My name is Jessie and I am a 26 year old Australian - though my accent has been through a whirlwind journey travelling around the equatorial regions of the world, working on many conservation projects. I grew up on a mission to be a part of tropical rainforest conservation as the biodiversity in tropical rainforests never fails to astound me. Every waking hour I would strive towards achieving my goals, and for the first 24 years of my life that’s all I did. One day I eventually woke up and realised that I had made it. I was a terrestrial ecologist and conservationist working in the last place on earth that had tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans in the same place.
I sat in my room, alone, feeling too unsafe to go outside. It was the weekend and none of the locals had time to hang out with me. I realised something in that moment that changed the course of my future from the path I had always walked. I finally achieved my life long dreams and my five year old self would be so proud of me, but at the same time, I couldn’t waste my life cooped up in a room with no social life, no hobbies and no freedom to do the things I love. Many of the people in the industry were also making questionable decisions for wildlife and there was too much competition rather than working together toward a common goal. Why were there so many organisations dedicated to orangutans and yet they were still in peril? I couldn’t understand the mentality of the conservationists in the area and I knew I couldn’t work there for the rest of my life. So after 24 years, I had to find a new goal to fuel my life’s work.
Finding opportunities to conserve the wildlife I was passionate about wasn’t as straight forward as my road to rainforest ecology. Trying my luck back home, I still faced isolation and exploitation in Australian jobs. I was treated horribly in my roles and pushed down and punished for independent thought. Getting a job I could mentally survive in seemed to be near impossible. How can you get a liveable wage, empowering leaders and a consistent work-life balance in the industry? I still don’t know.
Feeling defeated, I realised the niche that needs to exist, and one that has become my new life mission. I decided it was time to save the people that are saving the world. It is not just me, but thousands of conservationists across the globe that are experiencing un-liveable wages, isolating conditions, exploitation, natural disasters, manipulating leadership and most commonly, burn out. I never felt understood in amongst my family and friends for the work that I did, so I created a community for other conservationists to see if they felt the same. In a matter of minutes, Lonely Conservationists was born.
Since creating Lonely Conservationists in late January 2019, over a thousand conservationists have come together to support each other, share their stories and collaborate on new projects in the field. The irony of the name is that none of us feel quite so lonely anymore after hearing that we are not alone in our struggles.
We have helped ourselves by normalising our feelings and experiences within the industry, we have helped critically endangered species by coming together to create restoration projects that we wouldn’t have otherwise been involved in, but most importantly, we have helped the industry become united by connecting conservationists all over the globe to work toward shared goals.
Lonely Conservationists started as a call into the void to see if there was anybody out there feeling as defeated as me in the conservation industry. Nobody was more surprised than me to find out that Lonely Conservationists was the community nobody asked for but that everybody needed.
If you want to be a part of Lonely Conservationists and share your story, visit lonelyconservationists.com or @lonelyconserve on Twitter. You can also join our community on Instagram at @lonelyconservationists. We can’t wait to have you in the family!