Congratulations to the Winners of the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest: Water Rising!
November 16, 2021

Message from Founder and President Linda Cabot

As we wrap up the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest, the COP26 climate conference has just concluded in Glasgow. While I am excited for leaders to come together to address the climate crisis, I am reminded of how difficult it is to create meaningful climate action on a global scale.

Floods, droughts, wildfires, coral reef collapse, melting ice, and extinction rates have only increased, as have atmospheric temperatures. Emissions have slowed a bit but not enough to stop warming from progressing beyond a 1.5º C global average increase. We need to do better, yet the challenge is so big, so unwieldy that it feels overwhelming and almost as if it would be easier to tune out, turn off, and just give up.

“Victims of Ignorance” by Lena Gligoric (Sabac, Serbia), Pearl Award Winner & Judge’s Pick in Senior Visual Art

Like so many others, I wrestle with many questions and some confusion about the speed of climate action. The sea level is rising and will continue to rise, no matter what we do. Our oceans have already warmed, and it will take decades to reverse, even if we cut all emissions now. In the meantime, low-lying, coastal communities across the globe are feeling the devastating impacts. While we must mitigate our carbon output to prevent a real catastrophe, we must also plan adaptive strategies.

So how do we engage and educate others to help fight this extraordinary problem?

At Bow Seat, we see creative expression as a powerful change agent. The arts have an important role in the environmental movement—they enable us to communicate issues uniquely, and perhaps more persuasively, in a manner that is interesting, dynamic, and disarming. As one of our student writes:

“Art allows us to examine our relationship to the natural world—as well as our responsibility to act—in more powerful, emotional ways that other media often cannot.”

“It All Begins with Water” by Iris Tsai (San Jose, CA), Silver Award Winner in Junior Visual Art

This year, Bow Seat’s 10th anniversary Contest theme centered on water and its connection to climate change, health, justice, and culture. In their creative works, the students addressed issues like access to safe water, drought and flooding, displacement, and food insecurity. They learned about the health and economic impacts of our increasingly polluted and overfished oceans and waterways. Many of our students beautifully demonstrated empathy and compassion towards our natural world and each other—crucial drivers of the environmental movement—by rendering their love for the Earth and its inhabitants in potent and dynamic artistic expression.

I worry for my glorious twin islands
Because every year
I know something more
Something darker than what I knew before
I know the taste of their sandbags as I crash against their doors
Their gut-wrenching sobs once they realize that I am responsible for the ruin of their belongings
– excerpt from “Water – The Monster of Our Own Making” by Alexandria Douglas (Trincity, Trinidad and Tobago), Voice of the Sea Award & Pearl Award Winner in Senior Poetry

As an artist and educator, I believe in the power of raising awareness around ocean health and climate change issues to build a strong conservation movement. This movement, like the problem itself, has to be global. What I love about Bow Seat’s Contest is that young people worldwide are invited to join a universal effort to advocate for a healthy and sustainable future. Our international student community is now nearly 25,000 strong—this year we added nearly 6,000 new students! From Armenia to Cambodia, Cameroon to Denmark, Brazil to Turkey, the Maldives to Mexico, and Rwanda to Hong Kong, our students are forming a community unified to make change. Knowing that they are a part of this community strengthens them, inspires them to learn more, and ignites them to take action.

Participants from the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest represented 49 U.S. states and 97 countries, joining a global network of young environmental change-makers.

So, when I think about our world leaders coming together at COP26, I also look towards these young creative people as bright beacons guiding us all to a healthier, more sustainable future.

Thank you to all of our student participants for sharing your water stories, and for your courage in standing up for our blue planet.

View all winning works in the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest >

Featured artwork (at top): “A Future to Protect” by Yeso Kim (Tianjin, China), Gold Award Winner in Junior Visual Art

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Congratulations to the Winners of the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest: Water Rising!

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