Leadership Blog Part 3: Leadership Now – The Benefits of Volunteering

At the NAEP conference membership meeting in Baltimore I had the privilege to speak to our member professionals about leadership and the benefits of volunteering. I share my thoughts by starting with a quote from the poet David Whyte: “Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born.” (from The House of Belonging).

I recently met a young professional Katie who had graduated with a business degree and was having second thoughts on what her career path should be. She was working two jobs, not connected to her college degree. With the consequences of climate change prominent in the news, she was thinking about getting another degree in some environmental field of study. We discussed possible areas of learning and environmental career paths. I gave her the IAEP Illinois Chapter and NAEP website addresses and encouraged her to check out the jobs that were posted to get an idea of what type of environmental career is possible. Here is clearly someone whose great shout of joy was waiting to be born. Like Katie, early in my career I had the same second thoughts. With a bachelor’s degree in civil/environmental engineering, a masters in English, advanced courses in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and years working on the family farm in central Illinois to put myself through college, I was finally fortunate to get a special studies team position writing environmental impact statements for the Illinois Department of Transportation. Thus began my shout of joy.

I share two more thought-evoking quotes:

“With my little knowledge, I have known, a handful of times, the greater knowledge.”

Ted Macker (from The Kingdom – A Meditation)

“How shall I walk in the world,
But looking for light and wisdom,
Believing in what I see. And more –”

Mary Oliver (from the poem “A Blessing”)

Over the years NAEP has helped me in a very big way to learn and grow as an environmental professional. And this has evolved as a result of my volunteering for NAEP and Chapter committees and positions of leadership, locally and nationally. Networking and learning from other environmental professionals have always been a hallmark of NAEP. It’s important to find people in your field of practice that you can related to and learn from. Professionals you can talk to about your career and the work you are interested in. By volunteering, NAEP has also helped me with my personal and professional self-actualization. NAEP professionals provide the encouragement, validation and the boost of courage needed for focused continual learning. 

NAEP is an association of connections and relationships. Either now or in the future if you have a career question or project issue in need of a solution, you have a group of professionals to support you and give you great advice. What is the next doorway you want to walk through? What do you care about? What brings deep value in your life, your profession, your avocation? And what can bring even deeper meaning to all of that? The final quote I share is from the poet W.S. Merwin:

“Now we are melting the very poles of the earth.” (from The Moon Before Morning).

As a nation, can we say we are finally realizing the importance of accounting for the consequences of human activity on our planet’s resources? As environmental professionals I know we can say that as we are living with the effects of climate change every day in the intensity, duration, frequency and type of disastrous storm event the world is experiencing. As most of you know, we are living in the Anthropocene epoch, dating from the start of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. As we look ahead, we all know that solving the unfolding environmental challenges of the 21st century will require not only a higher level of competence but a deeper change in our thoughts and behaviors. It will require us to rediscover our relationship with the earth, to create a new sense of community linked with the earth; and in so doing, we give rise to a new professional and societal concern about how we are treating the environment.

The words, the actions, the stories of our lives make us who we are; they guide us and shape our future together. Each one of us has our own human stories, our own leadership experiences to share and understand at a deeper level. Through NAEP we can learn from and inspire each other; we can reinforce our sense of connection to the larger community of environmental professionals. Volunteer and Lead!

Ron Deverman

Share this post:

Comments on "Leadership Blog Part 3: Leadership Now – The Benefits of Volunteering"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment