy groups in Australia. All those things in my personal life helped satisfy my conservationist-conscience and make me feel good. In my professional and academic life, my public service always hit that mark too. In broad terms, it felt satisfying to know that I was contributing towards the sustainable use of a public resource. A resource I knew the value of in the currency of memorable-experiences, smiles, and full-bellies for myself, my family and anyone else who cares to try it.
But here’s where it gets hard to explain. A few years ago, I set up in business for myself as Fisheries and Wetland Consulting. Offering natural resource managers independent ecological advice about fish, fisheries and the ecology of wetlands. It’s been going well for me, I’m enjoying it, and self-employment has rekindled my empathy after too-long a time working in the public service and academia. But for myself, working in private practice, it somehow felt less-satisfying to my conservationist-conscience to be charging clients for the advice! Too-commercial if you like. Now that sounds kind-of crazy when I say it aloud. I know it’s good advice that I’m selling and I’m not quite sure I have pinned-down that feeling exactly—but there you have it. I felt the need to give more and was searching for ways to do that.
In my experience, feeling-the-need to contribute, and following-through with that, are two different things when I juggle running a small-business, participate in home and family stuff and pursue the outdoor activities I love. I find it hard to also commit to conservation in practical ways.
That’s why the 2% for Conservation organization works for me. It’s a simple way to hold-me-to-account and to ensure that I really am contributing to the conservation causes that I hold dear. I’d like to think I don’t need it to keep me doing that, but I found otherwise. All it takes is an annual audit (which takes about the same time and effort as drinking a cup of coffee and) to demonstrate that I gave at least 1% of my time and 1% of my gross revenue. As an Australian based business, I keep on contributing to the largely local (Australian or New Zealand) based causes I see as important to me—and it keep my conservation-conscience happy.
In a consulting business such as mine, there is usually no tangible product with packaging that I can label as “conservation-compliant”, “dolphin-friendly”, etc. However, I am proud to use the 2% for conservation logo in my email signature and on my websites. “Greenwashing” a business is all too common these days. The Cambridge Dictionary defines greenwash as, “to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.” Well, that’s the opposite of what the 2% for conservation organisation is all about. As a certified business I am demonstrating that I AM doing something, at a significant level, to protect the environment and the wildlife resources that I care about.
Am I still a conservationist? You betcha! My conservation-conscience tells me so.
Principle, Fisheries and Wetlands Consulting