Meet Aliya Siddiqi: A marine scientist and creative writer

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Tiffany Dun
Master of Science (Marine Biology) | Archive
Aliya Siddiqi.
Image provided by Aliya

Aliya Siddiqi is a bubbly, artistic soul who shares her inspiration with all who are blessed to be in her presence.

Often one can spot Aliya working in her natural habitat: JCU, in The Science Place. But when she isn’t doing research for her master’s degree, Aliya often writes free verses to help her express her desire to change the narrative that Western society has written for our planet. She is inspired to write about nature and her experiences within it. Here, she can create a space where she can delve into the deep recesses of her mind.

’Reflection’ by Aliya Siddiqi

Aliya has been writing poetry since she was 12 and found it a perfect way to put the thoughts in her head onto another medium. She uses her writing as her creative outlet. When things aren’t going well, she releases her thoughts and reflects upon her present mood.

“I like to just sit and write and see what comes out. Then I can get a better understanding of how I’m feeling in[at] that moment,” Aiya said.

Brain Coral by Aliya Siddiqi

While we often use the logical and analytical part of our minds when working or studying, Aliya encourages everybody to tap into their creative mediums in their spare time. This helps open space for the expression and acceptance of oneself and enables us to look beyond our immediate surroundings for deeper connections. For Aliya, it enhances her connection and appreciation of the natural world and her place in it. This connection is critical to Aliya; She explains how it is often lost in translation with many people in Western society.

’Crazy Kids’ by Aliya Siddiqi

Recently, Aliya has been focusing her writing about our disconnect with nature in the Western world, reflected in the COVID-19 pandemic. “we are manipulating nature, and it is responding,” Aliya said, “COVID is a symptom of human activities: a net result of the mindless destruction we are leaving on our planet.

“We are a part of the system – things that happen to it are reflected back in us.

“We need to redevelop our relationship with nature, rather than to look at our resources and think, ‘What can I gain from this?’ We need to recognise that we are a part of it –not separate from it, above it, or in complete control of it –and that’s what is truly important.”

COVID-19 gave Aliya the opportunity to write more and reflect on what is happening to the planet on a global scale. She said, “I’ve been writing more about our current society. Growing up in a landlocked city in the USA, I’ve seen how many of us are shut off from nature, so the monopolisation and commodification of nature is not something most people even recognise. We’re stuck in a neoliberal narrative.”

As marine biologists, we are taught to quantify the values of ecosystem services and our natural resources. This is a part of what we study –how much money we can make from nature. How much is a coral reef worth to us as a fishery or through tourism? And how can we profit from this ‘free’ resource? But it is here, in our focus on perpetual advancements in capital, that we are wholeheartedly missing the point.

Coral Gardens by Aliya Siddiqi

“Many people get lost in the symptoms of the problem,” Aliya says, “but we are missing the root of the problem. We need to decrease carbon emissions –it’s true. But the actual problem lies in the norms and values of western society, in our drive for the constant accumulation of wealth. Every day we use more, waste more, and exploit more of our planet.

“Most of us lack a deep relationship with nature that is seen in the cultures of indigenous and First Nation’s people.”

’Ambivalence’ by Aliya Siddiqi

We have a vast impact on the Earth that often, we don’t even acknowledge. In the prevailing issues that we see today, it is necessary to deconstruct how this has happened. Most of the “goods” and “natural resources” that are being exploited only benefit a minority of people on the planet. Most of the individuals that make significant gains from exploitation of the Earth and human labour are wealthy individuals who have no real need to use those resources, except to accumulate more wealth.

Aliya embraces the idea that we do not require much to make us truly happy. We don’t need an excess of material items – just a few small items that have good quality and use. Ultimately, Aliya contends that it is our experiences with nature and other people that are what makes life worth living.

And Aliya is far from finished –she is only just beginning to leave her positive impact on the Earth. In the future, Aliya hopes to aid those in developing countries and ultimately leave this world in a better place than where she found it.

For those of you interested in helping Aliya out in spreading awareness and understanding, here are her top 3 tips in making a change:

1) Disconnect From Technology

Social media, in particular, is a brainwashing tool designed to maintain your attention and steal your time. These apps are designed to keep you addicted so that advertisers can gain maximum profits from your views on their ads.

Your social media feed is tailored to suit your “user profile,” which has kept track of every click you’ve ever made, every photo you’ve ever “liked”, and every location you’ve ever checked in. This narrows your view of the world and can create a bubble of misinformation explicitly tailored  for you. Just think: all of the time you spend staring at your screen is time you are selling yourself to these corporations and marketers, missing the magic that you could find in creative outlets, time with friends, or experiences out in nature.

’Flow’ by Aliya Siddiqi

Aliya encourages everybody to get out and spend some time in nature each day. She said, “when people are forced to sit in silence, they get uncomfortable. But, once we get past the initial discomfort, we can learn so much about ourselves.”

Stingray Stack by Aliya Siddiqi

2) Place Pressure on Political Systems

Aliya knows that many scientists would prefer to stay neutral in political debate. Yet for positive changes to occur, there is a pressing need to express an opinion. Academics are more protected from political and corporate influence than others. Therefore, they have an obligation to go beyond the fundamentals and encourage critical thinking about how people view and use the world around them and how it will influence future generations. We should all use any privilege we may have to stand up for what is right and advocate for changes to be made in our local communities.

Octopus by Aliya Siddiqi

3) Expand Your knowledge

There is an endless supply of knowledge out there –most of it for free. Yet educating oneself is not often promoted in our misguided system, as knowledge does not necessarily make you rich. It does, however, empower individuals to the world a better place, and lead to much fuller, richer lives. Therefore, Aliya encourages everybody to read widely –and not just about the things you are interested in. Read about the things you like, sure, but also read about the things you don’t like. Try to understand things from as many different perspectives as possible, to think outside the society’s matrix. Travel, and have constructive conversations with others, listen to what they have to teach you and share what you learned along your journey. It’s okay to have disagreements, but it is essential to gain empathy for other perspectives.

Question everything. Stay awake to the organised chaos.

Aliya in her natural element (AKA the ocean).
Image provided by Aliya

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