Students, welcome to your 2021 Resource Studio!
We have articles, videos, quizzes, and more to help you explore water’s connection to climate change, health, justice, and culture; learn about the threats facing aquatic ecosystems; and gain tools to practice creative communication for our blue planet. So dive in and explore! We hope this gives you inspiration, understanding, and knowledge as you develop your creative submission.
2021 OCEAN AWARENESS CONTEST THEME: WATER RISING
Our Ocean Makes Life on Earth Possible
We live on a water planet. The ocean makes life on Earth possible—regulating global climate, producing more than half of the oxygen we breathe, and influencing life on land, even hundreds of miles from a coastline.
Salt, fresh, warm, or cold, all water is connected through the water cycle, also called the hydrologic cycle. This water is continuously in motion: it rises largely from the ocean—which holds 97% of our planet’s water and is the source of 86% of global evaporation—creates clouds in the sky, and returns to land as rain or snow. This precipitation soaks into the ground, collects in freshwater streams and lakes, is taken up by trees and plants, and sustains every living being it encounters on its journey—bacteria, fish, insects, birds, mammals, and of course, humans. All life needs water, and where there is water, there is life.
Yet our blue planet is facing devastating challenges: global warming is fueling extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts, and a warming ocean is contributing to sea level rise around the world. Access to clean water is increasingly threatened by pollution, privatization, and climate change. These threats do not impact us all equally: water contamination and environmental injustice disproportionately affect Indigenous communities, people of color, and the poor. Across the globe, these frontline communities are leading the movement to protect waterways and water resources. Meet water protectors >
The 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest, WATER RISING, challenges you to explore and understand your connection to water, and creatively call attention to and communicate the need to protect this precious resource.How to Enter
2021 Contest Essential Question
What are the stories we need to tell about water to sustain and conserve it for current and future generations of life on Earth?
THE WATER CYCLE
of all water on Earth is freshwater, but much of this is trapped in glaciers, is inaccessible, or polluted. Less than 1% remains accessible for human use.
8 Billion People
depend on water for survival (that’s all of us!). Water is the essential compound for all living things.
of water are recommended by the World Health Organization to cover daily basic hygiene and food hygiene needs. An average American resident uses about 100 gallons of water per day.
Explore Water Topics
Below is a curated collection of articles, videos, and more exploring water issues as they relate to climate change and biodiversity, public health, social and environmental justice, and their influence on human cultures around the world. Water touches every aspect of all of our lives, but depending on where we live, we each have a different personal relationship with water.
We created this list to uplift examples of research and organizations working to understand and conserve water resources, but don’t stop here! Use these resources as a jumping-off point for deeper exploration into your personal connection to water, and how you can be part of the larger movement to protect water for human and natural communities.
Check back often as this page will continue to evolve with additional resources!
WATER & CLIMATE
“Water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change.”
Our oceans play a central role in regulating global climate, and global ocean systems largely influence life on land, even hundreds of miles from a coastline. But since the start of the Industrial Revolution about 200 years ago, oceans have served as the largest carbon sink on the planet, absorbing the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels and soaking up 90% of the extra heat trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere. This build-up of energy and heat from carbon emissions is already altering the chemistry of the ocean and changing ocean currents, disrupting ocean ecosystems, and threatening and displacing coastal communities with rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
But the ocean itself is a climate solution. Healthy ocean ecosystems—such as mangroves, seagrass meadows, and salt marshes—not only capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide, but living shorelines also play a critical role in protecting coastal communities from extreme weather events and other impacts of climate change. Marine-based renewable energy, such as wind, wave, and tidal power, are sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. Restoring and protecting ocean ecosystems, and investing in ocean-based solutions, are critical in the global movement for climate action.
- 5 things you need to know about water and climate
- How Climate Change Impacts Our Water
- Water and Climate Change
- Earth’s Freshwater Future: Extremes of Flood and Drought
- ‘There’s No More Water’: Climate Change on a Drying Island
- How climate change is making record-breaking floods the new normal
- Water resources an essential part of the solution to climate change
- Ocean-Based Climate Action Could Deliver a Fifth of Emissions Cuts Needed to Limit Temperature Rise to 1.5°C
WATER & HEALTH
Most of Earth’s surface is covered by water; similarly, most of the human body is made up of water. Our water bodies are interconnected—the health of our waterways has major impacts on human health and wellbeing. It is critical to take care of aquatic ecosystems to sustain all life on Earth.
- Fracking Can Contaminate Drinking Water
- BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused $17.2 billion in environmental damage to the Gulf of Mexico
- Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands
- Plastic Pollution’s Rapidly Mounting Toll
- Downstream from a coal mine, villages in Indonesian Borneo suffer from water pollution
Our Relationship with Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many people lacking clean water, water is in crisis and so are we. On TED Radio Hour, speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water.Listen
WATER & JUSTICE
- Two-thirds of the world’s population doesn’t have reliable access to fresh water
- Corporate Control of Water
- Water justice: why it matters and how to achieve it
- “Thirsty for Democracy: The Poisoning of an American City”: Special Report on Flint’s Water Crisis
- Unjust Legacy: A community seeks to reverse decades of environmental discrimination
- Rivers Get Human Rights: They Can Sue to Protect Themselves
Water Protectors Around the World
“Could we actually find any human activity, which is not at all related to water?”
