August 7, 2020

by wtmSource

It’s no secret that the environment has been gravely affected by the collective actions of the world population over the years. As one of only two female marine biologists in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Reem Al Mealla works tirelessly for the betterment of the environment. We caught up with the inspiring woman to get some insight on the current state of the environment in the Middle East, the environmental effects of COVID-19 and her search for women in the environmental field in the Arabian Gulf.

The last time we caught up, you were one of only women two marine biologists in the Kingdom. What’s changed since and what are some of the greatest progressions you’ve made since then?
Not much really, I haven’t come across any other women marine biologists especially those who work on the field in Bahrain. On a more positive note, the number of young people coming into the environmental field is definitely growing as I have had a lot of youth doing degrees in environmental-related fields reach out to me looking for internships or ways to get into the field which is a very positive and exciting! In addition, the number of women divers in Bahrain has increased significantly with diving becoming the latest trendy sport especially for young people.

What drove you to pursue a career as an ecologist? 
With the shores of Bahrain as my playground during my childhood it was hard not to fall in love with the sea. I always knew I wanted to work with nature and learning how everything within an ecosystem connects fascinated me. Ecology is the relationship and interaction among species and with their surrounding environment. However, the real fuel that made me be very committed to pursuing this career is learning and seeing how we as humans are destroying and altering this relationship, which in the end will lead to our own self-destruction.

How does having a career in the field of marine biology make you feel? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
I love being a marine biologist and have always wanted to be one since I was in school although very early on I wanted to be an astronaut. It was either going up beyond the blue or dive deep into the blue that surrounds us. Being in this field makes me feel alive and it gives me a deep sense of purpose. Working on the field excites me and constantly charges my energy giving me that drive to do better. I learn so much about life just by observing other species. We often forget that we are part of nature and not something detached. It is such a gift to be able to experience this life and hence we must do our best to live it fully whilst respecting every other species that we share this world with.

When I was younger I always felt like I needed to do so much and would get upset when things don’t go my way but now I adopt nature’s philosophy where I can, like Lao Tzu says, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

What are your thoughts on the current pandemic and its positive or negative effects on the environment?
First off, I think the world isn’t acknowledging and is ignoring the fact that the main reason behind this pandemic is due to environmental destruction. This is caused by urbanization, rapid expansion of cities, industrialized agriculture and more have resulted in habitat destruction and biodiversity loss.

World governments are addressing the symptoms of the coronavirus pandemic but not the root causes that are influenced by human activity, which has laid the foundation for previous, current, and future pandemics. There was a new report that has recently been published by the United Nations Environment Programme that discusses this and how we can break the chain of transmission through rebalancing the needs of the people and the environment so that we can thrive together and fulfill each other’s needs.

The pandemic has not only taken many lives and shut down the planet for a few months but it has also severely impacted world economies with many people losing their jobs. The waste being created due to the pandemic especially the use of disposables has increased the pressure on the already catastrophic waste crisis.

On a more positive note, the pandemic has contributed towards lower emissions from industries and transport giving the environment a breather, which has allowed biodiversity to flourish in many areas of the world. This in itself has really put things into perspective – we should not go back to normal, instead we should attempt to create a future where we put the environment in the centre of our life. The cost of preventing further pandemics over the next decade by protecting wildlife and forests is estimated to equate to just 2% of the estimated financial damage caused by Covid-19. The question is, will we listen or ignore the signs and science again?

As a woman in science, what is your advice for young women hoping to pursue or make an impact in the field?
The world and field is so big, there is definitely a place for you, the world needs you, your energy and all that you can do – so go do it! If you get rejected from something – remember it is merely a re-direction to where you need to be in life. So just ride that wave, life will surprise you in the best possible way!

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