Monthly Archives: February 2011

Taking that first step forward

Who am I?  I am an enthusiastic outdoor naturalist with a sense of adventure who wants to change the world and make a difference to those around me.  I wrote out that sentence about a month and a half ago on a three by five index card.  I was preparing myself for a phone interview for a job for an outdoor education naturalist for an environmental education camp for kids in California.  I was prepping myself for the standard interview question: ‘Tell me about yourself…”  I felt like I aced the interview, but I found out a month later that I did not get the job.  The positive thing about job interviews are two things: First, your resume had the right qualities that it caught the attention of a prospective employer.  They are then taking the next step to interview you.  Second, as you plan ahead for the job interview and the possible questions the interviewer will ask you, I think it forces you to ask yourself ‘Who exactly are you?’

I am still working on that question to my life: Who am I?  At my bedrock essential level, I am a passionate and an enthusiastic communicator who cares about others and the planet where I am blessed to live.  Does that sound incredibly vague?  Yes, but everyone has got to start somewhere when attempting to answer the question of who they are.  I always knew throughout my life that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.  But how?  For many years, I did not have a clue.  In college, I followed the practical advice to get a degree in business administration to find a good paying job to make money.  By my senior year in college, I knew I did not want to work in an sterile office cubical and fight rush hour traffic everyday to commute to work.  Thus, I luckily found a job working in seasonally Crater Lake National Park almost nineteen years ago.

I plan on working at Crater Lake again this summer.  I quickly found how much I loved hiking and exploring in the outdoors.  I loved living close to nature and I could not stop talking about it.  However, I had to find a winter job since Crater Lake only really offers jobs in the summer.  Thus, for many years I worked at Everglades National Park in the winter.  There was even a stretch where I worked there four years straight.  I got my first naturalist guide job there about thirteen years ago.  I really loved the job to talk all day about nature while narrating the boat tours there.  While I was learning about the Everglades and the natural world, park visitors started asking me how global warming was affecting the Everglades.  Over eleven years ago, I started reading books about global warming.  I started with Laboratory Earth: The Planetary Gamble We Can’t Afford to Lose by Dr. Stephen H Schneider at Stanford University.  Over the years, I found that I could not read enough popular science books about climate change.  I wanted to learn all I could about this very complicated subject.  As I read, I became more alarmed about the possible consequences climate change could have on future generations and even current life on earth.

Over the years, it became crystal clear to me that I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to educate people about the problems and solutions to climate change.  In November 2007, I decided I wanted to go to grad school to study climate change.  However, I had worked in the national parks so long that I did not have a clue how to network and research to find a good grad school program for me.  Also, climate change is such a huge subject that I did not know what I wanted to study.  Glaciers?  Sustainability?  Greenhouse gases?  Sea level rise?  Changes in weather patterns?  Effects on wildlife?  fossil fuels?  It all interested me and overwhelmed me that I did not know what to do.  Also, I saw friends from the national parks who went to grad school who graduated with a massive amount of student loans.  The thought of the burden of financial debt troubled me also, even though I firmly believe that education is an investment for one’s future.  My under grad background in business administration also left me academically weak when looking into studying the science of climate change in a university graduate program.

The answer of where I should go to grad school and what program should I study never emerged for me.  In November 2007, I gave myself the goal to attend grad school by the fall of 2010.  Sadly, with my indecision and dead ends when I approached some university professors for advice, my dream and goal of attending grad school by the fall of 2010 did not materialize.  My passion is still climate change, but I did not know how to pursue my life’s dream and passion.   I felt like the chorus of the 1971 song ‘I’d Love to Change the World’ by the music group, Ten Years After.  The chorus goes:

I’d Love to Change the World,
But I don’t know what to do,
So I will leave it up to you.

Beautiful song, but I knew I could not make it a theme for my life.  I am still trying to figure out how to effectively channel my passion for resolving climate change with utilizing my many years of public speaking experience as a ranger in the national parks.  As a I lead some environmental education programs at Crater Lake, I started thinking.  I also talked to friends who were leading environmental education programs in the national parks.  This lead me to the conclustion that kids can be more open to the message of climate change and saving the planet that adults .  This winter, I started applying to environmental education programs in California.  This lead to the interview I had in December that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog posting.  I also have an interview today for a guest naturalist position for another environmental education camp in California.  Ultimately, in five years, I hope to be a green educational speaker talking to children, high school students, college students, seniors, church groups, business groups, and who ever would have me speak about resolving climate change.

I do not know the exact steps yet for following my passion to inspire and educate people to resolve climate change, but I am taking that first step forward.  Again, I love that song ‘I’d love to Change the World’ by Ten Years after, but I know I cannot leave saving the natural world just up to other people.  I strongly believe in the expession, If it is to be, it is up to me.  Also, during my college years, another beautiful song is still stuck in my head, ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson.  The chorus has such an inspiring message of starting within yourself to change the world:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change

I have another job interview today for an environmental educational camp in California.  It is almost guaranteed they will ask the standard interview question: ‘Tell me about yourself…”  In that interview today, I will be taking that first step forward to make a positive impact for the world, especially for the chilren and future generations.  If they ask that question today, I will respond that I am an enthusiastic experienced naturalist who loves to work with kids.  I have a deep passion for the natural world.  I hope to educate them in a way that enables them to connect to the natural world.  I then hope to inspire them in some way that they will want to protect it and pass along this knowledge to others.     

Wish me success as I take that first step…   

My First Blog Ever

My name is Brian Ettling.  This is my first blog posting.  I am jumping into an unknown realm.  I do not even follow other blogs as of this point.  However, I will have to start following them to see how my blog compares.  Furthermore, I will have to seek out the information to make this blog most effective for my life’s mission.  My mission is to be part of the conversation to somehow shift American society past the tipping point to be fully engaged in resolving climate change.  Will I be successful?  It does not matter.  As my hero Marjory Stoneman Douglas once said about restoring the Everglades, “When it comes to saving the Everglades (or the environment), it is not a matter of being optimistic or pessimistic.  It is something that just has to be done.”

Sadly, I do not feel like I have lived up to my inter potential in my life so far of making a difference for the planet.  I graduated from William Jewell College in Kansas City, Missouri with a degree in Business Administration in 1992.  Since then, I have made a career of working in the national parks, primarily Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and Everglades National Park in Florida.  For the past 13 years, I have worked as naturalist guide/interpretation ranger in those national parks.  I lead various ranger programs, such as narrating boat tours, leading guided sunset walks, leading bird identification walks, providing geology and history talks in both national parks, performing evening campfire programs using power point on the birds that utilize both national parks, and so many other programs.  I love nature, the outdoors, and our precious natural environment.  In my ranger programs, I aimed to instill an appreciation of the natural world and hopefully inspire my audience to take actions to protect it.  During my time leading leading ranger programs, I came up with my two of own mantras that I believe are uniquely my own.

1) Think Globally
Act Daily

2) Each and everyone of us can change the world. We do this by
    a) The way we vote
    b) The products we buy
c) The attitudes we share with each other.

I hope these ideas continue long after I have lived my life on Earth.  Please feel free to share these quotes, but I hope you would attribute them to me.  In future blogs, I hope to get more specific on how I hope to contribute and facilitate this conversation to make the planet and my life greener.  I have lots of thoughts that I want to share.  I also want to learn from others who are making the world a greener place and pass along those ideas here.

It has been a blessing to stick my toe in the water in the blogging world.  May this blog be a blessing to you.  Furthermore, may it somehow contribute to the massive effort and conversation of other people to inspire American society to fully resolve the issue of climate change.

Brian Ettling