What makes conservation folks such an angry bunch? Why do we end up sitting in bars, where we drink too much, and loudly argue about abstract conservation issues? Why are we always bitching about our colleagues, our donors, our bosses, our staff, and, of course, the government? Why is there so much infighting in the conservation world?
I have only ever worked in conservation in Indonesia, so my views of the world are somewhat biased. But here, we are a pretty irate bunch. Heated debate is part of day-to-day life here. It infiltrates my working day, seeps into my sleep and reverberates over the dinner table.
A lot of this is frustration. I am angry because, after working in Indonesia for a long time, tangible conservation successes still seem far away. But there is more to it.
Because why would we fight and argue among ourselves? Part of that surely is that we still don’t know the answer to the big conservation problems. Everyone has their own pet strategies. And in a world where few things have been shown to work, every approach has potential merit.
So you get all these different people. Extreme green NGO types, moderate greenies, government people, aid project staff, industry environmentalists, you name it. Each of them will have their own ideas on how to solve conservation issues here. None of them, however, a proven answer.
Throw in some of that idealism that brought us out here in the first place, and you have a wonderful cauldron in which all those pent up frustrations, swallowed pride, hurt feelings, suppressed anger and unfulfilled hopes can ferment.
If high blood pressure leads to early death, I predict that conservationists live relatively short lives. To hang in there longer, we need to manage our anger better and stop being so terrible righteous; being seen as bickering fools can’t possibly help our cause very much.
Only then will I be able to let go of my perpetual anger.