—HRH PRINCE TALAL BIN ABDUL AZIZ AL SAUD, SPECIAL ENVOY OF UNESCO FOR WATER
WATER & CULTURE
Water is life’s most critical resource, and it is also a sacred element that has shaped religions, spiritual practices, and cultural diversity across history. By exploring water’s relationship to society and culture, we can better understand how to advance sustainable development through respect and care for life-giving waters.
As our climate changes—driving extreme or unpredictable weather, sea level rise, flooding, and drought—artists and cultural leaders play an important role in not only raising awareness of and creating dialogue around water issues, but also reimagining how we view, value, and manage water. Innovative, inclusive, and community-based approaches to water management and planning will be necessary to conserve this vital resource for current and future generations.
Visit our Inspiration page to discover youth activists, artists, writers, filmmakers, and more who are bringing visibility to and engaging communities around water issues >
- Circle of Blue’s Water Podcasts: Find news on the world’s water, interviews with water experts, and other water stories.
- In Deep: Dive into the strangely fascinating world of clean water
- Waterloop: waterloop highlights the importance of water, explores various pressures, and shares success stories.
- Words on Water: This podcast from the Water Environment Federation features conversations with influential people in the water sector.
- The Guardian’s Global development podcast: water, water everywhere? This podcast talks about the pressure on one of the world’s most precious resources
Games & Quizzes
Just as a wave is made up of many drops of water, movements for positive change emerge from individuals coming together through collective imagination and action.
The most important action that we can all take to protect our blue planet at this critical moment is to fight fossil fuels. This may seem too big, or too hard, for an average person to take on. Thankfully, there is a strong movement around the world fighting for environmental justice made up of average people coming together to protect their communities. The science is clear: we need rapid and transformative change to slow climate disasters. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Fossil fuel corporations are driving our climate into crisis. 100 fossil fuels companies have been responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions in the last 30 years. Keeping fossil fuels in the ground and making a just transition to renewable energy is necessary to sustain a livable planet. And did we mention the pollution?
YOU can make a difference by: supporting and speaking up about why we need a global Green New Deal; looking into whether your local utilities supplier offers a green power option; talking to your parents about making the switch to renewable energy at home; writing to your local and national elected officials and demanding climate action; and spreading awareness. All of our voices are needed.
Here are some additional planet-conscious actions that you–yes, you!–can take to conserve precious water resources:
Reduce Your Water Usage
While 1 in 8 people worldwide don’t have access to clean water, Americans and Southern Europeans have a water footprint almost double the global average. Even in developed countries, the most vulnerable people lack equal access to clean water that allows them to thrive. By using water more efficiently—through simple changes to your consumption patterns and adopting innovative technologies—you can help preserve our water resources and promote fairer water use across communities.
Eat a Plant-Based Diet
It takes approximately 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef! What we eat also fuels climate change: the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains, and ships combined, so you can make a big difference by reducing your consumption of red meat and eating more local, organic, plant-based meals. Start with “Meatless Mondays” and share recipes with friends!
Ditch Bottled Water
Nearly 2 gallons of water are used to manufacture the plastic for a single bottle of water. Now imagine that plastic bottle filled ¼ of the way with oil—that’s how much oil it took to make it. Additionally, most bottled water comes from the same source as tap water from a sink. Our oceans face a plastic crisis (less than 10% of all plastic has ever been recycled!), so if you have access to safe tap water, ditch plastic water bottles for a reusable container.
Forget Fast Fashion
It takes over 700 gallons of water to produce the cotton to make a single t-shirt. The fashion industry is both a major consumer and major polluter of waterways around the world. By being a conscious consumer and supporting businesses that respect the health of land, workers, and waters, you can make a difference every time you get dressed.
In a warming climate, water scarcity will become an increasing reality (and already is for millions). Collecting rainwater is a simple and effective water conservation activity that has economic and environmental benefits.
You can play a part in sustaining the health of your local watershed by engaging in citizen science and monitoring water quality. Our partner EarthEcho International helps young people to protect the water resources we depend on every day.
You can help preserve water resources and protect wetland habitats in your community through hands-on activities such as restoration projects and beach cleanups, or by planting a rain garden in your backyard! Rain gardens help reduce runoff and flooding and filter pollutants carried in stormwater runoff. They also make excellent habitats for birds and butterflies!
Advocate for Clean Water
Contact your elected officials to let them know that clean water matters! Urge them to support policies that reduce pollution and safeguard our waterways, invest in green and equitable drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and strengthen programs that reduce the harmful impacts of agricultural and nutrient runoff. Consider donating to or volunteering with nonprofits addressing the global water crisis.
In 1993, the UN General Assembly declared March 22nd of each year as World Day for Water, but you can celebrate and honor water every day by raising awareness and taking action to fight the water, sanitation, and climate crises. A good first step: participate in the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest to share your story about what water means to you and your community!