2017 contest winners
high school

Congratulations to our winners!

Click through the tabs to see all of the winners in each category. You can see, read, and watch their work, as well as read their reflections on the project.

share the art:

Angelika Kołodziej

Age 16
Konstantynów Łódzki, Poland

“never forget”

Akhila Bandlora

Age 15
Phoenix, AZ

“The Unspoken Price Tag”

Elizabeth Mountz

Age 17
Pittsburgh, PA

Ely German

Age 16
Houston, TX

 

Yahoo! It’s time to celebrate our winners and all of our students who participated in the 2017 Ocean Awareness Student Contest.

You all contributed to the largest student ocean advocacy arts collection around the world! You are a part of a wave of activism, and people are taking notice.

From Malaysia to Kansas, we received nearly 3,000 entries this year. While the Contest honors some talented winners, it is all of you together that are building a wave of awareness and empathy for our oceans by informing, inspiring, and engaging others to take action!

As part of Bow Seat’s growing network, every one of you is a cultural changemaker. Together you are creating and amplifying a global voice of advocacy that is hard to ignore. Thank you so much for participating. You are the future!

- Linda Cabot, Founder of Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

sponsor recognition awards

Bow Seat presents $750 Sponsor Recognition Awards to caring adults who are nominated by Contest participants as individuals who help to change students’ lives and the world for the better.

Javier Barbosa

Art Teacher
Veterans Memorial
Early College High School Brownsville, TX

Dr. Briana Brown

Science Teacher
Brookline High School
Brookline, MA

Linda Filo

Art Teacher
Eastside College
Preparatory School
East Palo Alto, CA

Dr. Melissa Giresi

Science Teacher
Punahou School
Honolulu, HI

Jenny Kung

Science Teacher
El Modena High School
Orange, CA

Michael O'Connor

Science Teacher
Waterford High School
Waterford, CT

Michael Repkin

Club Sponsor
Urban Habitat Chicago
Chicago, IL

Deanna Sortino

Art Teacher
Niles West High School
Skokie, IL

Rebecca Turkewitz

Humanities Teacher
Coastal Studies for Girls
Freeport, ME

Kelly Welch

Science Teacher
Greely High School
Cumberland, ME

Gold

Award

$1,500

Angelika Kołodziej

Age 16
Konstantynów Łódzki, Poland
reflection >

Reading about ocean pollution created some emotional, dark images in my head. I felt like I have to take a photograph of my imagination to make people care, so that they will try to help, not damage, our ocean.

I reflected on our future. The old man, covered in gold and wealth stands for the rich, careless people. He contaminated the earth, selfishly overused energy, threw rubbish away, set up more and more factories, built walls between him and the nature. His misdeeds contributed to global warming. The glaciers started to melt, taking the polar bears’ home away. Debris made animals sick, sea level rose, and the incredibly polluted ocean started to deluge the land. The old man, having realised that it’s all his fault, helplessly climbed the ladder and let the ocean surround him. Do we really want to be that old man? So let’s start helping, not destroying. Let’s give our ocean a better future!

Gimnazjum nr 1 z Oddziałami Dwujęzycznymi

$1,500 Award

Silver

Awards

$1,000

Neha Patel

Age 17
Piscataway, NJ
reflection >

When researching for information for this contest, there was one subject that popped out to me – penguins in sweaters. Although it is the most adorable thing, why would penguins wear sweaters? It turns out there is a deeper story behind this. Penguins have been suffering from the effects of oil spills across the globe and penguin sweaters have been the solution to this. To prevent the penguins from ingesting the lethal oil and gunk on their bodies, the penguins wear sweaters. The sweaters have risen in popularity ever since an oil spill in Australia’s Phillip Island where 32,000 penguins were put at risk. Such a simple solution has transformed the effects of oil spills for the better good.

My artwork is symbolic of the sweaters and the act of knitting. The power is in our hands. The future is in our hands. My artwork depicts a girl knitting a heart with three penguins in her lap. Two of the penguins are protected, wearing cozy sweaters. The middle penguin, however, is covered in oil and looking up for help. The act of knitting symbolizes the power in our hands. We, the people, hold ultimate power over these penguin’s lives. We must “knit” together love and offer solace to penguins in return for our unruly mistakes in the ocean waters. Just as the girl is knitting together a heart, we must knit together our actions. The background of the artwork states “knitting the future, one penguin at a time”. The future is in our hands and we MUST take action, whether it be through knitting, or simple acts of kindness, to reform the effects of oil spills.

Gwen Wodark

Age 17
Orange, CA
reflection >

Our society depends on all of Earth’s features: the land, water, atmosphere, etc., though we do not show our appreciation for them. Development over time with new machines and new ways, many of them cause a harmful amount of pollution.

My watercolor expresses that our people and culture are infecting our ocean every day purely for our own benefit. The ocean begins fresh and clean, but then as we develop, only thinking for ourselves, the ocean starts to lose its biodiversity and become infected. As the ocean tries to break free we hold on tightly, we need it to survive. In the end, a more green and sustainable way is resolved by us and it cooperates with the ocean. The air pollution causes ocean acidification. This affects the coastal areas significantly by slowly killing off coral reefs, fish, and others. By continuing our ways it will only cause us to lose Earth’s valuable resources.

If we are to expand our ideas it needs to be clean for us and the earth, a win-win. The last hand gesture you can see that the earth has become greener and the water is back to its original state. This can only result from having a more sustainable way of living, the pollution needs to stop. Also, there are no fish in this image. Even if we alter our ways, it doesn't mean that we can always get everything back. By not acting soon, things that are needed for survival could be diminished. The ocean is a prime resource that we need to survive, so we need to start acting like it is.

Bronze
Awards

$500

Grace Alter

Age 16
Johannesburg, South Africa
reflection >

Unknown to many, the microfibers from our clothing are poisoning the ocean. Fabrics like fleece, spandex, nylon and polyester are made from plastic. When we wash our clothing, these microfibers go into the water and ultimately end up in the ocean. This is harming marine life via two mechanisms: physical blockages and chemical poisoning. Once swallowed, these irregularly shaped particles stay inside the fish and the chemicals leach into its body. This also has significant ramifications for humans who eat fish.

This artwork consists of an organically formed skirt of generous proportions, juxtaposed with a stark geometric and rigid embroidered top. It highlights how a small act of choosing clothing made from non-natural materials can have a destructive impact on the ocean. The puddle of fabric at the bottom of the skirt directly links the artwork to the ocean theme. The animated fish swimming over the skirt illustrates the way in which marine creatures involuntary swim in the microfibers of our clothing.

The choice of materials comments on the way in which the dress, that looks so beautiful and seemingly harmless, can actually be detrimental to other creatures. Neutral and white hues are intended to emphasize this innocence. The use of the ancient art of embroidery highlights the disruption of an environment that has been around for longer than we humans have.
The artwork aims to raise awareness of a seemingly simple, unknown yet severe act with the intention of evoking change.

Isabella Hollis

Age 17
Boerne, TX
reflection >

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” — Robert Swan

When we think of major ocean pollution, we think of oil spills and industrial run-off. There is little that the average person can do to reduce this. However, a more intimate problem occurs. The small scale, causal litter we see from citizens like you and I everyday can easily be avoided by simple acts of conscientious effort. It takes more than a federal regulation to clean up our act. It's up to us as citizens and caretakers of this world to individually make the effort to reduce the waste in our environment and encourage it to grow healthy again. In my piece, I gave perspective on the depths of the ocean in order to prompt the viewer to think critically about their own rule in pollution. In order for a change to happen, one must first raise awareness of the problem and then educate as many people as they can reach. Through my work I hope to reach out to people that I would never have gotten the opportunity to reach out to otherwise. Hopefully this will inspire fresh support to our cause of reducing and eventually eliminating pollution.

Sharon Yoo

Age 15
San Ramon, CA
reflection >

Waste is being put into the ocean constantly due to human advancement. We have been putting this conflict aside thinking that we could excuse ourselves from dealing with this struggle. However, as humans keep ignoring it and acting as if nothing is occurring, many living organisms in the marine life are being swept away and affected tremendously.
In my artwork, I wanted to depict the afterwards impact of ocean pollution to the whole world.

Through this piece, I wanted to demonstrate the confined feeling that both the human species and life within the ocean would feel. The hands are symbolically displaying the prisoners’ emotions of being jailed and trapped, and the background adds on to this message. The fish are not yet infected, being shown with vibrant colors, while on the other hand, they are connected to the human rib cage. This shows that pollution is not just an easy conflict we could just pass by and that it could have horrendous effects. As trash infects and influences organisms in the ocean, we are being affected at the same time through the things we eat; just like a cycle, eventually polluting us. I wanted to spread awareness through this artwork and inform people that individuals can contribute to this matter by even a small action in their daily lifestyle.

Pearl Awards

$300

Jack Chen

Age 15
College Point, NY
reflection >

The basic theme of my work is the situation that involves plastic soda rings and marine life. These seemingly harmless pieces of plastic actually can cause a lot of damage to sea animals, because they can get caught into one and forever have a plastic ring around their necks, even their entire bodies as they grow bigger. This is terrible because it can hinder breathing or growth and basically give these poor animals a miserable life. I represent this idea by making the soda rings act as hand cuffs for these “prisoners.” I depict these animals as prisoners by having them line up, wear orange uniforms, and have a fence blocking them off from their real homes. Hopefully my work will spread awareness for not pollution the water with garbage, and also for people to actively prevent the injury of sea animals by tiny actions such as cutting up a soda ring before throwing it out.

Hannah Jones

Age 16
Mt. Lebanon, PA
reflection >

Coral reefs are living breathing homes to more than twenty-­five percent of marine life. Fish, snails, clams, sponges, sea stars, marine worms, sharks, and turtles are all examples of creatures that depend on the reef. Coral reefs even benefit humans, providing protection from storms, food for local fisherman, and tourism. Unfortunately, human actions threaten these beneficial creatures. Carbon dioxide emissions are the greatest contributors to reef degradation, causing global temperatures to rise and the oceans to become more acidic. Rising temperatures can cause a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. Bleaching is a sign that the coral is struggling to survive. Affected corals lose their color, leaving them ghosts of their former grandeur.

