Taking a Break from Saving the World

A Conservation Activist’s Journey from Burnout to Balance

By (author): Stephen Legault
ISBN 9781771603638
Softcover | Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Book Dimensions: 4.5 in x 7 in
168 Pages

About the Book

Professional conservation and political activist Stephen Legault examines the consequences of overwork in the “save the world” movement.

A veteran of burnout himself, Legault looks at the culture of self-sacrifice that permeates the work done by volunteers and paid staff in the environmental conservation movement, and dissects how to manage our own time, energy, and commitment to our causes. Following a river-running metaphor, and proposing a variety of techniques to help with various states of anxiety resulting from burnout, including clarity of purpose, recognition of limits, fitness and diet, mediation and yoga, as well as organizational structural changes such as leave-of-absence policies, Legault encourages readers to find time to “eddy out”—to rest a moment in quieter waters and scout downriver—to ensure our lifetime of engagement is fulfilling, effective, and self-sustaining.

Just as with teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, paramedics, steelworkers, students, and airline pilots, burnout is a growing concern in many social-change circles. Taking a Break from Saving the World takes a look at the impacts of eco-anxiety, over-work, and the associated stress surrounding the present and future state of the environment and offers practical and insightful suggestions on how to deal with it.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Legault is a full-time conservation activist, writer, photographer, and organizational development consultant. He is the author of Running Toward Stillness, a meditation on Buddhist spiritual practice, running, and parenthood, as well as several photography books, including Earth and Sky: Photographs and Stories from Montana and Alberta and Where Rivers Meet: Photographs and Stories from the Bow Valley and Kananaskis Country. He lives in Canmore, Alberta, with his wife, Jenn, and two children, Rio and Silas.


“Taking a Break from Saving the World breaks the silence about the stresses and perils of burnout. Stephen Legault’s work is in the conservation movement, but the lessons and indispensable advice apply to any human being who tells stories to themselves that can be dangerous and whose commitment threatens their well-being.” —Elizabeth May, former leader of the Green Party of Canada; author of Paradise Won (2020)

“Helpful tips from a lifelong activist who has clearly lived the highs and lows of conservation struggles.” —Wade Davis, Explorer-In-Residence, National Geographic Society; author of, among many other books, Magdalena: River of Dreams (2020)

“Into the nihilistic darkness of an unprecedented global environmental crisis, Stephen Legault’s latest book shines a powerful beam of light. This little gem is packed with wisdom and humour that will benefit anyone who struggles to remain active and engaged in the face of despair or depression.”  —Dr. David R. Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; author of The Optimistic Environmentalist and The Rights of Nature

“This is a book for those living their passion, whether environmental causes, social activism, or politics… whatever drives you to live and work for your cause. I love the analogy of paddling down the river. The river, like your passion, keeps flowing, but the paddler needs to take breaks, and the thought of pulling into an eddy works well with the thought of stepping back to revive and regather one’s thoughts and drive.” —Frances Klatzel, co-founder of CORE International; author of Gaiety of Spirit: The Sherpas of Everest

“The climate crisis is an overwhelming phenomenon and eco-activist Stephen Legault knows all about that. He’s been a burnout casualty a number of times and seeks solutions for the malaise, knowing people can’t be effective politically unless they take care of themselves. He has recommendations on everything from diet to organizational restricting – leaves of absence, anyone? Think about it.” – NOW Magazine Toronto

“Legault is open, honest and at times jarringly vulnerable as he shares his story. If you have suffered burnout, you will find in these pages solace, wisdom, and practical advice on how to avoid it.” – The Charity Report