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James Pinsky: Common ground is only place to start if you ever want to finish

James Pinsky

People are different.

This isn’t news. In fact, for the most part, it is our differences that define us, or at least separate us from one and other. Some of us are funny. Some of us aren’t. Some of us are college educated, and some of us are not. Some of us are old, while others are not. You get my point, or maybe you don’t. See how this works?

As unique as we all are, and yes – some more than others; it isn’t our differences that will and can save us. No, what can and will save us are what we have in common, and despite the laundry list of differences we seem to pride ourselves upon these days, I think our similarities are more plentiful. Case in point, none of us want to starve to death in an overcrowded, toxic, disease-infested, dark, concrete holding cell with Nickleback on repeat on our MP3 player.

See? There are more than seven billion people on this planet, and all of us have that in common. In the conservation world, far too many of us seek to define ourselves as different from each other. We claim to be better, more impassioned, better funded, better educated, better connected, more compassionate, or simply nobler than each other so that it is our voice, our agenda, or our funding sources, which get chosen. Meanwhile, progress can and often is slowed in our global war to save the planet because so many of us choose to sacrifice each other to win the smaller battles.

Imagine if all of the world’s conservationists, and let’s be clear here, if you’re trying to keep this planet around long enough to see the Cleveland Browns win a Super Bowl, you indeed are a conservationist, worked in harmony. We aren’t these days. From my perspective some of conservation’s greatest threats come from within our own ranks. I have seen bitter, often far too personal attacks take place within the conservation world by fellow conservationists on our own brothers and sisters, and it disgusted me from day one.

So, today in my column I am taking a stand that may bring the crosshairs of hate upon me by a few family members in our conservation world. So be it.

If you are a conservationist and you attempt to minimize, discredit, embarrass, ridicule, bully, or otherwise corrupt a fellow conservationist who has the same goals, then you’re wrong – and you’re hurting all of us. We cannot save ourselves by killing ourselves.

I’d like all of us, regardless of our affiliation with conservation, to pause for a moment, if not for a day, and think about what we do in our day-to-day roles as conservation leaders in our communities which either aggressively or more often than not, passive aggressively undermines each others work. I am willing to bet we all are guilty on some level, some more so than others, but guilty nonetheless. FYI – if you utter the words Jay’s not talking about me, you’re wrong. It’s OK, be uncomfortable, but keep reading.

Now, like any bad habit, I’d like us all to begin anew tomorrow not with our conservation efforts toward our natural resources, but with our conservation efforts towards each other. What are we doing to help each other succeed, grown, be healthy, and otherwise be empowered? It takes two weeks, on average, for humans to break bad habits. So, in two weeks, I’ll write another column and ask all who read it to see how much better their lives and the lives of those they interact with have changed because we chose to change our behavior. If we all do this one simple thing, one conflict at a time, I can assure you it will do more to save our planet than any amount of funding, scientific knowledge, or legislative process.

I assure you this logic is valid because in the end the only thing that should be beneath enough of us is common ground,   not each other.

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