I was inspired by the Great Barrier Reef and its transformation from vibrant to monochrome. The corals’ skeletal appearance reminded me of the destruction humans can cause if we do not change our ways. I used paper to illustrate the fragility and intricate beauty of this ocean wonder. As the corals fade in color, marine life disappears. I learned to appreciate each coral’s form through hours of meticulous paper-cutting. I hope my work inspires you to discover more about coral reefs and consider how our actions on land impact our seas.

Yoojin Lee

Age 18
Beverly Hills, CA
reflection >

Pollution is one of the major social issues in the world. Even though people know that pollution affects our economy, people are not fully aware and warned how much harm it will bring to our society. Marine debris and plastic pollution harms our daily lives, but especially our environment. Our minor habits such as littering cause pollution to the ocean. In my painting, I want to portray that trashes and debris overcome humans due to the large amounts, which will eventually come together and shape into the form of a human’s body. The man is wearing a gas mask, because I wanted to portray that marine pollution is harmful and fatal to our environment. People should be more aware and know the consequences that could occur if marine pollution continues. All of us should start to be aware and make small changes to make our world better and cleaner.

Madison Miller

Age 18
Sarasota, FL
reflection >

From the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the general flotsam and jetsam that you’ll find along the coastline, our waste has far-reaching and devastating effects. Broken fishing lines cause ghost fishing, loose plastic bags suffocate sea life, and oil spills wipe out entire habitats. In my painting, I wanted to juxtapose the delicate and graceful nature of the jellyfish with the muck and filth floating inside of it; a collusion between life and death. Pollution does not enhance nature; rather, it diminishes and destroys it. What would otherwise be pristine and abundant is corrupted and can no longer sustain its natural assets. I believe in making art that means something –that catalyzes change, tells a story, and makes a statement. My piece draws attention to the pestilential nature of pollution through its imagery and form, and seeks out a visceral response from the viewer.

Amy Pan

Age 15
Richmond, Canada
reflection >

We are descendants of the ocean. What we do to it, whether good or bad, will eventually return to us and our future generations. However, studies have shown that over 70% of the population remain indifferent on the topic of marine pollution, because they couldn’t see a connection between such damage and the well-being of themselves. To raise awareness on marine pollution, I chose to create this artwork focusing on two popular concerns—marine debris and sewage. I took a direct approach, by personifying our ocean as a helpless mother, with the baby in her arms representing us—yes, not any random baby, but every single one of us. The untouched umbilical cord and the mud on the baby’s body, symbolizes how innocent babies suffered from our contaminated ocean, even before he opened his eyes. Finally, the clear waves in the background represent our past— and our future if we start changing. Now, think twice, who are the victims of ocean pollution? For those who don’t care, try imagining a life without fresh water—imagine drinking from water mixed with plastic and foam bits; having to take baths in foul-smelling sewage; spending your favorite vacation on a beach full of garbage… You might think this is distant from you, but it’s actually not that far away if we don’t change what we’re currently doing to our ocean bodies. Do not let ignorance murder our future generations. If you care, take action—right now.

Distinguished
Honorable
Mention

$250

Claire Donnelly

Age 17
Johannesburg, South Africa
reflection >

My idea for this project was to create a mixed media artwork that shows a turtle swimming through waste, except over the years’ pollution has gradually increased creating a serious problem for humanity and the earth. So, I decided to create a timeline to show the increase in pollution over the years. I picked glass because it is made from sand which is recycling. It is thick in volume which creates a blue/ green colour similar to oceans. I chose engraving with a dermal tool because it is a medium that I have never done before and was very interested in. It creates a three-dimensional effect on the glass which creates a reflection.

My first idea was to place the glass in a line but then I soon realised that the viewer would not see the movement or the increase in pollution well enough, so I decided to place them in a circle to create a timeline. The circle represents the earth, ocean, turtle swimming, and timeline. The base/thick board represents the earth. The resin represents the ocean. I picked this resin because I wanted something clear and firm to keep the glass upright and stable. I chose ice-like LED lights because they give a dramatic effect and it helps notice the engraving lines of the turtles. I am naming my artwork ‘Turtle Decrease’ because the number of turtles dying from pollution is heart breaking.

Nina Gabriel

Age 17
Piscataway, NJ
reflection >

What really threatens the ocean? The animals that live in it and call it home, or is it us who mindlessly throw toxins in it. When I first heard the prompt I already knew I wanted to use oil spills, however I didn’t know exactly what my subject would be. I wanted to use something I knew well, something timeless that people could recognize. Then I remembered Moby Dick, the legendary white whale. I remember when I was little and I watched a cartoon on it I actually felt bad for the whale. I always wondered why he was furious with humans. Maybe humans started taking all his food, or killed his family off. I just always saw him as misunderstood, instead of a manifestation of evil that the characters in the book viewed him as. To me the humans in the story did more damage to the ocean, which connects back to the pollution topic. Almost all the issues on the contest list can trace back to human hands. Thus my idea was born, Moby Dick (who symbolizes nature) vs. Pollution. I decided to use a dark oil spill to contrast with the whale’s pure white skin, to create a grimmer look. I was inspired by some vintage illustrations for the composition. In the border I also tied marine debris in with pictures of fish bones and factories. The message on the piece is to evoke responsibility for the ocean’s destruction, and change in our actions.

Yukhei Ho

Age 16
Tokyo, Japan
reflection >

We humans are blessed to be able to choose where we want to live, but the plastic products that have been littered into the ocean have forced these sea animals to unwillingly choose their homes and to settle in man-made plastic products.

The words “Sweet Home” imply the homes that are destroyed as a result of the plastic pollution that has been created by man. Sea creatures have no choice but to accept mankind’s plastic as their “new” home. Others may perceive this poster to show how the sea creatures, big or small, are tangled or mistakenly eat these plastic products.

Eun Lee

Age 16
Ulsan, Korea
reflection >

I used to love a certain face wash with microbeads. The scrubbing sensation felt amazing on my face. That was until I read an article that horrified me: microbeads are actually tiny pieces of plastic that get washed down my drain and ultimately find their way into the ocean, where they are damage the environment, hurt sea life, and threaten human health. According to the United Nations Environmental Program, microplastics are used in a shockingly wide range of products: deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lipstick, hair colouring, shaving cream, sunscreen, insect repellent, anti-wrinkle creams, moisturizers, hair spray, facial masks, baby care products, eye shadow, and mascara.

For my entry, I wanted to come up with something that could get many teenagers to do something positive for the environment. I wanted something simple that anyone could put to action. So I focused on discouraging people to stop buying products with microbeads. My parody advertisement points out the truth about microbeads for those who might not know it. Through light humor, the piece educates without sounding like a lecture, something very important for appealing to teenagers. If this would come up on someone’s Instagram timeline, I really think they would avoid products with microbeads. It’s something simple enough for any one person to do, but through the power of social media, I think it could spread well and potentially have a massive impact.

Jessica Li

Age 17
Short Hills, NJ
reflection >

I created this piece as a part of my concentration which focuses on the journey of a sea turtle and advocates for ocean conservation. Inspired by a research expedition in the Bahamas, this piece depicts a sea turtle as it faces the human-induced challenge of ocean pollution. Fishing hooks and longlines manage to trap not only the fish desired, but also endangered species of sharks, whales, and sea turtles. In this painting, a generous sea turtle acts as a good samaritan, attempting to release a whale entangled in a fishing net. However, it is to no avail. The turtle and the whale are painted in bright blue colors, while a harsh black line of ink interrupts the flow of the ocean. By polluting the ocean with garbage and fishing equipment, we are creating a battle between humans and the ocean with all its marine life.

Zhaoyu Liu

Age 18
Coconut Creek, FL
reflection >

We all have a common homeland--Earth. This is the place we live and laugh together. However, a cold-blooded killer gradually destroys this peace: water pollution. As society becomes more developed, a great many relentless factories pollute our environment. All the poisonous chemicals, metals, and sewage were poured into our lovely rivers, and ocean. Fish are crying, losing their livable habitat. As one part of the earth, I realize it is time to do something for our planet! I decided to take out my art tools, and make a painting to rouse people’s souls and help them gain their consciousness of protecting our ocean.

The painting was made by color pencil and watercolor. The girl in this painting is the guardian of the ocean. She is trying to hold the fish in her hand to tell all the people that it is time to use our hands to protect theses animals instead of destroying their homeland. The serious greenhouse effect is leading to the melting of ice and rising of the sea level. The melting ice cubes in the painting represent the rising ocean temperature. The falling ice cubes tells us we have to make a move to stop the ice from melting. The pattern behind the girl is a star inside a circle. It represents connection, and tells us that protecting our earth is not a job done by one person. Instead, everyone in the earth should work together to reduce the pollution and make our earth better.

 

Man Hei Miranda Mo

Age 16
Hong Kong
reflection >

The digital illustration portrays a Chinese girl lifting up her blanket to discover ocean pollution as the real monster under her bed. As a Chinese myself, issues in my country fuel my art. I chose to render my piece digitally to parallel how environmental concerns are as current and pervasive as technology is in our lives. In this piece, China's oceans are, like other countries, polluted by plastic bottles, bags, and tin cans. However, unconventionally, one of the debris is a dead pig, which is inspired by the 2013 incident in Pinghu when 16,000 diseased pig carcasses were disposed illegally into the Huangpu river. Moreover, the pipes discharge red wastewater like the factories in Wenzhou in 2014, intoxicating the river and subsequently acidifying the ocean. Thick algae also flows out of the drawer, similar to the algae-filled coastlines in Qingdao. As a result, these contaminated water sources have endangered locals' lives and depleted fish populations. Unlike the photoshopped advertisements, water pollution cannot be covered and will constantly be revealed. Unlike the imaginary monsters, ocean acidification is a reality. Unlike how we grow out of the monsters under our beds, environmental issues will always persist unless we fix them. By actively participating in local beach cleanups or environmental research and advocacy, we must ensure a healthier and safer future not only for ourselves, but also for our planet.

Becky Ni

Age 15
Vancouver, Canada
reflection >

Ocean pollution is caused by various factors including oil spills, nuclear waste and sewage. However, I want to find a way to save the ocean on a daily basis. While I was conducting research, I found that a person uses a plastic bag on average for only 12 minutes. In the meantime, we only recycle 1 plastic bag in every 200 we use. Each year, 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are estimated to be consumed worldwide, meaning that one million are consumed per minute. A very large portion of these used plastic bags end up in the ocean, causing deaths of thousands of marine mammals who ingest plastic or get entangled in them.

