Post contributed by Michael S. Freeman, CHMP, Risk Management and Safety
We’ve all been there before….trying to decide where we can best utilize our talents to provide a positive impact on others. It’s that moment in time when you are trying to decide where you, as a member of society, can be productive and make a difference in the lives of others or the environment. For some it’s an easy decision based on a desire to effect change in one or two areas. For others it can be a little more difficult because we (those of us who have a little “crazy” in us) want to do more than one thing and time isn’t always on our side. So what do we do? What can we do that will provide a sense of accomplishment and yet at the same time feel that we have given the best that we can offer to this world? I don’t have all the answers to this question but I do have my personal “take” on how you can do more with your time and feel confident that you haven’t spread yourself too thin and degraded the mission at hand.
On April 4th, 2006 I found myself back at Auburn University…laying down the stethoscope, monitors and IV fluid and picking up the EPA Regulations, HAZMAT suits, and methyl ethyl “death”. Over the last 10 years I have immersed myself…this time, in environmental management. In 2008 I began working with the Coast Guard Auxiliary/Reserve as an environmental specialist. After taking the water monitoring certification class with Alabama Water Watch I found myself reunited with a lost passion….water. I grew up on it, around it and in it. I found myself asking “What more can I do”? I never asked myself how much I could do…I just went for it. No fear! Just do it!
What started out as an interest grew into a passion and a desire. Since that time I have become active as a monitor, trainer, advocate and now leader with AWW. And that’s not all. I also looked at other ways to be involved in water quality and environmental advocacy, becoming a member and volunteer with Mobile Baykeeper, Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clean Water Partnership, Apalachicola Riverkeeper and other environmental groups on and off campus. I’ve spearheaded creek cleanups, worked with watershed management plan implementation….you name it I’ve jumped into it. I’m often asked “How do you have the time to do all of these things”? It’s not that I have a lot of “time”. I just strategically choose events where I know I can provide support while at the same time promote these groups on social media as much as I can. And another thing….stand up and speak out whenever the opportunity presents itself. Making your voice heard can spur others into action and that is a great way to advocate and drive interest. It doesn’t take a lot of time to go on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. and promote a cleanup in Mobile or a water quality training event in Birmingham. When it hits a newsfeed the message is sent all over the region. It brings attention to it and puts it in the minds of the masses.
Another passion of mine is tournament bass fishing. You may ask “What does this have to do with sustainability or environmental advocacy”? As you may know competitive bass fishing is very big in this state. With that come sponsorship opportunities from corporations who connect with the fishing industry. I decided to use this as an opportunity to promote the non-profits who work in water quality. It’s common sense….high water quality means good fisheries. It also allows me to advocate for water quality and educate others who depend on the waterways. You never know when another angler may decide to follow my lead and start advocating for a lake group or get involved with advocacy on their own. It’s a win-win.
In closing let me challenge each of you to seek what feeds your passion and be versatile in doing just that. You don’t have to settle on one or two possibilities. There are ways to fearlessly spread your environmental wings while at the same time striving for a broader reach. The more of us who are able to do it the better we will be as well rounded environmentalists. Good luck and War Eagle!