A career in environmentalism - the US experience
1st May, 2009
In a story that will resonate with environmentalists everywhere, Joe Franke explores the US experience of an underpaid, poorly supported and largely unappreciated workforce.
Judging from how we’re portrayed on TV, biodiversity conservation and environmental work is romantic stuff. It’s riding off into the waves and spume with Paul Watson to save whales from the harpoons of Japanese factory ships in Antarctica. It’s Jeff Corwin travelling the world to beat hapless reptiles into video-worthy submission. It’s the romance of scientific discovery, of working with indigenous people in unspoiled landscapes. It’s saving species from extinction, hashing out international treaties.
These are, I suspect, the PBS and Discovery Channel-inspired images that are called up when I tell people what I do. ‘Wow, that must be fun,’ they say, imagining some sort of a carefree existence ruled by idealism, hope and deep, quotidian meaning. Sometimes they seem vaguely jealous, perhaps projecting the misery they feel at their own workaday drudgery. They always look perplexed when I say, ‘Yeah, it’s great when there’s actually work. Right now there isn’t any’. Sometimes I feel that by telling them the truth, I’m cruelly popping a hole in their escapist fantasies.
As I reach my late 40s, exhausted and at the end of my involvement in...
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