My painting shows a person carrying a plastic bag. The plastic bag represents the ocean and a sea turtle is trapped inside. A plastic bag is stuck on its head making it the bag’s victim. The person is the injurer since the person is the consumer of the bag. Dead coral reefs, fish bones and more plastic bags lie on the ocean floor, showing how seriously the ocean is damaged. Finally, the background is full of people carrying fabric bags, showing the solution for saving our ocean.

Juš Pustoslemšek

Age 18
Maribor, Slovenia
reflection >

My work is showing the other face of our industry. The face fueled by money, greed and ignorance and is runing and sea life and oceans in general. The first represents the doom of sea creatures and is meant as a reflection of the factories.

Jade Wang

Age 16
West Vancouver, Canada
reflection >

Climate change is an extremely relevant societal issue, but with the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, it appears that the challenge of defeating worldwide climate change is becoming more daunting. I decided to explore one aspect of environmental damage: ocean pollution. In my piece, the scenes that fill the frame of the distorted human body are the events that make up who we are: our memories. There are scenes of love, friendship, and more, all among the clean ocean of the past. However, the person is drowning and dying. Humanity is causing death, not only its own death, but also the environment’s death. Due to our ignorance, future generations won’t be able to enjoy the same luxuries we enjoy. The distorted body represents the guiltiness the person has for living selfishly—it symbolizes and foreshadows humanity’s fate in the future if we don’t change our ways.

Nicole Zapata

Age 17
Bogota, Colombia
reflection >

Oceans are really amazing ecosystems. They have lots of biodiversity in them and many mysteries. This is the idea that everyone has of the oceans, but when people face reality they see that not everything is as perfect as it seems. The great idea of the ocean has been decreasing because of contamination. In my piece we can see how humans and the oceans need to be one and work together for the benefit of both, since humans started contaminating this ecosystem, humans are the ones that need to take care of it. We need to take action now and reduce the damage that oceans are suffering, before it gets worst. The colors of the picture mix with each other to show unity, and the ocean and the body of the women join together to form just one figure. The girl is looking to the ocean; this represents how sometimes we can clearly see the problems and damage to the ecosystems, but do nothing to stop the problem. Finally, above the girl we can see a cave, it represents how sometimes we are so closed in our thoughts and in our perspective that we can’t see what is around us, the benefits that it gives us but the damage we are causing to it. 

Honorable
Mention

$250

Alex Barnes

Age 16
Chicago, IL
reflection >

I love my coastline. While it may technically not be an ocean, Lake Michigan looks endless from Chicago shores. Unfortunately, as do the heaps of forgotten Starbucks cups, takeout containers, sunscreen bottles, plastic bags, etc. -- leading me to the driving force behind my piece. Further inspiration came from the statistic released by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation: By 2050, we will have as much plastic in our oceans as fish. My piece is a fictional representation of what a plastic ocean might look like, imagining the plastic actually replacing our fish instead of killing them as it likely actually would. I want viewers to see these plastic cups -- items which they have all used and have probably littered with at least once -- and relate themselves to ocean pollution and its catastrophic consequences.

Julie Guellec

Age 17
Bloomfield, MI
reflection >

I created the piece “Emerging” in order to depict the troubling guilt people have been undergoing due to the human influence on the deterioration of the ocean. Throughout the last few decades our oceans have been experiencing a drastic increase in pollution of all sort, a proliferation so high that the situation seems almost hopeless. In this piece, I have represented this hopelessness with a human subject struggling for a breath of air, meaning that although it may be difficult to clean up the mess we have imposed on our oceans, there is a solution and it must be carried out. The confusion that comes with these issues is represented through the troubled waters visible in my piece. Another aspect within this piece with a prominent meaning is the koi fish, in this case symbolizing the unknown solution to the situation, which is associated with a spark of hope. I decided to incorporate this particular fish due to its energetic life force demonstrated by its ability to swim against currents and travel upstream. Some cultural characteristics include success, courage, ambition and perseverance, which are key characteristics activists and the rest of the world need to embody if we want to save our oceans.

Alexandra Hinkle

Age 17
Baton Rouge, LA
reflection >

Ever since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the waters off of our coast in Louisiana, I’ve become more and more aware and irked about the damage we as a race have contributed to our oceans. The ocean is one of, if not the, most important biome on the planet, providing most of the food and oxygen available. It is filled with vast diversity and uncharted mysteries, but instead of working to understand and protect it, it appears that we have decided to tarnish it. It’s easy enough for most people to do—the majority of people never see the ocean save for specific cleaned beaches catering to the vacationing.

For this piece, I decided to scavenge the nearby shore for trash, collecting items as an accurate reference of what there is polluting the seas. I then superimposed the drawing of the garbage with a drawing of a fish, half-alive in clear water, half-dead from the trash and oil. I wanted to juxtapose the two, clean and graceful marine life with a dead and rotting corpse from the waste. The contrast is meant to be jarring, so that it can illustrate just how devastating human trash is to the ocean and all of the creatures that live there.

Filip Levec

Age 17
Ljubljana, Slovenia

Qinlin Li

Age 17
Southborough, MA
reflection >

I think there are several factors that led to my passion for, and involvement in, sustainability but I think my community has been my greatest impact, particularly my home country of China, and my own family’s involvement in and concern regarding pollution and sustainability. As a resident of China for the majority of my life, I have read about and seen firsthand how the environment has been polluted by the irresponsible behavior of people. I became interested in sustainability, hoping to do my part to raise sustainability awareness; reducing my own waste of single-use products, reusing and recycling paper, and modeling so others would do the same. I think my small family environment has also influenced me on my engagement in this realm. My father’s company recycles methane emitted from coal mines and turns it into electricity. Influenced by his work, I also wish to contribute my efforts into doing my part to help in preserving the environment. As a result of these influences, I decided to learn more about plastic manufacturing and pollution when I was thinking of a background for my first studio assignment this year.

Plastics are ubiquitous and while they provide convenience to our lives, they are an infamous source of pollution. Unlike other materials, plastics never break down, so all the plastic products we use and produce stay with us forever. After they are used, they are abandoned everywhere, on the beaches, by the streets, and so on, and they not only become undesirable scenes, they can also contribute to the plastic gyre that would bring them to other formerly pristine areas. Plastic pollution is a critical problem because it ruins the earth, and animals accidentally perceive plastics as food. Many appalling photographs and reports depict dead animals filled with plastic products inside their dead bodies.

Through my artwork, I wish to raise an awareness of the threat of irresponsible plastic usage and inspire others to reduce their use of these synthesized materials. The piece entitled “Friends” is a piece in response to two articles that I read this year. One of them states that researchers found microplastic particles in every water sample they obtained, and the other shows how plastics are impacting and killing Laysan albatross. In my drawing, the plastic balls in the background symbolize enlarged versions of microplastic beads, constituting the habitat of these ocean-dependent birds. The toy duck demonstrates human involvement in pollution in the oceans, interrupting the ecosystem.

 

 

Sophie Naylor

Age 16
Sacramento, CA
reflection >

While driving along the 101 into Santa Barbara, I was stunned when I saw multiple enormous oil rigs dotting the coast. This was the first time I became concerned about the effects of oil rigs on the ocean environment. I found that their presence is a constant worry, for if one explodes or leaks like the 2010 oil spill, its impact can be devastating. With so many rigs losing so much oil, it is a constant threat to ocean life.

I decided to paint an oil rig piercing a heart, to symbolize how our damage so far on the ocean has impacted its beauty and purity. The skull and crossbones imbedded into the oil rig stands for symbol for poison, as the oil rig can symbolize a wide range of ways we poison our oceans. Under the surface of the water, we see the real problem where this contamination punctures the heart of the sea made of ocean animals.

Although this piece represents the impact of our decisions on the earth’s oceans, it also ignites our power to fight and choose to protect our oceans. We must inform others how our choices impact ocean life and how we cannot let people be ignorant of their actions. I hope that others will have a change of heart and put thought into the effects our force can have on the ocean environment. So let’s step up and educate others to preserve the heart of the sea!

Emmanuel Ramirez

Age 18
Dallas, TX

Walter Shen

Age 14
Belmont, MA
reflection >

In the news there often are unfortunate events of pollution: not only of air pollution, but that of the ocean as well. Be it garbage or oil, the classic image of a bird choking on a soda 6-pack ring is all too clichéd. My drawing highlights both human filthy trash floating in water in the foreground, and disgusting rainbow oil rings in the background. Using colored pencil and ink, I created a very dirty duck that pulls a paper boat filled with little sea creatures desperate for help to safety. It should not be the duck’s duty to save these animals from our harm. It should be our duty to save these creatures, before the harm hurts us too. Ocean pollution makes me feel unsatisfied with the amount of effort we humans have on behalf of the seas. I support nature awareness to prevent us from doing more harm on the earth.

Gordon Su

Age 15
San Jose, CA
reflection >

In creating this piece, I sought to strike a contrast between the effects of pollution and some of the solutions to these problems. Specifically, I depicted sewage runoff, oil spills, and trash dumping, major sources of pollution plaguing our oceans today. On the other side of the drawing, some of the solutions to the aforementioned problems are presented. I drew people collecting trash from a beach and the ocean. At the bottom is a vibrant coral reef. An average person may not be able to make significant contributions to the mitigation of ocean pollution, but instilling an anti-littering ethos will undoubtedly benefit the environment, both on land and in our oceans. After all, much of the pollution in the ocean begins on land.  The drawing is centered around a globe. The globe is split in two, in order to represent the disparity in the outcomes of pollution and anti-pollution efforts. On the left side of the globe, the detrimental consequences of pollution are shown, including a lack of vegetated land and discoloration in the color of the ocean water. On the right side, an idealistic earth is shown, with a bright green foliage cover and deep blue oceans. The ocean is a vast frontier covering seventy percent of our planet's surface, yet it will soon be irreparably contaminated if we fail to act more sustainably.

