The general, media-feeding American public is clueless. I'm clueless on most issues, really. Few can know everything about more than one or two things in a single lifetime. Politics are beyond me, so far in fact that I've quite given up on trying to get a handle on what's going on. I have shadows of ideas, but the shadows are so very two-dimensional. I've begun to accept the fact that it's OK that I don't know everything there is to know about everything; I'm at peace being left behind by conversations at get-togethers, bar-b-ques and at work. I would care more about politics if it weren't about people; I'd probably have enough interest to get by if I were voting for trout, or even bluegills. I think that familiarity is what people have, not some “expert” status that they'd rather tout. Familiarity comes with time, and that ultimately takes perseverance. To spend a good deal of time with or on something, a person really has to be passionate about it. So, in the end, being non-clueless seems to often come down to simply being passionate...and getting by on the rest.
I'm not passionate about everything or even a lot of things, but I am passionate about fishing and all the little offshoot topics that fishing cohabitates with. Under the general heading of “conservation” are many passions. My philosophy on the topic tends more toward “preservation,” simply because I can't accept use as a necessary non-negotiable (that's for another day). Conservation gets a good amount of press; whether or not people pay attention varies with the seasons and issue. The groups producing the press are as varied as the issues and as predictable as the seasons, though. Therein lies one of my major frustrations with the current atmosphere of conservation as it is understood and met by the laymen.
It's funny how some words, though to different people, become “bad words”: “environmentalism,” “barb,” “sport-fishing,” “green,” and “warming.” Depending on the circle you run in, some of these words are not good words. You are either a tree hugging hippie or a killer. What I love hearing about are tree huggers who go fishing and don't hesitate to keep a few bluegills for dinner back at camp. It doesn't always have to be extreme.
I'd challenge everyone, regardless of knowledge, on that matter—don't be afraid to be moderate. The issues themselves are not polarized every time, and extremity often lacks creativity. Unfortunately, with some of the conservation issues that are demanding attention and having to be dealt with this decade...creativity is at a premium.
In the same line of thought, I'd challenge the same everyone, regardless of knowledge—don't be afraid to be extreme. At certain points in certain issues, what will bring about a solution (or at least a try at one) is extremity. Going all out is—I've seen it—sometimes all that will do it. Reversing rivers, closing waters, making felt illegal—these are extreme measures. “Extreme” is not, in itself, bad or ineffective; it's often quite the opposite.
So while you may not have a PhD in fisheries biology, limnology or any other conservation-related field (I sure don't!), let your passion drive your familiarity. And as a familiar and active participant in the realm of conservation...don't corner yourself into always being a moderate or always being an extremist. While most days are spent in an indescribable gray area of moderate normalcy, you just can't ignore that some days really are in a jet over the Pacific...and some others counting pins. In the end, it takes every kind of day to fill up a year, but every kind does a fine job of putting the sun to bed every night.
Be passionate; be a conservationist. Never, please, ever be just one kind.
Will King, The Riparian Corridor Blog