In July 2015, I went on a month-long volunteer SCUBA expedition for a conservation organization in Southern Leyte. I thought it was simple: I would learn more about marine wildlife and setting up Marine Protected Areas, while doing something I loved – diving!
However, little did I know that this excursion (coupled with reading the desolate first half of a supposedly hopeful New York Times Bestseller “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein) would lead me into a rabbit hole of despair. In the book, I wondered what the fate of the planet would be in light of all the seemingly infinite human greed and exploitation. Simultaneously, in real life, I questioned how even well-meaning conservation efforts ultimately failed to achieve their intended results, and in some cases, made matters even worse.
For two weeks after I had gotten back, I was unproductive at work, and questioning the impact of the work I do with MUNI – pingponging between thoughts that a) little lifestyle tweaks were not enough and that I should do more, and that b) perhaps we don’t stand a chance, and I should just not care, just be blissful and happy, and just enjoy what I can while I can.
A recent Facebook post by a friend reminded me about how I eventually got myself out of that funk, and how I continue to keep myself out of that desolate void.
“It seems like the point of the fight is to win. To me, the point of a fight is the fight.”
It’s not the destination, it’s the journey, and a million other clichés, but I just thought that Gela had said it really well and it resonated with me so much that I felt compelled to message Gela and chat with her about it more.
Gela Petines, co-founder of Reef Nomads
She further elaborated by saying that a lot of “changemakers” get burned out when they aren’t looking at the same thing anymore with the same eye as when they were starting. In the beginning, visions are usually clear and bright. Then shit hits the fan.
The struggle is real. There’s not enough hours in a day. You need more people. You need more money. There are bills to pay. There’s so much red tape. And corruption. You can’t please everyone. You’ve been at it for a while, but it’s still the same old story. You can’t sleep well at night because your brain is always turning, working, trying to figure out how to figure it out. And some people will give you a really, really hard time.
“The vision dims. Hope is tried and sometimes it leaves you. Will you stay in the dark and sleep instead because you now know it’s easier not to care? Caring makes you so vulnerable to the pain of others. They aren’t yours, so why bother? I realized it’s only in sharing in someone’s pain that you can share their joy. That shared joy is overwhelming that it can make you cry. It’s real, it’s contagious and it lasts. I think I’ll keep going for that.”
Photos from the Reef Nomads and Batang VIP Facebook pages.
Now, you may or may not think you’re like Gela. Speaking for myself, I do NOT think that the situations I’ve put myself in so far are nearly as emotional or as heart-rending as the situations that Gela puts herself in when she does work with coastal communities. However, I believe we all share in a fight worth fighting for.
Even though there are infamous political characters these days who seem to have misguided notions of what a just and fair world is, I believe a stronger, united movement of individuals and “ordinary citizens” can overthrow climate denial, war, corruption, corporate greed, and human rights violations in favor of a more compassionate and connected world.
I believe when each person lives his or her life with greater empathy for people and the rest of the planet, and acts guided by that, we influence those around us to do the same. It’s this singular, however frail thread of hope I hold on to, with the hopes that when combined with other seemingly feeble threads, it can be woven into a hardy tapestry of hope for humanity.
So why fight a losing battle? Because the only battle really lost is the one that is not fought at all.
Join Gela and other conscious travelers, travel planners and operators for a MUNI Meetup on Responsible Travel on April 9, 6:00-7:30PM, as one of the learning events for MUNI Market 2017 happening on April 8-9!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jen Horn is a wanderer, writer, and founder of MUNI, a community for mindful living. She encourages people to think critically – to ask questions about how they shop, eat and travel, to explore more socially and environmentally mindful ways of living and working, while remaining kind to one’s self.
She writes about psychology, wellness and the environment, and loves veggies, diving and bike-commuting. Follow her at @nomadmanager.