Sat, Apr 1, 2023 5:55 AM

Meet the eco-warrior bringing about change


Tessa Jaine

Say hello to Rebekah Anderson, a young ambitious woman with a passion for the environment, and who is bringing about positive change in her role and the region's community as group environmental manager for the national fishing company, Sanford Limited.

Rebekah Anderson is a relative newcomer to Marlborough. She was born and raised in a small seaside town on the east coast of South Africa. Her mother Cresta, with a job in travel, bestowed a desire for adventure on Rebekah. Her father Dean, who operates an IT firm, is an avid surfer which transpired into them spending most of their time carving up notorious surf spots scattered across the African coastline.

In all accounts, the adoration and connectivity to the ocean is, as Rebekah says: “Part of my DNA, and ingrained in me since the day I first opened my eyes and greeted the world.” During her schoolgoing years the idea of pursuing a career in the environmental sector was not a priority, with a lack of career prospects and in a country where human rights and providing basic services take centre stage.

“I wanted to be an actuarial scientist, as I really enjoyed maths, but ended up studying biochemistry with a childhood goal to find the cure for Aids.”

After a few weeks, doubt began to set in about her academic choices, and Rebekah found herself standing in the office of the university dean, seeking advice on new avenues of study. “He recommended environmental studies, and on a whim, I switched, and never looked back.”

With her studies completed, and time spent working within the environmental sector, Rebekah began thinking about her next career move. She researched far-flung locations on a global scale, looking for those devoted to sustainability and protecting natural resources. New Zealand proved to be the top choice, and with that, her Kiwi journey began.

Rebekah began her journey with planting trees in Auckland as part of an ecological restoration project. She then ventured across the country to explore its natural wonders, working in hospitality along the way, before seeking out a job in the environmental sector. In April 2020 she joined Sanford Limited, out in Havelock, as an environmental advisor for their mussel operations.

“When I was a little girl, I was enthusiastic to pick up litter off the beach. As group environmental manager, I’m hoping to bring about an even greater change. You aren’t just learning about the environment, but the processes and operations of nature and humans and how it is all connected. It is incredibly rewarding to seek out solutions to the problems and follow through with implementation.”

Being a trail runner and surfer means that she has a profound physical connection to the earth. It also means that Rebekah has first-hand experience when the environment is unbalanced. A trip to Bali for what was meant to be a surf trip of a lifetime only left Rebekah feeling more hardwired to stand up for what is right and bring about necessary change for current and future generations.

“I was so excited to surf at the popular surf spot, Kuta. Lured by the imagery of balmy, crystal-clear water, pristine beaches, and reefs speckled with colourful fish. Upon my first duck dive, I emerged through a wave of plastic and oily water that clung to my skin. I realized there that we humans are making a real mess of things on a global scale!”

Rebekah is obsessive about education and leadership, and wants to encourage young folk to pursue avenues of environmental studies, and continue bringing ongoing focus to the impacts of climate change.

“The key to our success is to all work towards a common goal, the only way to reach this is through awareness and education. First-world populations have grown accustomed to the term ‘climate change’, but when you step away from this setting the reality is far worse for those in third-world countries, who not only struggle with the damage that this causes, but who may not even know what the words ‘environment’ or ‘climate change’ means. Their top priority will not be about allocating the right goods into designated recycling bins, but about putting food on the table. We need to take action, as people who know more, our job is vital and has far-reaching consequences, locally and abroad.”

Rebekah stresses that we need to realize that we as humans are incredibly privileged, but that it should be earned through bringing about change on a daily basis. Understanding that what we do here and now affects people there and then, and there is no tolerance for selfishness.

“The hard truth is that the earth doesn’t need us to operate. As humans, we need the earth to survive. Without resources like clean air, water, food, and oils and gas that drive world economics, we won’t be able to exist. Working together, on a collective front will pave the way for how we structure our lives in an everchanging environment. Every little bit matters!”

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