Estella Tian

Age 18
Irvine, CA
reflection >

Each time when I think of ocean pollution, I see a fish in my mind struggling in water surrounded by garbage. Just like I what I express in my artwork, a fish is trapped by a net full of plastic wastes, metal cans and toxic batteries. Although this trash is inevitable from human daily life, it can easily lead to the deaths of fishes through the human action of throwing these waste on the beach or directly into the ocean. In other words, we can save thousands of marine lives simply by picking up trash on the beach and if possible in the ocean. Above the net, there is a scene of factory chimneys releasing industrial waste by a sea, and the water is muddy and dirty. This further implies that it is imminent for us to take actions to stop endangering marine organism. At this moment, a fish is crying for help. If each of us give it a hand, more lives can be saved. It is our decision. I am ready to save lives. ARE YOU READY?

Lulu Tian

Age 17
Winchester, MA
reflection >

Hearing of this contest, I was excited to express my frustration concerning ocean pollution, especially the careless actions causing debris/plastic pollution and oil spills. I wish for a world where people are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and how to address them.

I painted the ocean with vivid colors to convey hope for the ocean’s future. However, the flailing fish and the orange (acidic) pH strip transition into the devastation and waste portrayed by the black and white wave. The beauty of the ocean is juxtaposed with the pollution caused by humans. I illustrated the waste in mainly black and white to contrast the beautiful ocean with its antagonists. The splashes of color solidify the waste’s connection to the ocean, and the undertones of dripping oil reminds the viewer of how prominent the issue is. The seabird drenched in oil is unable to escape from the waste, which it is chained to, and it overlooks the entire painting, helpless.

I contrasted the relaxed people made of smog with the transparent figure in the ocean lifting up the pollution to display two routes: we can either become a product of the pollutants of society, or learn to understand and cooperate with the ocean. An “easy” smog-like life is not the solution for ocean pollution.

Instead of simply riding the wave, we have the power to control the waves we make. So let’s raise them to new heights of awareness and responsibility.

Notable
Submission

$100

Nour Abedrabbo

Age 18
Ft. Myers, FL
reflection >

Art is a graceful ability of humanity. It provides and expresses freedom, the human mind and senses are able to roam. With art we are able to see a diversity of mindsets which leads to the capability to understand each other. I'd like to use my art to improve and advance awareness to world issues, especially environmental issues. My work contains four panels that each represent the steps we can take towards environmental sustainability.  The first and second panel represents the tragedy of common acts; careless actions such as improper disposal of waste and littering. Simple actions such as discarding a cigarette may seem small and harmless, but millions commit the same action daily, truly damaging the environment. The third panel represents human involvement through education, action, and environmental engineering, which will improve conditions and hopefully prevent them as well. I will pursue Environmental Engineering to do my part in protecting the environment; luckily, I also have art to inform and educate others. The last panel presents what the future of coral reefs and oceans can be with everyone efforts in preserving it. Though it will take a lot of time and work, we should all have a goal of restoring our planet.

Katelyn Bilby

Age 16
Sharpsville, IN
reflection >

For this art piece, I was inspired by the will to live which the animals, birds, and ocean wildlife display. Humans on a daily basis are making it continuously harder for these creatures to live and thrive without realizing the depth of their actions. With this being said, my picture displays two pelicans: The one on the right symbolizes the pollution in the ocean, with the litter lined in its wings and the oil dripping from its mouth, and the one on the left symbolizes the pelican as a species and its fight to survive against the dangerous pollutions of its habitat.

Aylin Caballero

Age 17
Brownsville, TX
reflection >

My piece was inspired from one of my last trips to South Padre Island, the neighboring beach to my city, Brownsville, Texas. While I was there, I couldn't help but feel utter disgust as my eyes took up all the trash that my fellow civilians left hidden under the sand or there upon the shore. It made me really upset that some people couldn't even take a few steps to just throw a water bottle in the cans provided. After seeing the mess on the shore, I couldn't help but think about all the trash that must have been lying in the water, or the trash that had already sunk and taken the ocean as its new home. Accompanying that thought came the one of “How much sea life has been affected by this, and why aren't we doing anything to change our ways and save our oceans?”  The idea of the water bottle being destroyed and setting free the ocean was created from this vivid picture I have in my head of a water bottle that was buried in the sand. In the trip to SPI, I was shocked to see the increasing number of bottles and plastics that were deserted there. I learned that not everybody knows how to clean up after themselves and that many people are selfish in caring about their lives only, and not even batting an eyelash towards the lives of the creatures who claim the beach as their home. Yet, I also learned that there are people like me in the world, people who pick up others’ trash, people who look after others and care for them. Those people are the change, and it's my dearest hope that there are people who want to be the change around the world and help save our oceans.

Nisha Chandra

Age 17
Plano, TX
reflection >

As a person who frequently visits coastal beaches on vacations, ocean pollution makes me feel extremely disheartened.  As I reflect on nostalgic memories of taking pictures of starfish and other ocean creatures, I also worry about the future of our oceans due to the large amount of debris and pollutants constantly being dumped into them.  With this fear and uncertainty comes a sense of optimism and hope for oceans and marine life.  Despite the pollution that many oceans face, increasing EPA regulation of ocean debris and other similar legislative reforms can make it possible to create a positive impact on marine environments.  In order to reflect that in my piece of artwork, I depicted three EPA members cleaning up ocean debris in recyclable bags.  The contrast between the cleaner ocean environment on the left and the more polluted water on the right serves to represent how optimism towards ocean protection can create a huge difference for marine lifeforms and their environments.

Roselene Chen

Age 15
Fremont, CA
reflection >

Throughout these few years, oil has become a major part in this changing world and its growing industries. Oil industries are usually placed near the ocean and there are often problems that leads to oil being released into the ocean. This oil is extremely toxic to the ocean life and can kill many of the marine animals. In this artwork, I have depicted many different types of animals that could be killed if they encounter any oil spills. The use of color emphasizes how life in the ocean is before they are all killed by the oil. The barrels at the bottom represent how humans have created these items to hold the oil in but they are of no use in the ocean and once released, they bring disaster to the marine life. Thus the name “Black Disaster” shows that the oil is toxic and can kill many animals. I was inspired to draw this as it represents how we treat animals in the ocean, we treat the ocean as if we can throw waste into the ocean. I hope I am able to show to people the dangers of oil spills and that the ocean is an extremely beautiful place and we should be able to protect it.
           

Rachel Cho

Age 16
Flushing, NY
reflection >

When people are about to drown, they usually scream and thrash with all their might to attract attention and stay afloat. But imagine that scenario, only with that person drowning in oil. As the black substance fills their lungs and slows their movement, screaming and flailing are no longer options. While they slowly sink beneath the gunk, their only hope is that somebody will come and rescue them. And that’s absolutely terrifying. It’s quite obvious that oil spills are nothing but bad for the environment, but I suppose that we all have to be reminded once more. Many residents of the ocean –and humans too- are suffering from these disastrous oil spills that cause severe water pollution. The mini scenario described above is a common happening to all aquatic animals around, and we must take responsibility for the cleanliness of our oceans. We too, depend on water, and it would be a slap in the face to Mother Nature to dirty what she has graciously provided us. So the next time we drink, we have to be thankful that we have a mouthful of fresh water, instead of a mouthful of pollution.

Caroline Dai

Age 17
Austin, TX
reflection >

There is so much beauty in our water sources and I want to call to attention the dangers the aquatic ecosystem faces that can destroy that beauty. Water is a source of oxygen and a way of life for our society. From poles to tropical waters to small ponds, the water is home to a wide range of biodiversity and unique marine life. However, the pressing issue of pollution continues to foul this plethora of beauty. If something doesn’t change, all organisms that are dependent on its survival will perish under the disaster of our own making. I got the inspiration for my piece from a picture of a rotting albatross carcass. Inside its rib cage, there were the remains of a plastic bottle. The albatross, alluded to in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, represents the burden that humanity bears. The adulteration of the ocean through garbage is our own ‘albatross hanging off our neck’. I wanted to use this imagery of an albatross--something pure and uncorrupted--being ‘strangled to death’ by soda can rings, to show the horrible consequences our actions have.

Douglas DeVito, Avery Rose Higgins, Isabella Neubauer

Age 17
Pawleys Island, SC
reflection >

Everyone knows Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam is the government. Uncle Sam wants you for the US Army. During the 1940s, when the poster was designed, soldiers were needed to fight in World War II, the global issue of the time. Currently, a big issue is the pollution and destruction of our environment. Much of our environmental science class this year has focused on humans impacting our world, so when we heard about this project and its theme of ocean pollution, we felt we had to participate. We felt particularly impacted by the question "What role do you play?" when considering our submission, and thus an idea was born. Everyone has their part to play in preventing our oceans from being polluted. As Uncle Sam would say, "I want you to stop ocean pollution!" Whether something simple, like choosing a paper bag instead of plastic at the grocery store, or something a little more difficult, like choosing to avoid plastic bottles, everything is important and everything helps. Many people have the tendency to think, "I'm just one person. Why should I recycle if no one else will?" Uncle Sam is here to say that we want you, personally, to help change the world. What one person can do doesn't seem like much, but it adds up. Everyone's contribution helps make the world a cleaner place to live in and enjoy.

Jacob Garza

Age 17
San Antonio, TX
reflection >

The pollution in the ocean seems like an endless loop that keeps occurring time and time again. The ocean and its marine life are all in pain and are furious for humanity's recklessness. The ocean bleeds and cries for help, oil spills, plastic debris, and nuclear waste are all polluting the water, however there is still hope in our youth for a cleaner future. This piece represents a whirlpool of all the chaos mankind has brought to the ocean. It loops around showing recurring problems and effects of polluting the oceans. There’s no sugar coating this, marine animals are dying and will continue if we don’t stop making the same mistakes. The ocean life wants to escape this torture. The majestic whales that spring out of the ocean as a symbol of hope will soon be nothing but hollow bones of mankind's errors. The ocean we’ll hate people for bringing this plague. There is still hope for a cleaner future and it starts with our youth and the next generations that follow. The little girl is with her mother and his pointing out the chaos in the ocean. She is wearing white, a symbol of pureness and hope for the ocean. By coming together and fixing our errors mankind can restore peace in the oceans. It starts with our youth; set a good example that they can follow.

