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Floating Islands

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

Floating Islands with Seaphia Founder & CEO Dr. Nathalie Mezza-Garcia – @seaphiagroup

Written by Michael Ding

Floating Islands: Dr. Nathalie Mezza-Garcia is the CEO of Seaphia, a consultancy and business development company for floating and maritime Special Economic Zones, or SeaZones. Dr. Mezza-Garcia completed her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Warwick in 2020, researching complex governance in SeaZones and the Floating Island Project in French Polynesia.

Dr. Nathalie Mezza-Garcia has been interested in complex political systems since she was a young teenager. Growing up in Barranquilla, Colombia, her biggest fascination was painting. “When I think of my upbringing, I think colors,” she said. As she studied Visual Arts at university, she realized that natural shapes and forms fit together in ways that were very different from the organizational structures of political systems.

When Dr. Mezza-Garcia then changed to a Political Science and Governance degree at Universidad del Rosario, she became frustrated with the representative democracies that she was analyzing.

“The way our governments are run, we are faced with bottleneck decision-making,” she said. “I realized that if we wanted to improve our government systems, one method would be to change our relationship with the territory.”

Years later, Dr. Mezza-Garcia began to focus her governance research on seasteading, or the creation of permanent, autonomous communities on international waters. In 2016, the U.S.-based Seasteading Institute signed an agreement with French Polynesia to construct a floating islands project near the island of Tahiti. As Dr. Mezza-Garcia had just begun her Ph.D. candidacy, the project was an excellent opportunity for hands-on research and experience.

After being accepted to present her research on SeaZones at a conference about the project, Dr. Mezza-Garcia served as a communications volunteer for eight months. She was then hired as the project’s International Spokesperson. While she gained experience and expanded her network to other professionals in the SeaZones and floating architecture industry, the project did not go through in 2018 due to a lack of stakeholders' alignment.

After submitting her Ph.D. thesis, Dr. Mezza-Garcia decided to start Seaphia.

“I founded Seaphia because businesses can transcend more than academic research,” she said. “ My goal is for Seaphia to be involved in the first floating city in the world and to create the first floating special economic zone in Latin America”.

Dr. Mezza-Garcia suggested that future SeaZones could have labs to facilitate scientific research.

According to Dr. Mezza-Garcia, Seaphia’s floating island projects are a significantly better alternative to projects like the Dubai islands, which have used tons of sand and concrete to construct beautiful but unsustainable islands.

These permanent and immovable projects would almost certainly damage the surrounding environment, Dr. Mezza-Garcia said.

“Our floating system is movable, and thus more sustainable. If we see that the islands are negatively affecting the environment, we can move the land much more easily with simple technology like tug boats.”

In fact, the artificial floating islands could be a creative solution to the current climate crisis.

As sea levels rise across the world, “the business appeal of these floating islands becomes more evident,” Dr. Mezza-Garcia said. She noted that in Kiribati, a country in Oceania made up of islands with little elevation, the government has already tried to invest in floating island projects.

The marine technology essential to the construction and economy of floating special economic zones provides an opportunity to “start working on a future that is more in harmony with nature,” Dr. Mezza-Garcia said. “Events such as the coronavirus pandemic are clear evidence that our systems like food and supply chains are not sustainable.

Climate change will not have a vaccine to stop it, so the pandemic has shown how important it is to design, implement, and build urban systems that are environmentally friendly and sustainable.” She added, “Green, marine technologies like floating special economic zones are part of the right path forward, and they provide the regulatory framework to push for more of this technology to be developed. My specific goal with my home city Barranquilla in Colombia is to create there a blue, clean technology hub.”

Written by Michael Ding

Edited by Alexander Fleiss, Calvin Ma, Gihyen Eom, Vishal Dhileepan, Pranshu Gupta, Antonella Dec-Prat & Jeremy Knopp

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