A sustainability journey

Photo credit: T Kendal

Why sustainability? Here’s a potted history of how I ended up working in sustainability and trying to navigate the pitfalls of sustainable living day to day.

I am a stereotype of my generation. David Attenborough played a significant role in my decision to work in sustainability. For me, it all began with the oceans and with the poles. Since the age of five I had been sailing with my family. Daily trips to a small Greek aquarium made a big impression, with particular affection felt for an octopus required to unscrew a jar to retrieve its shrimp dinner. A few years later, David Attenborough’s series ‘Life in the Freezer’ exploring life in the Antarctic came to our television screen. It was in one of the last episodes, a scene where a diver became the first to enter the water without a cage to film a leopard seal. Counter to its vicious reputation, the seal brought a penguin to the diver “like a cat brings a mouse to its owner”. I was hooked, declaring to my father that I wanted to work with fish when I grew up.

Watching this episode again as an adult, this whole sequence was but a few minutes in the 30-minute episode; for me, however, it was the pinnacle, the iconic moment of the series. For the rest of my school career I was that person insisting I was going to be a marine biologist when I grow up. I didn’t waver from the decision of a young age, studied a biology undergraduate, and completed a masters in marine science and policy.

I did, however, discover that I was not made for lab work. Being on a boat on Southampton water, sifting through mud with my hands was greatly enjoyable. A day in the library exploring the literature was the way I loved to learn. Lab work bored and frustrated me. I knew that, for me, this was the end of over a decade working towards and mentally planning for a career in the field as a marine biologist.

Throughout this time of professional interest in the marine environment, I had been personally passionate about social justice. I was and remain convinced that God calls us to steward the earth well and remember the poor. This would increasingly impact my shopping choices, conversations with friends, and a particular period of lobbying my MP during university (kudos to her, she replied to every single letter). Post-masters degree, I realised that I wouldn’t be satisfied just working to preserve the environment; this professional interest had to combine with my personal commitment to social justice. Sustainability was the answer, bringing together environmental and social issues.

Six years later, I am privileged to work with people who are passionate about having a positive impact on people and the environment. Every year my husband and I make more changes to our lifestyle, trying to not only reduce our negative impact but to make choices that actually benefit society and the environment (doing pretty well on clothes – nearly all secondhand – but the desire to travel is still strong…). The lines between work and home can be blurred when being in such a values-based sector; I feel it’s worth it though to be able to work in an area I am personally passionate about. I’m looking forward to seeing where 2015 takes us.

Photo credit: T Kendal
Photo credit: T Kendal

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