Eliza Goodwin

Age 15
Freeport, ME
reflection >

I have always loved art and the natural world around me. My concern for the earth and my ability to express myself through art is why I wanted to submit this piece. The ocean is important to the stability of our planet but the more I researched I discerned that the impacts we have on the ocean are not only inhuman but essentially an assault of the oceans and will eventually overturn the balance of a healthy planet. As I started to study the detrimental effects that pollution has on the oceans I came across a quote: “Why does wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why does proposing to destroy water with chemicals not make you a terrorist.” This quote is what ultimately gave me the inspiration to paint this picture. It so clearly demonstrates the selfishness of human nature; taking and not give back. The goal of my painting was to switch the roles of the aquatic and land animals. The purpose and my hope was for people to switch their mindset so they are looking at this art from the viewpoint of marine life. This is why the horse, humans, and butterfly are all below the water; whereas, the octopus, cormorant, and fish are above. Hopefully, because of the switched roles, viewers can connect with the marine life and begin to see why aquatic pollution needs to stop. In order to create change we first have to care deeply.

Jasmine Haraburda

Age 18
Hilliard, OH
reflection >

The ocean has held a very precious place in my heart ever since my childhood. This underwater realm and all of the amazing creatures that lived in it fascinated me. But at this very moment, the mesmerizing beauty of this marine biodiversity is being destroyed by climate change. Rising levels of carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels are increasing the acidity of ocean water, weakening coral reef structure. Coral bleaching also occurs when temperature change cause colorful algae living in symbiosis within coral to flee, leaving reefs a ghostly white and brown color. Half of the coral reefs on Earth have died over the last 30 years. Moreover, scientists predict that 90% of the world’s coral will be dead by 2050, which is worrisome since they are home to 25% of all marine species and support half a billion people. I created an arch of coral out of clay using glazes of minimal and dull color in order to imitate the haunting effects of coral bleaching due to global warming and reef destruction due to air pollution. However, I included hints of blues and greens as a reminder that there is still a glimmer of hope. If the world seriously cuts back on greenhouse gas emissions and scientists are successful in breeding heat-resistant breeds of coral, we may give many coral reefs a chance to recover.

Geonu Kim

Age 15
Las Vegas, NV

Sofia Jisoo Kim

Age 16
Los Angeles, CA
reflection >

My painting was drawn with the idea of portraying a message that says that we have to keep the ocean clean and a safe place for sea creatures. In my painting, I have drawn a couple dead fish to display what happens as a consequence of throwing trash into the ocean. As of 2016, it was estimated that about 270,000 tons of plastic were floating on the ocean’s surface. It was recorded that in merely one year, 32 million tons of plastic waste was produced, with only about nine percent being recycled. This means that most of the waste either goes to landfills that grow tremendously everyday or to the ocean. Just in the past forty years, 52% of Earth’s wildlife has disappeared. There are 700 different marine species that are currently endangered by the plastic waste in the ocean. Despite the amount of damage we have done to our ecosystem, we humans continue to waste and liter. There are thousands of sea creatures that die daily by ingesting trash that is harmful for their bodies, or get stuck on plastic and choke themselves. Oil spills have also been a huge problem in our world. There are so many big commercial ships that carry cargo around and fill the oceans with oil, preventing birds from flying and killing many sea creatures. I am hoping that this painting raises awareness about the amount of trash that is being dumped into the ocean daily. On the right side of my painting, I drew all the trash that has collected in the ocean in a cage. This cage is a barrier between the sea creatures and the harmful objects mindlessly being thrown into the ocean that harm them. This is a visual of what I wish would gradually happen in our oceans, that the trash will be separated from the sea creatures and eventually taken out of the oceans. The cage is locked by a lock and key, which the fish that is alive has the key to. This fish is locking all the trash away from his fellow fish who have already been harmed by the trash. As depicted by my painting, my hope for the future is that people around the world become of the serious problems caused by our littering and do something about it.

Seohyeon Lee

Age 16
Pleasanton, CA
reflection >

This picture depicts a sea bird running away from a dirty, polluted sea. The message of this drawing is that the seagulls want to escape from the ocean filled with rubbish and fly freely over the sky. In fact, the pollution was made from the negligence of human for the natural environment. In the picture, you can see a woman and man looking at different direction. It means they are turning away from the birds and fishes in the pollution. Birds cannot eat contaminated fish and can no longer live. The main character of this story is not only a seagull. Just as gulls cannot survive in water-polluted waters, so goes all life, including human being. The seagulls rising above the sky express the desire of all creatures who want to be free from ocean pollution.

Casside Parfait

Age 17
Westwego, LA
reflection >

I live in New Orleans, and the BP oil spill was a horrible firsthand experience. I have seen water pollution at extremes, dead fish and birds covered in oil, and the seafood industry suffer deeply. I was inspired to do something related to the devastating effects of the BP oil spill, but while researching, I came across another story. I learned about how my state bird, the Brown Pelican, was driven out of its home due to DDT runoff. The harmful insecticide was sprayed to kill bugs and it ran off into the water and affected the fish. The pelicans that consumed the fish were affected and when they laid eggs, the shells were weak and their offspring would die. The birds then left Louisiana and it took years to get the population up again. I was so motivated by the idea of the Brown Pelicans being gone, I centered my piece around that. I could not imagine waking up one day and having the beautiful bird gone from my own backyard. My piece depicts a bird, one I decided to make up. I thought by generalizing the species of bird, the viewer could better picture any type of bird in mind in a similar situation. The background is a collage of maps, cut up and reorganized into a latticed pattern. The misconstrued map symbolizes the bird’s struggle of leaving home, having to relocate to unknown lands, as well as disrupted migration patterns.

Vaibhavi Patankar

Age 15
Woodland Hills, CA
reflection >

Just off the coast of California lies a string of famous islands that are home to a great diversity of life.  Trips to the Santa Rosa Island Research Station with my school have instilled within me a great desire to promote the stewardship of natural resources and cultivate an appreciation for nature in its truest form. It dawned on me that we play a key role in promoting the welfare of our environment, and the beauty of Santa Rosa Island really opened my eyes to a world beyond the city life that I am accustomed to. The island has a rich and intriguing history and remarkable biodiversity, including its native species; the protection of these was a primary reason I dedicated time on the island to ensure the proper care of the ocean wildlife. The current restoration efforts on the island have showed me that there is hope in encouraging a society to change its current state of mind that doesn’t pay much regard to our ecosystems and their creatures. And with this in mind, I thought that drawing this picture, on the effects of oil spills, would be a great way to spread this message.

Oil spills are a hazardous outcome of industrialization and marine animals must pay the price. My artwork, “Helping Hands”, depicts gloved hands trying to rescue a seagull trapped in the oil. As the oil drips from the orange gloves and strikes the water below, puddles of oil are formed. Trapped within those puddles are a sea turtle and a sand crab, two of the many innocent victims of the oil spill.

Albert Pei

Age 16
Union City, CA
reflection >

Ever since I was little, I heard about how humans improved life and how fortunate we were compared to those who lived long ago. However, as I grew older and saw more of our world, I couldn’t help but see the lives we destroyed to improve our own. There was deforestation and mass extinction in many places. Then one day, I learned about oil spills. It was during 2010 when the BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico released two hundred million gallons of oil into the ocean. Many pictures of oil covered seabirds and other wildlife filled news screens as they reported one of the biggest oil leaks in history. I’m a major advocate for the conservation of waterfowl. Seeing so many of them in such miserable state sparked both sadness for the victims and anger for the irresponsibility of the guilty party. As I learned more about ocean pollution, I felt increasingly responsible to help protect ocean wildlife. Our oceans cover the majority of the Earth’s crust. They provide us with an abundance of beauty and mystery. If we are to continue appreciating them and all that they give, we must protect them. Protect them for the sake of our planet and our future upon it.

Eli Smith

Age 19
Cottonwood, AZ
reflection >

A disturbance on the water, creates a ripple effect going outward into a splash that then becomes a wave that can dictate what the future will become. This piece derived by the ripple effect in the natural world, and how little acts can lead to big consequences. I was not sure which issue of ocean pollution to tackle, so I decided to give a general lesson about what happens if we create a negative impact on the ocean. All events that harm the sea, to me, such as the BP Oil Spill in 2010, always make me angered and feel a sense of hopelessness. Man is the leading cause of ocean pollution. The choices we make, or actions we do, create ripple effects that will determine the future of our ocean and ourselves. Land-based sources like discharge, sewage, and pesticides account for 80% of marine pollution. But it doesn't have to be like this. The ripple effect can be made out of good decisions too. Positive acts can make a big difference. Be the person who creates positive ripple effects, for the future of our children.

Amanda Song

Age 15
Sunnyvale, CA
reflection >

Growing up in California’s Bay Area, I’ve been blessed by the grace of ocean waves and sparkling sea foam on many occasions. Hearing about ocean pollution and thinking about glistening waters suddenly being swallowed up by darkness is heart wrenching. Personally, this horrible feeling resembles a villain’s assault against an angel. This imagery is what I sought to express through my watercolor painting. The masked face, refined with poster paints, represents the oil industry, with drills crowning its forehead. The mask symbolizes the inhuman perspective that oil companies possess. Underneath this facade is a crying face, which illustrates how pollution’s damage eventually comes around and hurts us too. Crude oil spills are pictured as the mask’s hair, flowing from a corrupted source and reaching towards a crying girl. She represents the ocean and its anguish, symbolizing the ocean’s innocence and fresh elegance. Between the two lie a coastal city, which is caught in the crossfire of pollution; meaning, ocean contamination hurts aquatic and human environments. Lastly, in the center, a little boy raises his arm up in defiance of the monster that aims to ruin the ocean. This symbolizes the hope, power, and need for the next generation to rise up and put an end to the injustice and destruction oil pollution has forced upon Earth’s oceans.

Sarah Vargas

Age 16
Allendale, NJ
reflection >

Between 1947 and 1979, the Hudson River and its wildlife suffered from pollution produced by large companies along its banks. In recent years, marine biologists’ and conservationists’ dedicated efforts to clean up the river have prevailed. Increased sightings of humpback whales in New York Harbor just off the shores of Manhattan are a testament of improving conditions. I have sailed on the Hudson River for years and personally witnessed the gradual return of wildlife to the area. Yet, despite these advancements, I continue to helplessly watch litter float by on the river’s surface. My painting was created with the intention to remind people that there is still work to be done. In it, both a whale and a sinking ship are trapped in a bottle - a literal representation of pollution’s impact on wildlife as a result of human neglect. The sinking ship symbolizes human carelessness and the whale embodies the innocence of the marine life our negligence directly impacts. The sunrise in the background represents hope, inspired by the burgeoning humpback whale presence in the Hudson River, signifying cleaner water. The concept of hope is further explored in the piece because the whale, although trapped in litter, is swimming in clean water, a subtle homage to the success of Hudson River conservationists. My piece serves to remind people of the consequences of their actions on other living beings. Everyone must remain vigilant and active to keep all bodies of water clean and to protect the homes of marine life.  

