By Maria Baron Palamar
It’s about the impact, about where I can do the most, about conservation and the world we live in.
It has been an unpredictable road, but each turn, each challenge, and each change have gotten me closer to the person I want to be and the work I want to do. When I started veterinary school in Argentina, I was asked what type of veterinarian I wanted to be. I answered that I wanted to be in India, saving tigers. My vision was not clear then, but my ultimate purpose was to help conserve the resources that I loved, the wild animals and wild places that filled my heart with joy. This purpose drove me through vet school and later through my PhD in wildlife biology and conservation. Along the way I refined the contours of my vision, but found myself changing them regularly after learning more and more about the person I wanted to be and the wild I wanted to conserve.
Through my studies and experiences I accepted that my future was not in the middle of some remote jungle, but close to people, people in conflict with wildlife, with the environment and with each other, the people that would shape the future of conservation with me. The people that I would have to get to know, understand, and serve if I really wanted to make a difference.
During my time as a student in the conservation world I found myself alone in many ways; the only Latina in the program, one of the few women, and a non hunter that respected hunters and their role, but did not want to become one. I often found myself at meetings where I was the only dissenting voice, the only one with a different point of view and life experience. I observed conservation decisions being made in a vacuum, removed from the community they affected, informed by only one opinion. I also observed a hunger for diversified engagement, for more and different people to be part of the conversation, but I also observed the fear that rises from the unknown and a sense of inadequacy that organizations feel when they are representative of one group of people. Groups wanted to be inclusive, but staff was unclear on how to do it, and afraid of what would change once the new voices were seated at the table.
I was the wildlife veterinarian for a whole State, I got to do the things people (including me) dream about, from sampling live black bears to collecting hellbenders from rushing rivers. And still, the call to have a greater impact, to make a real difference, to empower diverse voices and improve community has proven to be louder and stronger. After years of seeing the damage that disconnection can do to well intended efforts, I know that the future of conservation is in community alliances, education, communication, inclusiveness. Conservation is best served by the people that want to be part of the effort for whatever reason: their heritage, their love of the outdoors, their sense of purpose, their livelihood, etc. These are the voices that can make any effort successful, and regardless of how much they agree on each other on the how, they can all see the importance of our natural resources and partnerships that can conserve them.
Because I see the need and I think I have collected many of the tools necessary to be impactful, I decided to take a leap and start a consulting company with a fellow conservation warrior and friend, to help others engage and decode stakeholders to create and maintain effective partnerships and communities. Communities that can hold the space for diverse points of view to contribute to the greater good, with productive conflict and long lasting results. Communities with the “resolve” to work through differences while respecting the individual, for a common purpose. That is why Resolve Conservation was created, and our main goal is to be part of the work that is needed for a future where people coexists with healthy wildlife and wild spaces.