Thousands of Students Create Climate Change Art for Global Ocean Awareness Contest
June 28, 2019

Florida’s Everglades are on fire. Chennai, India, a city of 10 million, is running out of water. A starving polar bear was found wandering the industrial city of Norilsk, Russia, searching for food. You don’t have to get far in climate change headlines to understand that the impacts of the global climate crisis are many, and that they are widespread.

Perhaps that’s why we received just over 3,500 submissions this year from young people around the world—70 countries and 49 U.S. states—for our 8th annual Ocean Awareness Contest, our biggest year yet. That’s 3,500 creations of climate art. 3,500 voices joining and shaping a global narrative about the care and protection of our blue planet.

Global map of youth artist participation in the 2019 Ocean Awareness Contest.


Map of Ocean Awareness Contest participants from the United States including states that submitted more than 100 entries. What’s up, Wyoming?!

For the second year in a row, our Contest focused on the impacts of climate change on the ocean. Covering nearly 70% of Earth, our oceans play a central role in regulating global climate, so ocean health is critical for us all. Our goal was for student participants (and their supporting adults) to understand that climate change is not a distant threat—in time or in location—and, no matter where in the world they are, to feel connected to the ocean and the life within.

“In its early stages, and in between the wrenching disasters, climate is about an early blooming of a particular flower, an unusually thin layer of ice on a lake, the late arrival of a migratory bird—noticing these small changes requires the kind of communion that comes from knowing a place deeply, not just as scenery but also as sustenance…”
—Naomi Klein, Activist and Author of This Changes Everything

Our 2019 Ocean Awareness Contest theme—Presence of Future—was inspired by the beguiling notion of time. Our planet, right now, is experiencing the impacts of our past: emissions of vast amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. But what we do today—whether or not we make rapid and radical changes to how we get energy, get around, and get fed—greatly shapes our ocean and the future of humanity. Scientists say we have about 12 years to make these changes. But then there’s that thermal “lag”—about 25-50 years between the time when greenhouse gases are emitted and when the increased temperatures are truly felt. Presence of Future prompted young artists to explore ocean species, places, or systems that are threatened or will be altered due to climate change. The Contest invited students to look at the world around them attentively.

We celebrate the 3,500 students who have created works of art, film, music, poetry, and prose this year—joining 10,000 others who have participated in the Ocean Awareness Contest in the near decade since its launch.

“We are one planet, one earth, and Bow Seat students from around the globe have demonstrated a universal call for climate awareness. Young people are rightfully concerned about their future and the world they will inherit. Let their voices for climate action be heard, appreciated, and act as our guide.”
—Linda Cabot, President, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

We also want to acknowledge and celebrate the many sponsors, teachers, parents, and adult mentors who introduce students to the program, or otherwise support their creative practice and connection to the natural world. Finally, thank you to our many partners and collaborators who help share the Ocean Awareness Contest with their global networks!

Winners of the 2019 Contest will be announced in early January 2020. Why does it take so long for winners to be announced? Our amazing team of judges take time to consider each and every submission carefully. We take an enormous amount of pride in the care we put into the Contest, and we appreciate your patience as we continue to do so!

Until then, keep connecting, creating, and communicating. Keep an eye out for the announcement of the 2020 Ocean Awareness Contest in late summer!

Featured Artwork: “Protecting the Last Hope” by Sydney Prescott, Age 14, California

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Thousands of Students Create Climate Change Art for Global Ocean Awareness Contest