Sophie Wei

Age 14
Lower Hutt, New Zealand
reflection >

On the 5th of October 2011, New Zealand experienced our worst environmental
disaster. The Rena, a cargo ship, tipped near the Bay of Plenty, and spilled 360
tonnes of fuel oil. Beaches were closed, and it is estimated 20,000 seabirds were affected. I was small when it happened, but I remember it was all anyone could talk about for weeks. In comparison to the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not a lot, but for us, clean green NZ, it was hard. We are small. We didn’t think it would happen here. In these situations, it is easy to blame the captain, the ship, the company. It is easy to point fingers and them cross them, and hope it won’t happen again. But our constant demand for more oil, for more product (and then our ignorance to how it gets to us) is killing our oceans. There were eight crates of hazardous material on that ship; But no one cared until it tipped. In my piece, I showed this with the black claws digging into the figure, which represents our greed. The flashing dollar and toxic signs in her eyes symbolise the danger that comes with our constant desire for more. It’s a simple metaphor, but it gets the message across: We are the problem!

Sophia Yang

Age 15
Vancouver, Canada
reflection >

My drawing expresses one type of ocean pollution, which is the “ghost net”. The ghost net is a specific type of plastic pollution resulting from fishing nets left or lost in the ocean by fishermen. These nets, often invisible in the dim light, are left tangled on rocky reefs or drifting in open sea and entangle fish, dolphin, sea turtles, dugongs, and other creatures. To represent the beauty of the ocean, I used watercolor as its transparent nature makes the drawing look like real water. The drawing is divided into two parts to compare two distinct environments. In the upper part, the entangled mermaid is struggling to tear the net apart to be free from the dirty water. These nets also keep other creatures from going anywhere as well. In the lower part, the nets split up gradually and disappear into the clean water. The beautiful fish, jellyfish, and mermaid’s tail show that they are in a healthy environment. The message I want to convey in my piece is to warn that people will one day become like that mermaid if we continue to be careless with fishing nets. Furthermore, the action of lacerating nets can be understood as a solution to the animals entangled in nets. In the lower part, which includes the mermaid’s tail, I chose to keep it clean to represent the hope that we can keep mermaids and all ocean animals free from ocean pollution.

Ziyi Zhou

Age 17
Suzhou, China
reflection >

I would like to express my understanding of ocean pollution through participating in this marine pollution creative competition. One photograph gave me a lot of ideas and inspirations when I was doing research. In this photograph, a man is embracing a polluted fish. This action shows that human beings have realized that most polluted creatures in the ocean died from man-made pollution. I want to raise awareness of ocean conservation in order to protect our environment. I use the dried quail egg shell to represent ocean waste, large broken shells represent our destroyed marine system and curled paper art represents the ocean life under sea waves.

Gold

Awards

$1,500

Akhila Bandlora

Age 15
Phoenix, AZ

BASIS Phoenix

$1,500 Award

“never forget”

 

Silver

AwardS

$1,000

Kelly Hui

Age 15
Lexington, MA

“Blue Heart”

 

Grace Leonard

Age 17
Wilmington, NC

“Look Skywards”

 

Bronze

AwardS

$500

Lois Shaw

Age 17
San Francisco, CA

“Cacophony”

 

Joyce Zhou

Age 17
Naperville, IL

“With Action,
A New Tomorrow”

Distinguished Honorable
Mention

$250

“Returning the Favor”

Kevin Hu

Age 17
Wilmington, NC

“Remnants of
a Blue Circus”

Sophia Huang

Age 16
Richmond Hill, Canada

“Thalassic”

Ameya Sriram

Age 15
Ellicott City, MD

“Crossroads”

Tammy Zhang

Age 14
Superior, CO

Honorable
Mention

$250

“Our Masterpiece”

Anna Briley

Age 16
Cumberland, ME

“Neptune”

Mhairi Cameron

Age 16
Great Falls, VA

“235 Db”

Suet Chan

Age 17
Flushing, NY

“Lines of Fact or Fiction”

Allison Chang

Age 16
Waipahu, HI

“The Tale of Two Titans”

Justin Duong

Age 18
Orange, CA

“The Green Monster”

Julianna Grubbs

Age 17
Midlothian, VA

“Miles Down”

Tavie Kittredge

Age 15
Portland, OR

“Subaquatic Cousins”

Emily Knight

Age 17
Baton Rouge, LA

“The Five Stages”

Grace Lee

Age 16
Norwood, NJ

“All in the World
Was Well”

Nina Spinello

Age 17
Templeton, CA

“Fool's Gold”

Alyssa Tyson

Age 17
Hopewell, VA

Notable
Submission

$100

“Beach Day”

Bonnie Castleman

Age 18
San Francisco, CA

“Our Turtle”

Swati Goel

Age 15
Stanford, CA

“Mother of
Mother Earth”

Hannah Habibi

Age 17
Orange, CA

“First Love”

Minji Ko

Age 16
Odessa, TX

“There is Nothing
We Can Do”

Niamh Ní Iceadha

Age 18
Dublin, Ireland

“An Impending Future”

Elizabeth Schriner

Age 17
Olivet, MI

“Forgotten Blues”

Tanya Singh

Age 17
Chandigarh, India

JUDGE'S PICK

$100

“Soda Bottle Sorry /
My Ocean Story”

Amber Garma

Age 16
Cabanatuan, Philippines

ATLANTIC
WHITE SHARK CONSERVANCY AWARD

$125

“Make a Wave”

Isis Huang

Age 16
San Leandro, CA

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Award is presented to a high school student who effectively combines the contest theme and the vision of the Conservancy, which is to increase knowledge of Atlantic white sharks and change public perception to conserve the species and ensure biologically diverse marine ecosystems.

Gold

Award

$1,500

Elizabeth Mountz

Age 17
Pittsburgh, PA

Fox Chapel Area School District

$1,500 Award

“The Unspoken
Price Tag”

SILVER

AwardS

$1,000

Bronze

Award

$500

Pierce McDonnell

Age 18
San Francisco, CA

“A Solution to ‘Defuel’ Sunken Ships”

Hayden Stokley

Age 16
Laurel, MS

“cerulean”

Eleanor Wikstrom

Age 15
Oakland, CA

“Lifeblood”

DISTINGUISHED
Honorable
Mention

$250

“A Letter to the
President”

Jessica Barker

Age 16
Franklin, TN

“Blue Planet”

Max Li

Age 17
Thornhill, Canada

“The True Monsters
of the Sea”

Kellen Vu

Age 16
Phoenix, AZ

Honorable
Mention

$250

“An Oily Situation”

Haley Bayne

Age 17
Brookline, MA

“The Demise of the Rainforest of the Sea”

Lily Bermel

Age 18
Chestnut Hill, MA

“It Started with Seafood”

Bing Chen

Age 17
Brooklyn, NY

“A Message From the Future”

Haley Cionfolo

Age 16
Knoxville, TN

“Monday Night Oysters”

Rachel Eber

Age 18
Brookline, MA

“A Foreseeable Future”

Timur Ibragimov

Age 17
Brooklyn, NY

“What It Means to Dream About Water”

Fabian LaPalme

Age 16
Loxley, AL

“The Invaders”

Matthew Liu

Age 18
Burlingame, CA

“Restoring the Tears of the Bay”

Lauryn Wu

Age 16
McLean, VA

Judge's Pick

$100

“A Study in Oil”

Megha Gopal

Age 15
New Hyde Park, NY

Gold

Award

$1,500

Ely German

Age 16
Houston, TX
reflection >

“In Our Hands” is a hand drawn, frame by frame, watercolor animation. It’s a ten frame per second picture meaning that for every second that goes by in the video I had to make ten drawings. The reason why I decided to put so much detail into this video is that I felt like the issue surrounding ocean pollution (oil spills specifically) deserved more than just some attention. Ocean pollution should not be something brushed off, we must engage in conversation and take action. This animation shows a world in which a green hand holds the planet, the inhabitants of the ocean are happy. A red hand bullies the world into darkness (oil spills). This darkness immediately harms ocean life, it destroys color. A paintbrush returns the ocean life back to its vibrating color. Today, we have the ability to fix the horrors we’ve caused, but it won't be like this for long. We must take action fast before the damage becomes irreversible. Thank you!

#GreenHands

The Emery/Weiner School

$1,500 Award

Silver

Award

$1,000

Group: Wildlife Conservation Corps

Neitchka Alexandre, Syed Ali, Sylvia Bird, Allan Boyarski, Teja Deonarine, Arly Espinosa, Moira Griffin, Evelyn Guzman, Xavier Hernandez, Benji Marin, Esther Ogunwale, Daley Polner, Leonna Prithwipaul, Em Rodriguez, Brandon Steele

Brooklyn, NY
reflection >

Imagine: you’re swimming in the clear, blue ocean next to a variety of magnificent marine creatures. Suddenly, you pass a section of water that turns murky. The once-pristine sea froth turns into plastic bags, cans, and styrofoam. This is what marine pollution looks like, and combating it is our passion. We are the Wildlife Conservation Corps; our mission as the WCC team is to educate the public on the effects of plastic in the ocean and give alternative ways to reduce this problem. We created this film using stop motion animation. All the props used in the film were obtained from a beach cleanup we performed at Kaiser Park in Brooklyn, NY. We were inspired by how litter was different in the city than in suburban and rural areas as well as our mutual passion for conservation. As we collected litter we found pieces that formed a story. Some things we’ve learned from creating this film were that as people, we should be aware of what we throw on the floor and how that impacts our daily lives. Also, we should think about our individual impact on the environment. We learned how to be better advocates and how to respect our environment. WCC members created this film in less than five days. In addition, for many of us this was the first time creating a film.

