Last year Allison’s father asked us to join him on a trip to the Galápagos Islands on his dime. We said yes (shocking!). Between the invite and the trip, which is just around the corner, I have 1) flown to see friends in Orlando, 2) flown to visit my sister in Los Angeles, 3) flown to Puerto Rico for some field work, and 4) flown to New York for a job interview. Oh, and I bought a compact pickup truck. An oilman’s delight, I am.
In stark contrast with my profligate personal lifestyle, my professional interests lie in the conservation of wildlife and how birds in particular respond to anthropogenic changes to the planet. I delved through some of my unpublished data to provide a diagrammatic representation of the typical findings in my field:
Prognosis of what? Anything really. Ecosystem function, demographic rates, population viability. What’s more, and we all know this, such findings extend far beyond the realm of the little ketchup-packet sized birds I study. It is also common knowledge that the push toward “fucked” is a consequence of increased resource consumption by my own species. And by extension, me. The disconnect between my professional interests and personal lifestyle can rightly be considered to be profoundly hypocritical.
So should I feel guilty? Or perhaps the question can be more honestly phrased as, “Why don’t I feel guilty enough to stop participating in activities that are demonstrably bad for this planet?” I often wonder how my environmentally minded friends and fellow ecologists reconcile the conflict between what we know is right and how we live their lives. Does tossing our cans in a blue bin forgive us our trespasses? Do we buy a Prius and sleep with a clear conscience henceforth? Food for thought as I jet across the clear blue sky towards boobies and tortoises and finches and everything else that makes the symbolic epicenter of the unifying theory of biology such a fascinating place to visit.