Why Environmentalists Aren’t Going To Save The Planet

By Crista Valentino
Director, CoalitionWILD


In countries around the world, children are groomed from a young age to be thinking about what they will do with their future. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” sets our innocent and moldable minds on a track towards a job-focused life. Although some decisions are made for us based on circumstances beyond our control, if we are lucky we get to chase after the future we envisioned when we idolized teachers, firemen, doctors, and scientists. Educational systems are set up to pump out career ready go-getters itching to answer that question they have been asked their entire lives.

I know I was.

Yet, no University major, internship, or job every felt quite right for me, and left me lacking an identity I thought a job was supposed to offer. In my mind, I assumed a job would provide purpose, contentment, fulfillment, and opportunity alongside a steady paycheck, a job title, and the answer to that nagging question. 

It wasn’t until I took a step back from the deeply grooved path I was on that I realized I was considering my future all wrong. I spent the first 26 years of my life chasing after a response to what I wanted to be when I grew up that I never stopped to consider the questions:

“What do I want to contribute to this world?”

“What do I care about?”

“How will I make this world a better place than how I found it?”


We have been asking the wrong questions of our younger generations, encouraging them to work towards a successful career instead of developing paths towards contributing meaningfully to this world. A job might answer the question “What do you do?”, but very rarely will it answer the question “What do you care about?”.

If our planet has any chance of bouncing back from the challenges it is facing, we need to stop allowing ourselves to think that our job is our identity, and start considering how we can change the world regardless of our profession. Too often we think that caring about the planet is a conservationist’s issue, and working to make a better future should be saved for the non-profits, scientists, and grassroots activists. Yet, the most impactful people in this world have discovered how to use their circle of influence to support a cause they care about.

I challenge each career-laden young person to think outside of their job title. Ask yourself what you care about and what mark you want to leave on the world, and be patient with the answer. Maybe you care about eating local food. Maybe you find joy in showing others your favorite outdoor spots. Perhaps you love animals. The happiest people find a way to work what they care about into everything they do.

You don’t have to let your career define you, or your passion limit you. Your identity will be found in whatever fills your soul, in the things you value, and the way you care for what is most important to you.

Whatever it is that makes your eyes light up is going to be what helps you to change the world. Find a way to work that thing – that spark, that passion, that energy – into every single thing you do for the rest of your life. We are in need of a diverse workforce full of change-makers across sectors, because that’s what’s going to make our future, and our planet, a better place to live.

Young leaders are using their voices and passion to enact change for a better planet.

Join us and connect with them.