I am wildlife biologist. I get paid to study wildlife and the complex relationships they have formed with other living beings and their environment. Well, I used to get paid, that is. I recently came back to the Philippines after completing my graduate studies at the University of Minnesota, and since then, I’ve sent out somewhere around 50 job applications and inquiries. With all the none-responses and rejections, I can’t help feeling inadequate. Here I am, almost 30, with a master’s degree, without a job and still a nomad. So I write—papers for publications, more application letters and inquiries, and this blog.
If I am truly honest with myself, as much as I don’t like the word, it is my career. I maybe passionate about it, but I can’t help but think I still lack something (and perhaps that’s why I still don’t have a job). In a way, I envy the people who’ve lived all their lives in the natural world. They’re so entrenched in it that they can feel its pulse. No one is more attuned to it than they are—jungle tribes, desert people, mountain villagers, seafarers. I have to use a GPS to navigate the forest (and even then I still get lost), while these people use memory. I can barely identify plant species, let alone tell you what they’re useful for, but these people can not only name them, they can tell you a dozen ways on how to use a particular plant. I will be hard up detecting a leopard cat’s track on the moist and litter-covered forest floor, but these people can not only tell the animal have just been where you are, they can also tell the direction it was heading, and perhaps, whether it’s a male or female. The list just goes on. Perhaps they’re not as backward as we like to think they are.
Maybe instead of us going to them with our donated clothes, medical missions, high-tech gadgets, and teaching them about what we call the ‘civilized’ world maybe we should turn the tables around. Maybe during one of our international conferences, instead of academicians and scientists presenting the results of their studies from their sterile labs, or the far-flung wilderness (where they hire these people to be their guides and porters!), maybe we should have one of the indigenous peoples speak to us. Teach us how to be connected once again to nature—one that we’ve kept at bay with our well-manicured lawns, pesticides, and the exterminator. One we’ve flattened by our parking lots, shopping malls and carefully landscaped suburban villages. One that we only have a glimpse of through our shiny car windows, infrequent trips to the zoos, texts we read on our Kindles, and wildlife films we watch on our huge HD TVs and Blue-Ray players. One that is increasingly becoming largely a part of our museums, and our distant past.
I’m not advocating going back to the caves. Or living with the tribes. I just wish we’re not so disconnected. I’m getting preachy. I should go back to job-hunting.