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A double win

5 May 2014

A double win

It’s unusual for someone who’s 22 to be considered too old, but that’s how Victoria University of Wellington graduand Ivana Giacon felt about rowing.

“I thought I was both too old and too short to win a major rowing title and was on the verge of giving up the sport,” says Ivana, who graduates next week.

Thankfully she didn’t, and a week before submitting her thesis for her Masters in Environmental Studies degree, Ivana won gold in the senior single sculls at the 2014 New Zealand Rowing Championships.

“I wasn’t the most naturally talented rower so I had to work really hard to prove myself. I also had to juggle training with my degree and part-time work but if you’re determined, you can do it.”

Adding to the pressure was the fact that Ivana’s rowing coach, Matt Hall, who had been working with athletes for years, wanted to end his career on a high note.

“After I got my gold he told me he could now retire!"

Coming from a sporty family, Ivana says it was natural her thesis would focus on the great outdoors.
"I set out to investigate if people become 'greener' the longer they spend in 'green' spaces, looking in particular at the relationship between urban green space visitation and Pro-Environmental Behaviours (PEBs) in Wellington."

Her research covered PEBs such as recycling—both kerbside and visiting recycling centres—avoiding plastic bags, reusing plastic bottles and actions to reduce pollution such as not washing detergents or paint down storm water drains.

Ivana says the general thinking is that a desire to preserve and protect the natural environment is programmed into people’s biological make-up and fostered by an exposure to nature.

However, with 50 percent of the world's population now living in urban environments, there is concern that reduced contact with nature will reduce acceptance of PEBs.

Ivana used data gathered from nearly 1,000 residents who took part in the Wellington City Council's Resident Satisfaction Survey between 2010 and 2012.

She found that someone who visited an urban green space once a month was almost twice as likely to perform PEBs than someone who visited a similar space less than once a month.

"Gender also had an impact. Being female increased the likelihood of performing more than seven PEBs by 56 percent.”

Socio-economic factors were also important, with high-earning individuals who visited urban green spaces once a month or more just over 10 percent more likely to perform more than seven PEBs than those in lower income households.

Ivana, who hopes to work in the data analysis field, believes her research has implications for policy makers and urban planners.

"Governments worldwide have neglected to incorporate nature exposure into PEB change policies. People need to be more engaged with, and emotionally attached to, urban green spaces and PEBs. At the same time, policy makers need to prioritise urban green spaces, so that our cities don't turn into concrete canyons."

Ivana will graduate with a Masters in Environmental Studies onWednesday 14 May at 1.30pm.


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