James Pinsky: Be a conservation impressionist

James Pinsky

From time to time I have been known to season my conservation columns with a little inspiration. Today, it is the main course.

Why? Because one of the things our community needs is to turn a great deal of want to into action; and, one of the best ways to do this is through inspirational leadership.

You see, there are lots of reasons (excuses) as to why people who want to do – don’t. This is true for any profession. Some are afraid of failure. Others think they won’t or can’t make a difference, and then there are even a few who simply think there isn’t anything left to be done. As it has been said many times, whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. We as conservationists need to be not only in the business of showing people the how of conservation, but the why as well. In the end, the why will be what sustains us, not the how.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

This quote might just as well have been meant for conservationists as peacemakers because, as it was for Ghandi in the quest for peace, the movement for a truly sustainable world begins first in the belief that we can do something; but, it finishes only when we act.

So how do we compel someone who might sit pensively on the verge of action? Often that final push can come from inspiration, maybe in the form of passion. You see, our role as conservationists isn’t limited to simply being the subject matter experts on all things good and green. No, even if we stand, arm-in-arm, with our local residents, we are still not fully completing our mission. You see, we are not truly conservationists until we can inspire and lead our communities not to just care, but to act with vigor toward saving our planet. So, we must do far more than manage, even nobly, we must lead – with passion, with conviction, with purpose.

How? When we meet people, if we leave them informed we have, at the very least, done our jobs but if we leave them inspired we have met our calling. The difference between the two is what will ultimately determine the success or failure of our community. In fact, it ultimately defines us. It is this kind of focus, inspirational leadership, which can turn tasks in triumphs, workshops into wonders, and yes, lectures into sermons.

To each and every one of my conservation-minded colleagues – I call upon all of us to rise to this occasion! Regardless of where we all are in life, we can all climb higher, reach out to bring up our peers, or sway even the most ardent conservation naysayer. Our love for and knowledge about conservation should flow from our lips with the same beauty as paint flowed from the brush of Claude Monet, one of the world’s greatest impressionists. His passion for art was so profound that even years after his death, he still inspires others. In fact, much of his work was focused enough to make you think but never so rigid as to limit what might inspire you about it. There’s a leadership lesson there, to inspire but not dictate the passion of others.

We can be – and should be – the Monets of the conservation world painting a canvas of conservation advocacy daily which inspires generations well beyond our own to not just love conservation but to see a part of their own dreams, ambitions and passions for the future of conservation tomorrow in the impressions we give them today.

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.