Bronze

AwardS

$500

Molly Hirsch

Age 17
Los Angeles, CA
reflection >

Since as long as I remember, I’ve had a natural longing to be near water and earth. Whenever I’m stressed or uncomfortable, I do one of two things; inadvertently end up sitting the closest I can to the ground (where I’m nearest to the earth) or imagining that I’m floating in the sea or a lake far away. These two things always bring me peace. I wake up every morning, lucky to live in California, thankful and fascinated by how beautiful and giving nature is. I appreciate every season and shade of the sky that the earth willingly provides to us humans. The idea for this documentary came to me shortly after the last documentary I made about homelessness in Downtown LA in Spring 2016. I was at an event about creating ocean friendly gardens and found out all about storm drain runoff. That summer, I volunteered picking up trash along the beach and then took a class which coincidentally discussed storm drain runoff. It became clear that this information was something crucial to the survival of the ocean and consequently, humans. This documentary dives into the impact of ocean pollution and climate change and the simple steps people can take to prevent further pollution. I spent five months planning, filming, and editing “Six.” because I have such a strong passion to keep this planet for generations to come. Too many species are dying too fast and humans CAN prevent this.

Aerin Wu

Age 16
West Vancouver, Canada
reflection >

I was born by the sea in Shanghai, where I turned fourteen. Two years ago, I moved to Canada’s Pacific coast. In a way, I have always felt I belonged to the Pacific Ocean. I’ve seen photos of marine animals stuck in plastic bags, and suffering from ingesting plastic materials. The shocking statistics of how severe ocean pollution is, and how great the impact is, concerns me, especially the huge amount of non-biodegradable plastic in the sea. This is one of the main factors that affect the ocean. I created this animation to raise awareness and let people start to think about what they can do for the ocean. Hopefully, through our efforts, our oceans can have a better future.

PEARL AWARD

$300

Madilynn Hamilton

Age 16
Los Altos, CA
reflection >

In this film, I wanted to express my passion for nitrogen pollution, sewage, and runoff in a way that others could connect to. The past four months I have been learning at Coastal Studies for Girls, a marine science and leadership semester school in Freeport, Maine, where I have explored the power of excess nitrogen in a marine ecosystem through a research project. Something so invisible and ethereal can wreak so much havoc with microscopic organisms, phytoplankton, which would otherwise be essential to life. I intended to spark someone else’s imagination with the poems I wrote and recited and my dancing just like I had connected with these art forms myself. When I looked at the previous contest winners, I saw that an astounding amount were about plastic pollution. I already cared deeply about nutrient pollution and felt it was necessary to give it a voice, which is why I decided to focus on this issue.

SONG OF THE SEA AWARDS

$300

Greyson Jenkins & Gina Trott

Age 17
West Yarmouth, MA
reflection >

The format of the project was very naturally decided; both Gina and myself have been creating rap songs whether from the tops of our heads or composing pieces that have significance to us for about two years. Not only does the rapping platform allow us to continue what we do in our own time, but it’s perfect for this project because we have a lot to say in a short amount of time.

Our song is able to address a majority of the issues threatening our oceans ranging from oil spills to noise pollution. Our demand as humans needs to decline. We must grow compassion, concern, and mindfulness. There are alternatives and solutions, we offer a few specific products to encourage a switch. Ultimately however, the change of mind is first and foremost in our eyes. If people are not willing to face the consequences of their actions, not able to see the wrongs, then alternatives and clean up will not serve a purpose to them. We hope our song is able to not only influence people to enforce simple alternatives and solutions, but encourage them to change laws, minds, and clean the world up before it really is too late. We as a species have been saying “Reduce, Reuse. Recycle” for years--it becomes more urgent every day. Our species cannot continue to slaughter, poison, and pillage our oceans, or just as bad, lay idle watching.

Maia
Moredock-Ting

Age 16
Oakland, CA
reflection >

Ocean pollution has never made me feel very good. It was always something I found myself trying to push to the back of my mind because of how scary the reality is, and sometimes it felt easier to ignore it instead of facing the facts. This project helped me confront an issue, something I had never really done before, and become passionate about the issue of ghost fishing. At the start, I decided I wanted to write a song because I feel like music is a universal language. It’s something everybody enjoys in some way and a great way to get a message across. Lyrics can get stuck in people’s heads easily, and I figured, if I wrote a catchy song, maybe the issue would stick with people who listened to it the same way. I decided to incorporate humor as well to make it more engaging, and even soften the blow with certain facts. I didn’t want to take away from the severity of the problem, but rather make it easier for people to hear the truth. All of these goals went into the making of this video, and in the process I was able to feel more comfortable facing the realities of ocean pollution. Although it may be scary, it’s vital that we all take the time to educate ourselves, and I hope I can contribute to this notion in some way with my song and video.

Adriena Clifton

Age 18
Shaw Island, WA
reflection >

I wrote this song about the threat of coal pollution, specifically the pollution that comes from coal dust being transported by large oil tankers. A few years ago, a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point, Washington would have led to the passage of large, dangerous ships through the waters of my home, the San Juan Islands. Thankfully, many community members stepped forward in protest and halted the proposal. The images in this video were taken by people who love their home. These photos help me to convey how beautiful it is and how pollution could endanger that beauty. You must be passionate about something to make it the focus of your art and when you look at these photos, you see the passion and love the photographer has for their subject. The people I know love the wildlife, the trees, the sunsets, the water, and the land as I do. I’m not so good with a camera (which is why I asked my friends for help), but I enjoy making music so this song was my way of expressing love. The song is in a minor key and has a driving rhythm that is supposed to sound like a train. When a train is on its track, going full speed ahead, it is very difficult to stop and reverse. I hoped to convey the desperation of our situation. If we don’t try our very best to slow down now, we may never be able to go back.

DISTINGUISEHD
Honorable
Mention

$250

Youngseo An

Age 17
Little Neck, NY
reflection >

I initially struggled with choosing a concept that fit the theme and did not know what direction to take the film to. I got the opportunity to visit a bay area in New York in hopes of getting some inspiration, and there I finally decided on the lens through which I would explore ocean pollution. Observing the water with the said topic in mind, I started to notice the significant amount of litter scattered around the bay area. It wasn’t something I immediately noticed, but rather something that become increasingly obvious as I focused on the details of the surrounding landscape. I decided to visit a second waterfront location, this time closer to the city, and noticed a similar trend. Litter existed, which was a clear and upfront indication of ocean pollution happening in my very own neighborhood. This encouraged me to research various causes and consequences of ocean pollution, as well as the means of prevention. It’s astonishing just how much impact one person can make—simply by opting to use a reusable water bottle, one individual can immensely reduce their carbon footprint. I hope this film encourages viewers to consider the effect their everyday actions can have on Earth’s oceans. Unlike most of today’s consumer goods, the ocean is not something you can repurchase when you damage the current one. It is essential that we recognize the problem of ocean pollution at hand and work as a society to keep it from becoming a bigger concern. Considering the vast expanse of the ocean, it is reassuring to know that something as small as consuming more homemade meals or carrying a grocery tote with you to the supermarket can make a difference.

David Millman

Age 15
Richmond, VA
reflection >

I had always heard in the background about how we needed to do something about ocean pollution and then I would forget about it and continue with my day. This is referenced in my film, when I mention that just laughing at a silly gimmick, a.k.a Billy the Bottle, and then leaving a like doesn’t do anything to help the cause. I attempt to illustrate the main problem that I feel educational videos commonly face, action after the initial viewing. My main motive for making the video was because of the serious problems we all face, that these problems affect all people on the earth. I tried to point out that change has to start immediately or the results could be catastrophic. Of course, I attempted to lighten some of the darker points of the film with comic relief, with Billy the Bottle evolving from a mock of the kid friendly gimmicks educational films use to a full on satire machine. I enjoy my time on the beach, so I felt that it was necessary to make a video educating the public on the issues that we all face. My family was very surprised when I told them that ⅕ of the ocean will be inhospitable to life in the future, which fueled my desire to help the public understand even more. If my video results in one person making any type of difference in their lifestyle to help the ocean, I will consider it a success.

Meredith Reynolds

Age 17
Buffalo, MN
reflection >

I’ve never seen the ocean. I’ve never gotten to experience all the wonder. I am fascinated by marine life and have always had a love for dolphins, turtles, orcas, and other animals. (An Excerpt from “My Bucket List”:) #2 : Vacation next to an ocean; #10: Scuba dive or snorkel in an ocean reef; #19 : Swim with dolphins; #38 : Learn how to surf. One day I will go to the ocean and fulfill all my dreams. I just hope that when I get there it’s not gone. Pollution has been increasing in the past few decades and it’s very alarming. Tons of animals and plants are dying or even going extinct. This makes me sad. We all have heard about oil pollution and plastic pollution, but I was curious about the other suggested topics on the website. I found several of them very interesting, including nuclear waste and acidification. However, the one that affected me the most was noise pollution. I have a weak heart for all animals, so learning that noise pollution affects them so greatly, makes me not only sad, but extremely angry. There is no one, no animal or human being, that deserves to be treated like this. Something like this shouldn’t be allowed. I grew very passionate and after a few articles I was hooked. I was like, “People need to be informed. This needs to stop. I’m going to make a film about this. I can make the change.”

Honorable
Mention

$250

Moira Kurtz

Age 17
Farmington, MO
reflection >

It is often too easy for average citizens to expect only coast dwellers to suffer from pollution on the ocean shores. However, the next generation of workers and rescuers from around the United States need a movement to launch their dreams on. In this video, I was hoping to connect the audience with the expectations of young children who do not know much about the current pollution situation. To see them describe a beautiful ocean while viewing images of a broken landscape is both tragic and heartbreaking. When we realize that the ocean effects everyone, and not just a certain group of people, it opens the doors to new realizations and possibilities. Now let’s #BeTheChange.

Kristin Kweon

Age 17
Leonia, NJ
reflection >

Born on Earth Day, I always felt as though it was my unwritten duty to protect the environment. I have always felt such gratitude and love towards our environment, and it upsets me beyond words whenever I think about the irreversible damage that has been done to such a beautiful planet. I believe a reason for this almost irreversible damage is due to most people’s failure to recognize the ocean as a home. We humans are willing to defend, protect, and cherish what is ours, yet irony comes into play as we take advantage of marine species that are unable to defend their home; in fact, we have exploited defenseless species on almost all ecosystems.

