Working in conservation has its setbacks. Hours are long, pay can be low — if you even manage to get paid work in this field in the first place — and the emotional toll can see you fraught with eco-anxiety, desperate to have super powers, and feeling like your messages just aren’t reaching enough people quick enough. This guest blog post from Jessie Panazzolo reminds us why we must make room for ‘conserving the conservationist’.
My journey to conserve conservationists: Guest post by Jessie Panazzolo
Last year I realised that communicating over social media can be really frustrating with certain people only seeing bits and pieces here and there, with nobody really grasping the full picture of what I was trying to convey. The thing is, I was desperate to share a lot of information with a lot of people about why it is so important to look after conservationists.
Having spent the better part of 28 years struggling to feel welcome, secure or valid within the industry, I saw this need to both educate people about what it really means to be a conservationist, and comfort conservationists in knowing that its not just them who struggle to navigate the industry.
How to Conserve Conservationists
Writing my first book was like therapy, in that I was finally coming to grips with a lot of my trauma while writing, at the same time as the reader was uncovering the same information that I was. It was scary to write down stories of sexual harassment, bullying and insecure moments of loneliness that I had mostly never talked about, knowing that many people would read my words and know my truth. I persisted none the less, as I needed people to understand how conservation isn’t always as glamorous as the photos you see of people cuddling animals or standing gloriously on top of mountains.
When my book was out in the world, it sparked even more conversations about the stories and experiences of other conservationists, some of which I have never experienced before. I have never been a gay, trans or disabled conservationist, or even a conservationist of colour. I started to realise the importance of sharing these new stories and experiences alongside mine and continuing to add to the narrative of what it really means to be a conversationist.
I looked at my website, lonelyconservationists.com, in awe at the breadth of stories told by conservationists around the world and I knew that these are the voices that need to be amplified. Coming together as a community, 40 blog authors and I banded together to make a new book full of diverse voices, experiences and perspectives and we called it The Secret Life of Conservationists. The book was totally produced by the community in every sense, from the title name, the cover art, illustrations and editing. Finally, I had a cohesive story to tell, told by my community of fellow Lonely Conservationists.
But still, the notion of my old book being incomplete sat awkwardly with me and I knew it needed fixing. Since publishing the first edition, I had made an effort to go to therapy and work on reducing my own internalised stigmas about being anything but a tough and resilient conservationist.
I knew there were perspectives and stories to add, and even a light at the end of the tunnel. I needed to republish it to represent more voices and have more of an impact. Soon enough, How to Conserve Conservationists 2nd edition was born.
Its hard to feel like a lonely conservationist now days, knowing that so many others like me struggle with impostor syndrome, burn out, isolation and down-right confusion about our futures. I can only hope that the stories within these two books can help a few more people understand our plight, and a few more conservationists to feel less alone. The truth is, you aren’t alone and you have a community of global conservationists right behind you.
To get your hands on both of our books, visit your favourite online bookstore!
WIN A COPY OF EACH BOOK…
PLUS a paperback copy of Connections with Nature! We’re teaming up to give away a copy of each of our books: Connections With Nature, The Secret Life of Conservationists and How to Conserve Conservationists!
Due to postage strikes in Australia, the two Lonely Conservationist books will given away as ebooks and Connections With Nature will be a hard copy as it will be sent from the UK.
About the author
Jessie Panazzolo is an author, podcast host, and the Founder of Lonely Conservationists, a community that prides itself on innovating and delivering positive changes for the planet, but also striving to create positive changes for themselves too. The Lonely Conservationist community to encompasses themes of community, communication and mental health within conservation.
Find out more over at: lonelyconservationists.com/