Lucy Underwood: Just Add Water

T minus 2 days until we jet off to the Big Apple to attend the United Nations Ocean Conference, and my head is currently a slurry of flying thoughts and to do lists, including…. “now what was it that I read about marine reserves in East Otago? What about ecosystem management? Was it 4.50am or 5.50am check-in…?” So I thought what better way to begin my first blog then to remember what has brought me here, and what it is that inspires me to care about the sustainable use of our oceans.

Over the past 6 weeks leading up to departure day, the word ‘grateful’ really encompasses current thoughts and feelings. Firstly grateful to my family and friends for their unbelievable support, never would I have believed that I could persuade 100 people to come to a movie fundraiser! It just goes to show that your support crew are the ones who get you to where you want to be, and that sustainable marine use is valued by my peers, who all have an intermittent link with our coastal environments, and can see that this is an important issue that needs to be worked towards.

Secondly, grateful to have grown up in New Zealand, a country where no matter your location you can always be at the coast in under 4 hours. It is easy to forget how  fortunate we are to have such a strong connection to the ocean and our diverse coastal environments. So many of my childhood memories are embedded in the sea; from exploring rock pools at our local beach, fishing for a snapper with dad, endlessly scanning for a pod of dolphins to cruise by, getting slammed and scraped along the sand after attempting to ride a wave, and snorkelling in the kelp at a rocky outcrop. I count myself lucky that I can hold these memories close and have been able to experience some of the gems the ocean gives us.

Yes my connection is very emotive, however this is not uncommon amongst New Zealanders who would definitely be able to bring back many of their best kiwi summer memories to our oceans. 8 year old Lucy, who wrote a book on animal facts, worshipped the crocodile hunter and didn’t want to stop boogie boarding until it was dark, paved the way for 18 year old Lucy to study our marine and environmental life at university and later pursue a career in environmental management. Understanding and learning the science behind our marine worlds and the pressures that human impacts are having on them, has only signified to me the urgency for sustainable development.

During our training weekend we had a guest speaker named Prue Taylor (International Law Lecturer) discuss an idea that really stuck with me. It was regarding the divide between what the morally and ethically right decision is versus what is politically and legally achievable. For example, the continual Maui and Hector's Dolphin decline mainly caused by gill and trawl net fishing practices, a divide between maintaining an endangered population and political decisions to allow fisheries practice to continue in an unsustainable way. This simple framework really put a new light on the way I was thinking and made me realise that this divide is usually present in issues relating to environmental degradation, and indicates how people use this divide to rationalise why they make the decisions they do.

For a country that is so heavily reliant and connected to its oceans in all respects - culturally, socially, economically and environmentally, why is it that we are currently not heading towards a sustainable future? Why are we willing to let our future next generations not be able to make the memories we were so lucky to make?

In the next few weeks I am going to be upping the scale and thinking of these ideas not just for New Zealand’s waters but for global waters, so it’s fair to say things are going to ramp up pretty quick and I am excited for the unknowns and opportunities that are to come!

Watch this space! Luce


All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Posted on May 25, 2017 and filed under UN Ocean Conference 2017.