Posted on 08 June 2022

Te Au o Te Moana - Voice of the Ocean: Eva Siwicka

Eva Siwicka is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Auckland, working on the Modelling restorative economies project. Eva, originally from Poland, moved to Aotearoa New Zealand from the United Kingdom in 2017. Last year she completed her PhD with our ecosystem services project.  

It was Eva Siwicka’s move to Aotearoa and her PhD research that catalysed her now deep connection to the moana.

“Since I came to New Zealand, I’ve worked with so many wonderful scientists who are deeply passionate about the ocean and improving its health. It’s inspired me to explore my personal connection to the ocean.

“I started rediscovering the importance of the ocean and what it means to me. From a purely mechanistic connection such as providing data for my PhD research, to a more intimate way of being around or in the ocean, surfing, and experiencing it with all my senses. It was magical for me to find that connection.”

Eva says surfing is, by far, her favourite way to enjoy the ocean.

‘The moments when I go surfing are the ones when I feel truly present and they help me to clear my head. When you surf, you need to work with the ocean instead of making the ocean work for you, which is a great metaphor and inspiration for my research on restorative economies.”   

Eva says the way we manage our oceans needs to undergo a transformative change to create a system where we work with nature, instead of operating within its limits.

“I like thinking that the main motive of my project is like swimming against the current in the ocean waters. The ‘current’ is our mainstream business-as-usual way of doing economy, and through my project I aim to challenge it by offering solutions to the dysfunctional economic models. This will involve using ecosystem restoration as a central element in the way we live and do economy.”

Eva is sure that the time for this change is now and here in Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly because of our special connection to the moana.

Growing up in Poland, Eva lived closer to mountains and only had a chance to enjoy the Baltic Sea during family holidays every few years.

“Having lived in New Zealand for six years, I can see how extremely lucky we are to have the moana literally on our doorstep. When I lived in Poland as a kid, we needed to travel over six hours to get to the nearest sea.”

It didn’t take long for Eva to see the contrast between New Zealand and the parts of the world she grew up and lived in before.

“Here people spend a lot of time near the moana. I am sure that many of us see it every day. I think this daily presence of the ocean in people’s lives is a really strong factor in forming a special connection.

“I think this is a great chance for New Zealand to be the nation that promotes a cultural shift in the way we treat our oceans.”

Through her project, Eva wants to encourage everyone to think about whether they can contribute to co-creating restorative economies, which are a combination of business activities and environmental restoration.

“At the moment I am focusing on creating a digital tool that can be used by anyone who wants to engage in ecosystem restorations. The tool will provide some guidance on where to begin. It will show which restorative actions have the biggest chance of success in different locations across New Zealand.

“This approach to creating economy is different from the mainstream one as it prioritises environmental well-being. Restorative economies will help us realise that the only way to a happy future is to enjoy nature’s benefits by boosting environmental health and not through resource depletion and exploitation.”

The main goal Eva has for her project is to make people aware that economy can be done differently.

“To me, the success of my project depends on spreading the word about the concept of restorative economies and planting that seed in people's minds, followed by action to create local restorations and turning it into a large-scale economic movement.”

Eva believes that because New Zealanders have a unique connection to the ocean they will be eager to get on-board and co-create restorative economies - once they know how to.

“I hope that the tools I develop will play a big role in guiding and facilitating emerging restorative economies," she says.

“The moana is ready for us to start doing things differently!” 

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