With all of the volunteer organizations in operation today, it’s a wonder they aren’t in conflict with each other more often. Organizations are drawn to popular areas—places where tourists naturally go and where volunteering opportunities are likely to be in high demand. It would logically follow then that organizations would be vying for the same villages in the same spectacular locations. So how do organizations prevent conflict? How do they ensure the wellbeing of the communities they serve while ensuring the wellbeing of their own volunteer programs? How do they avoid exploiting a particular site for its massive tourism appeal? How do they make sure the people and wildlife come first?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a biology student. I volunteer with a wildlife conservation organization in my area and spend a lot of time with biologists in the field. A few weeks ago I was chatting with a career biologist—a man who has spent the past thirty years working with endangered species. Somehow the topic of climate change came up, and I was flabbergasted to discover that he doesn’t believe in it, as if it weren’t the overwhelming scientific consensus. It illustrated something I’ve long understood: that a person’s political views (he is a staunch conservative) can dramatically affect his opinions, even when he should know better. None of us wants climate change to be real. We all want to cling to a memory of a time when we weren’t so profoundly afraid for our planet.