"Conservation was my lifeblood. Without it, I feel lost."
A writer reflects on the emotional toll of losing their job during the pandemic.
Welcome to Inkcap, a newsletter about nature, ecology and conservation in the UK, written and reported by me, Sophie Yeo.
This is your Wednesday feature. You can still read last Friday’s news roundup: Welsh Sharks & Wildflower Mortuaries.
This week’s article is a guest feature. The author wanted to remain anonymous so they could write freely about a subject that is affecting thousands of people across the country right now: job losses.
Conservation work has been hit hard by the pandemic. It been horrible for the people employed in the sector, but also for nature itself. Restoration projects have been put on hold, nature reserves have witnessed destruction and vandalism, and charities have had to fall back on emergency funding where it exists. Thank you to today’s writer for highlighting the personal and emotional toll of this side of the coronavirus crisis.
The pandemic has taken so much from so many.
Everyone has been impacted in their own unique way. People have lost loved ones, livelihoods and freedoms. In my case, it was that I lost my job in the UK conservation sector.
I worked for a charity that was hit hard by the lockdown and associated economic recession. The reduced income meant it had to make cost savings and that meant making some staff redundant. I was one of them – and it has been devastating.
I have never been made redundant before; I did not know how it would feel or how I would cope. The initial impact was hard to process. It felt like the floor had been pulled out from under me. Everything had happened so fast. We’d only been in lockdown for two months: how had things escalated so quickly?
In those initial days, I relied on my daily lockdown nature walks to help my mind process the thoughts racing through it. I am lucky to have a relatively healthy mind that has always been able to stop itself sinking into depression – not everyone has this advantage. These walks helped me to come to terms with my new reality.
It has now been a little over a month since I became unemployed, and while the initial panic and upset has gone, what remains is an underlying feeling of deep sadness.
People that work in the conservation sector are some of the most passionate human beings I have ever met. They don’t do it for the money; they do it because they love wildlife and they want to help save it.
I am no exception. I loved my job, and I love the charity that I used to work for. A former colleague of mine pointed out that conservation was my lifeblood. She had it spot on. Working in conservation gives my life meaning: it defines who I am and what I want to be. With that ripped away, I feel lost.
But it isn’t just my lifeblood that I worry about: it is the lifeblood of the conservation sector as a whole. I care deeply about the conservation sector and to see it torn apart is heartbreaking.
I’ve always considered the task of saving the planet’s beautiful wildlife as our most vital and urgent work, yet that task has largely fallen to a scandalously underfunded and undervalued conservation sector.
It is a sector that is shrinking just as it needs to be expanding. Employees of these organisations work tirelessly, yet the tasks facing them grow bigger every year as environmental destruction accelerates. How can we save the planet with less conservation work taking place?
This is where you can help. I urge you, if you can, to support our conservation charities. They need us now more than ever.
Coronavirus has affected the whole sector, from the National Trust to your local Wildlife Trust. More than a thousand staff face losing their jobs at the National Trust, with other smaller charities also undergoing redundancy consultations. Vital projects are being put on hold, with the National Trust either stopping or deferring £124 million of projects. Many charities are forecasting that it will take them years to recover.
We can all play a part in helping the sector to recover. Your support, whether it be financial or through volunteering, is vital to helping them through this current crisis. If we want to save wildlife in this country, we will need our charities back to full strength.
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