How I became an Environmentalist? A case for career selection

I hardly believe that it has been 20 years since I decided to pursue in environmental management. Prior to that I was lost between various choices that I was not convinced of, but I found my moment of inspiration through accidental reading of one document in 1992.

Raised as a teenager of a disciplined family of middle class in Amman I was enjoying my teenage year with many dreams. I was good at school but not exceptional. I had two passions for football and writing/reading and I wished I could a career in one of the two areas, or maybe linking the best of both worlds (Thanks Hanna Montana!)

I was an avid reader and writer. During my 9th, 10th and 11th grade I was in constant positive competition in writing articles and magazines with my lifelong friend Dr Ahmad Jamil Azem, who currently holds a Ph.D in political Sciences from Edinburgh University and works now at Cambridge. He was denied a position in the University of Jordan as assistant professor since he did not gain GID’s approval. Thanks to GID he fulfilled his true potential. I used to win most of the prizes not because I was smarter but maybe my handwriting was better. Remember no printers and computers in the 80s.

At the Tawjihi year I gave up on another dream to be the new Kenny Dalglish, scoring goals for Liverpool each week. I realized that I am not physically strong to compete in the English league. However, I never questioned my lousy skills!

I had also a dream of being a journalist but realized that it will not provide me with a good job and career. Jordan was still under the martial  law  in 1987 and there was no future for free journalism. I loved science and thought that a university degree in a scientific field would provide me with good livelihood and career. My Tawjihi score allowed me to study Engineering but I hated and loathed Calculus. I knew I would never make and shifted to the faculty of science studying biology.

I enjoyed study and life at university to the max, having good grades and excelling in biology topics that seemed complex. I benefited from my excellent English gained not from my school (Islamic Scientific College) but from extensive reading of English football magazines and listening to BBC’s sports coverage each day.

I graduated in flying colors and had a fantastic university life. When democratization started in 1989 I took the opportunity to participate in political life and had my own wall newspaper at the department of Biology until it was controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood students after the students’ council elections in 1993.

After finishing my BsC I wanted to continue Master’s Degree and I registered to specialize in microbiology or biochemistry. I was not convinced and started to see the world very limited and small, composed of test tubes, centrifuge machines, microscopes and the smell of chemicals. I spent the first year with anxiety. This was not the career I wanted.

In the autumn of 1992 I participated with a colleague of mine in organizing a small scientific fair and wanted some publications to display. I was told that ESCWA which was located in Amman has many publications so we got there and received reports and publications mainly related to environment resulting from the Rio earth Summit of 1992.

I was struck to the very depth of my soul. It was an eye opener experience. For the first time I saw how the world is interconnected and how it can be managed in an ethical. I spent 3 days reading Agenda 21, the global blue print on sustainable development. This is the second most remarkable document produced by the human race, right after the International Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

What a great opportunity to specialize in environmental sciences. I was a Biology graduate and would immediately pursue a thesis in environment. I met with Dr Alia Hatough-Bouran, then professor of Ecology in the University of Jordan and now our great Ambassador in the USA. She have me instructions, and asked me to attend her undergraduate ecology course and subjected me to an exam. I passed and then worked together on a design for the theses which was about study the impact of water pollution in Zarqa River Basin on the ecology of the area by using frogs as an indicator. I had to collect monthly water samples from 6 sampling sites along the river course (Amman to King Talal Reservoir), collect frogs tadpoles and put them under conditions of clean water and pollution water to study patterns of growth and counting the numbers of frogs in study area, mainly by running after them!

It was marvelous and enriching and I passed my committee verdict in 1995 with a great passion for the profession I am looking forward to. At that time I was teaching in the University and working at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). We were a crop of youth who worked in Dana and Mujib reserves to assess the ecology and develop management plans there. We walked, climbed, camped, fell down and enjoyed areas that were not studied before. At the end of my short-term contract, I was the only one that did not get a full time contract. Until now this is an enigma to me. I have never confronted the decision makers and have no explanation after 16 years.

I stayed unemployed for 8 months but benefited from my journalism part time activity by working for the newly established Al Arab Al yawm daily but I had to enter the environment sector. I did this in 1998 through Aqaba where I worked for two years as an environmental monitoring specialist in a World Bank project. I managed to save some money to help in getting married, then went back to Amman in 2000 with the great help of Dr Hatough-Bouran who was establishing the national committee for IUCN (World Conservation Union) that has hosted the world conservation congress in 2000 gathering 3,000 experts from around the world for one week in Jordan.

I continued my diversified career then, working in 8 different projects in 6 organizations. During the same time I continued writing a daily article in Addustour since 2000 and in many other media outlets having the double career I hoped for: environment and journalism.

So much for being the next Kenny Dlaglish, but I am happy of all I did. It was one accidental moment of inspiration that changed my course. Stay alert, this can happen to you at anytime.

About bwardam

Mr Batir Wardam is a Jordanian environmentalist with professional experience in disciplines of natural resource management, environmental policies and communication. He has a 15 years working experience with national academic institutions, NGOs, the government of Jordan and international and regional environmental organizations including UNDP, UNEP and IUCN. Mr Wardam is currently working with UNDP as a project manager for the third national communication report on climate change in Jordan.
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2 Responses to How I became an Environmentalist? A case for career selection

  1. Pingback: Best of the JO Blogs 1st Week of February 2012 | my treasure

  2. iJordan says:

    Dear Batir,
    This is Ruba Saqr… I hope you remember me! (the former environmental reporter at the Jordan Times?). It’s been so long since we last spoke!! I’m currently the director of PR at iRelations and iJordan… we’re activating our blog on wordpress and you are the first person I thought of!

    I truly miss the environmental reporting days, and really enjoyed reading about your environmental journey, and feel proud to have been an eye witness even for a while!!

    I wish you all the best, Batir!!
    Take care!

    Ruba

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