The 2023 Ocean Awareness Contest – Climate Heroes in Action – encourages students to learn about both climate change and solutions to the climate crisis. We want to celebrate the work of countless everyday heroes fighting to make the world more habitable and just in the face of human-induced climate change. These heroes are leading with determination, resolve, and even joy to create a better world for us all.
“The large numbers of people, groups, organizations, and advocates that stand strong for the cause give me hope.” Kaitlyn Ha, BOW SEAT STUDENT ARTIST
Meet some Climate Heroes below. You are welcome to feature these heroes’ work in your submission to the 2023 Ocean Awareness Contest, but you do not have to. Feel free to choose a climate hero whose work we may not know about yet – we’d love to learn about their accomplishments!
Aniya Butler is a spoken-word poet and leader at Youth vs. Apocalypse, a youth climate action group uplifting the voices of people of color and standing up for environmental justice. She’s helped to organize climate strikes with tens of thousands of attendees.
Jasilyn Charger is a Land Defender and community organizer youth advocate for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She has been on the frontlines for six years battling pipelines, protecting and advocating for Native American and LGBTQ rights. Currently she is supporting a local movement for MMIW with the Women Warriors Society opposing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. – Earth Guardians
Website: Jasilyn Charger
Kristy Drutman is the founder of Brown Girl Green, an online space for action & healing in the face of climate doom. Drutman is also the founder of the Green Jobs Board, a space for people who are looking for environmental jobs that prioritize racial justice.
Nina Gbor is an award-winning sustainability advocate, eco stylist, ethical fashion educator, and the founder of Eco Styles. Nina has a master’s degree in International Development and runs sustainable restyling workshops, guest lectures at universities, and hosts clothes swaps to educate and help individuals and communities take action towards a healthier fashion industry.
- On trimming our fashion carbon footprint and climate change
- Exposing fashion’s Jedi mind trick
- Climate change has the biggest impact on women but how can we fix it?
How to Host a Clothes Swap | Luna and Sun
Social Media: LinkedIn, Instagram, Clothes Swap & Style
Isaias Hernandez is an Environmental Educator who uses his platform, Queer Brown Vegan, to support those navigating the environmental world. They focus on creating accessible resources that center the intersectional nature of the climate crisis.
Álvaro Herrero is the internationally recognized underwater photographer and scuba diver behind Mekan Photography. His photographs have been published in scientific journals and with various environmental organizations.
Photographer of the Week | Dive Photo Guide
The Society of German Nature Photographers
- 2017 “Surrounded” Underwater world, Highly commended
- 2018 “Reflection” Underwater world, Highly commended
- 2020 “Fighting no matter what” Men and Nature, Runner Up
- 2021 “Playground” Underwater World, Highly commended
Mangrove Action Project
Underwater Photographer of the Year
- 2021 “Upside down” Wide angle, Commended
- 2023 “Hopeless” Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year
OrcaTorch 2021 Search for Atlantis Photo Contest Overall Winner
Santi Photo Awards
- 2021 “Interspecific interaction” Underwater Worlds, Runner Up
- 2023 “Salmon run” Underwater Worlds, Highly commended
- 2023 “Hopeless” Man and Nature, Highly commended
Nicole Horseherder is Diné (Navajo) and executive director of Tó Nizhóní Ání (“Beautiful Water Speaking”), which works to protect the waters of Dinétah, her tribal homeland in the Black Mesa region (Dził Yijiin) of Navajo Nation. – Climate Reality Project
Photo Credit: Darcy Padilla
Carlee Jackson is a shark scientist and marine turtle specialist based in Florida. She organizes with Black in Marine Science (BIMS) to amplify Black voices in marine conservation. She co-founded Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS) in June 2020 to increase diversity within shark sciences.
Amy Keller founded Climate Candy, turning fruits and vegetables into tasty, plant-based candy. She uses perfectly edible produce that isn’t good-looking enough to make it to store, saving it from ending up in a landfill and releasing methane.
- Food waste is a huge climate problem. A new candy has a sweet solution in time for Halloween
- Restoring The Health Of The Planet And Its People Through Climate Candy
Sophia Kianni is an Iranian-American activist, a student at Stanford University, and the youngest person to serve as a United Nations advisor. She is the founder and executive director of Climate Cardinals, an international nonprofit translating climate information into 100+ languages. She has been named VICE Media’s youngest Human of the Year, a National Geographic Young Explorer, among Business Insider’s Climate Action 30, one of Teen Vogue’s 21 under 21, and a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree.