Filmmaking is a medium I am feverishly intrigued by, as it is the only platform on which I am able to share my thoughts, stories, and beliefs with passion and confidence. In this short claymation/stop-motion video, I briefly portray the unfortunate luck of a sea turtle family, as the youngest gets a plastic cup stuck on his head and the mother becomes covered in oil. They are left with no safe haven to go to avoid such pollution, as their home has clearly been devastated by humans. For this short film, I used gentle colors and created cute clay versions of real situations, as I find that things that are perceived as adorable and sweet evoke stronger emotions when misfortune strikes. As I continue to grow as a filmmaker, my goal in evoking change and inspiration through my work will follow me.

Caitlin Roberts

Age 15
Anchorage, AK
reflection >

When I first read about this contest I automatically knew I wanted to somehow include footage from the Alaska Sealife Center. I have visited there every year, and it is a place that has really fostered my love of marine life. So, since the Sealife Center is in Seward, Alaska, I decided to look up pollution issues in that area. The first article that came up online was about coal pollution in Resurrection Bay. I was fascinated by the issue, because each summer when I camped in Seward, our camper always looked out at the coal conveyer belt. I couldn't believe that all these years, I had never known the danger it posed to marine life. I also thought that the story of coal pollution in Seward fit well with this year’s theme of ocean optimism.  ecause even though coal pollution is an ongoing problem, Alaskans have taken action and made serious steps towards solving the problem.  Also, I was very excited to incorporate coal pollution, because before doing the research for the project, I really only thought that coal could pollute the air. I’d never thought of the consequences it had to the ocean, and I'm hoping that by watching my video, others are now also more aware of its dangers to marine ecosystems.

NOTABLE
SUBMISSION

$100

Michael Agreda & Nicholas Tucker

Age 16
Orange, CA
reflection >

Our video touches on the environmental impact on the ocean of plastic water bottles, from their production to their disposal. Factory smokestacks release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is absorbed by the ocean and causes ocean acidification. When hydrogen ions enter the ocean, they bond with carbonate, preventing marine organisms and coral reefs from acquiring carbonate to build their skeletons and shells with. As a result, coral reefs – havens of oceanic biodiversity, fish spawning, and nutrient cycling – are rapidly dying off. Toxic waste and byproduct associated with manufacturing plastic water bottles can be dumped directly into the ocean, damaging marine ecosystems. In the United Sates, more than 67 million plastic water bottles are discarded every day, many of which end up in the ocean. Plastic bottles harm marine life and contribute to phenomena such as the Great Pacific garbage patch. Most of the consequences of plastic water bottles are negated by simple lifestyle changes. By switching to reusable water bottles, one can prevent plastic from entering the ocean, slow the rate of coral reef die-off, and lessen the amount of waste contaminating our oceans.

Thorin Kafka

Age 16
Nampa, ID
reflection >

I would not consider myself to be super enthusiastic about nature. I can find things in nature that I can appreciate and find enjoyment in, but I don’t find joy or wonder in most of the things that my family would. However, I do have a shared interest in one thing with my family: the ocean. Every time we go to the ocean is one of the most exciting experiences for me. I can actually find a lot of things to enjoy and find immense beauty in the ocean that I couldn’t find with most other natural wonders. I also would not consider myself to be very interested in environmental issues. To me, issues like climate change and plastic in the oceans are unimportant when compared to the minor issues I work through everyday. I even avoid these issues, because looking into them would only make me feel very depressed, which would slow me down and keep me from being able to do anything. A love for the ocean, and a stubborn uninterested attitude towards its problems came together to help form the theme of my video. Instead of making a video that highlights all of the facts and causes for the problem, like most of the videos on the subject I hate and avoid watching, I wanted to make a video that highlights an attitude that some people have towards the issue, hoping that people might see their attitudes in the video as much as I do.

Summer Lauder

Age 16
Wake Forest, NC
reflection >

It’s evident that certain forms of ocean pollution are better known than others. For instance, everyone knows about how plastic and oil spills affect the ocean, but most people don’t know about ocean acidification. It’s sad to see that this massive problem that lurks in the sea is so under the radar. That's why I decided to focus my film on ocean acidification, in hopes to educate people on its effects and ways to prevent further damage to our oceans. When researching this topic, I noticed that there was a certain phrase commonly used to describe the ocean’s continuous rise in acidification; scientist would call it “The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem” (with global warming being the central carbon dioxide problem). This really struck a chord with me because it shows how we still don’t really know all the ways that we are damaging our planet. In the end, I picked this phrase to be my title in hopes that in the one day, ocean acidification will be a global concern. If it's not, there probably won't be any life in the ocean to worry about.

Irene Park & Emma Schillerstrom

Silver Spring, MD
reflection >

We have always been interested in the world around us, especially in terms of the environment and the ocean. Our summers are often spent traveling to places that are absolutely stunning and completely natural. In light of recent political events, however, there’s a possibility that places like this will not exist in the future, and it’s rather troubling to us that there are people who deny climate change, ocean pollution, and other extremely pressing environmental issues. As students, we decided that there are plenty of existing documentaries and similar films that detail the severity of these problems, but oftentimes, these kinds of videos do not reach an expansive audience. We geared our film toward a younger viewer base, creating a humorous music video that still made obvious the problems we are facing. In many cases, students need an extra bit of humor and light-heartedness to genuinely connect with something, and ocean pollution is extremely important to connect to, in part because humans are largely to blame. In using an already familiar tune (but adding our own lyrics to communicate our ideas and avoid copyright issues), we also thought it would be easier for people to remember. We had a lot of fun working together to make this film, especially because it addresses a topic we are both passionate about. We hope it shows.

Bobby Stitt

Age 18
Brookline, MA
reflection >

My film is a video of myself drawing twine around my neck. Towards the end of the video I surround the twine with black paint to present the illusion of a squeezed neck. So many marine animals become entangled because of human waste, and so I attempted to show people what it would look like if this happened to a human. Humans react differently to other humans being choked than animals, and I wanted to capture this attention and turn it to marine creatures so that people paid equal attention to the atrocities happening to them. Outside of this project I am a huge advocate for environmental action. Myself and a couple friends have started building rain barrels and hydroponic and aquaponic farms to try and make a difference, and I work at a hydroponic farm to do the same thing. Thank you so much for the opportunity to show my work and thank you for doing this to try and get kids involved with something we all should care about.

Judge's Pick

$100

Alex Horne

Age 15
Wake Forest, NC
reflection >

This project was extremely inspiring to me. As a child, I was always the kid who would stop in the middle of walking the track to pick up trash, and go throw it away. I was also the kid who would cry during the Dawn oil spill commercials, and the little ducks would be covered in oil and then cleaned off (I still do.) Since I was about four, I have had an extreme love of the ocean, and wanted to be a conservation biologist most of my life. I was born with an affinity for the ocean, and the alluring creatures it possesses. This project helped reopen my eyes to how fragile the ocean truly is, and let me have an opportunity to teach and inform others on the changes and reforms that need to be made to protect it. Seeing the light that shone in the kids’ eyes when they talked about their favorite sea animals, and the adults’ eyes when they talked about their favorite ocean memories was inspiring. After the camera was turned off, almost all of the participants came up to me afterwards to talk about how baffled they were by the information I told them about pollution. Overall, I loved this project because it gave me a chance to tell others about the seriousness of ocean pollution, and helped rejuvenate my love and passion for protecting our beautiful, majestic ocean once again.

Amanda Van Pelt

Age 17
Roseville, CA
reflection >

There are always multiple ways to solve a problem. For example, in order to produce the energy needed to power our lives there are many options—solar, crude oil, wind power, and many more. But some options are better than others; solar, though it takes further technology, is a much cleaner source of energy and is renewable, compared to crude oil, which is diminishing fast and is dirty.

That is what I tried to anticipate with this project—what would be the best way to help the ocean that would be the most all encompassing and, well, simple? There were many avenues to take; I thought about all of the different innovations that have been created around the idea and tried to come up with some of my own, but I realized something was missing. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of capitalism: it’s an economic system proven to work pretty well, all off of the basis of human desire. I could see that for such a large issue like ocean pollution, a system like capitalism was needed. A natural system; one that works through a chain of reactions. All I needed to do was find the spark; the spark that would light the flame, that would light the fire.

And to find the spark, I needed to take a few steps back. I thought about how I came to love and respect the ocean, and I found that it was through knowledge. The more I discovered about the marine life living in the tide pools, the more I learned about all of the ecosystems the ocean supports, the more I felt the power of the ocean at my fingertips and saw its beauty, the more I grew to love and respect it. So I decided to write a book, geared toward children, that would teach about the ocean. I have always admired Disney for managing to make their movies entertaining for both children and adults, so I tried a similar formula. My book addresses two main concepts: ocean pollution and our duty to help stop its spread, and the life of barnacles, commonly overpassed creatures that some don’t even know are actually alive.

My book is not ‘bestseller’ quality.  It’s generally the product of my idea: to educate children on the condition of our ocean and its marine life. It is known that children are the most impressionable and receptive to knowledge. I’m sure you were inspired by something in your childhood to do what you are doing now.

But isn’t that why we have aquariums? To educate children (and adults) about the ocean? This is very true but I believe we now have in our hands a global issue. And when I say global I mean all nations, all communities, all peoples. Not only does the ocean help support the life on land, in other words us and many other species, but we are also apart of a truly globalized world now. Support and education about the ocean can no longer stop a couple miles inland. We need people to learn about the ocean and grow to actually care about it, even if they are miles away.  And that is what a children’s book has the capability of doing.   

Group:
VMA Cinematic Arts Club

Junsen Huang
Yinuo Li
Zuodi Pang
Ningyu Wen

Age 16
Shenzhen, China
reflection >

The Cinematic Arts Club was founded in spring 2017, and this film is the first big project of our club. When we’re doing this project, we have done a lot of research not only in coral protection but also in sea contamination, fishing, personal wealth in Shenzhen, etc. In this process, many members leave our club because those interview and research have nothing to do with filmmaking. However, those people who stay insist that the thing we tell is the essence of the story. So we continued to do research, connecting and learning from Dive for Love, which is a coral protection organization in Shenzhen. With their help, we finally made this film which could inspire people to think about the balance between our demand and the ecosystem.