Website: Sophia Kianni
- Meet Sophia Kianni, the Irani-American climate activist who is trying to change the world | Cosmopolitan Middle East
- Language shouldn’t be a barrier to climate action | TED Talk
- Forbes 30 Under 30 – Social Impact
Social Media: LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter
Silvia López Chavez is a painter who creates community-focused, brightly colored murals to ignite conversations and inspire connection. She is a Neighborhood Salon Luminary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and her work is visible at the Peabody Essex Museum, MIT, Harvard University, Twitter, Google and Northeastern University.
- Artist creates commissioned mural at the Peabody Essex Museum to raise awareness about climate change
- Rise by Silvia López Chavez
- Art for the People: The Earth – U.S. Embassy & Consulates in China
Website: Silvia López Chavez
Xiuhtezcatl Martínez is an indigenous hip hop artist and climate activist. He served as the 2020-2021 director of Earth Guardians, an environmental nonprofit committed to youth leadership in environmental justice spaces.
Dr. Tiara Moore is an environmental ecologist at the Nature Conservancy, the founder of A WOC Space, Black in Marine Science, and co-host of the podcast We Danglin.
Website: Tiara Moore
Goran N’Diaye is the director of the Kaydara agro-ecological farm in Senegal, where he now trains young Senegalese farmers on ecologically friendly farming practices. By using permaculture, he created an oasis in a desert.
Above photo, Young Man in Agroecological Farm by Habib houndekindo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Maynard Okereke, also known as Hip Hop M.D., is a science communicator committed to diversifying STEM and making it more accessible through entertaining content.
- How Maynard Okereke Made Himself Whole as the Hip-Hop Doc | INDI
- Giving Science Its Rap | Bow Seat Deep Dive Series
Tré and Akira are the directors of PangeaSeed Foundation, a global nonprofit empowering individuals and communities to create meaningful change for the oceans through S.E.A – Science, Education, and #ARTivism. Through their groundbreaking Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans public art program, PangeaSeed has created over 500 educational, ocean advocacy murals in 19 countries.
- How The Future Of Shark Conservation Lies In The Nexus Of Science And Art
- Murals arrive with a message for Boston: It’s time to act on ocean conservation
Jill Pelto is an artist and science communicator who uses data in her paintings to show environmental changes, like glacier mass trends, sea level rise, renewable energy, and forest fires. She has worked with 100+ K-12 classrooms to bring her data-art curriculum to teach climate change.
- Website: Jill Pelto
- Illustrated Graphs: Using Art to Enliven Scientific Data | Science Friday
Leah Penniman has over 20 years of experience as a soil steward and food sovereignty activist. Leah founded Soul Fire Farm in 2011, with goals of farming in an anti-racist and regenerative way.
- Farming While Black
- Soul Fire Farm’s Leah Penniman Explains Why Food Sovereignty Is Central in the Fight for Racial Justice | Vogue
- A Day at Soul Fire Farm | The Seeds of Ancestors
Photo Credit: Jamel Mosely
Idea Reid (ee-day-ah) is a 19 year old student at Barnard College, dancer, and activist from Staten Island. She co-founded an environmental justice club at her high school, leading rallies, workshops, and climate justice teach-ins with the former NYC Director of Sustainability. Idea fights for climate policy as an intern at the Climate Museum, brings attention to the injustice facing Staten Island’s waterfront as a member of the Environmental Justice Coalition, and conveys her passion for people and the earth through art as a member of the Young Lordes Collective.
- Environmental Justice on the Waterfront
- “With the Sea” Climate Panel | The Climate Museum
- The Forgotten People of a Forgotten Borough: Environmental Racism on the North Shore of Staten Island (Page 31) | NYPL Teen Voices
- If Not Now, When
Social Media: Instagram
Lisa Reindorf is an architect, artist, and environmental activist. She considers research, education, and environmental action as a key part of her artwork. She uses her architectural background to incorporate data into her art, focusing on sea level rise and cities.
- Website: Lisa Reindorf
- Florida’s Climate Crisis Inspires Artists Across the Nation | Miami New Times
- Reindorf at Galatea | Artscope Magazine
Baylee Ritter is a 2020 National Geographic Young Explorer, founder of the Rise Up Webinar, and the founder of Everyone’s Collective, an environmental community center and sustainable shop, in Pontiac, Illinois.
Sean Russell is the founder of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit (YOCS), which equips young people with the knowledge, tools and funds to launch solutions-oriented ocean conservation projects in communities around the world. Sean also supports youth advocates as the Associate Director of Youth Engagement and Partnerships at EarthEcho International.
Meet Sean Russell | Shoutout Miami
- Sean: Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter
- Earth Echo: Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook
- YOCS: Instagram, Facebook
Danni Washington is a science communicator, art advocate, TV host, and ocean activist. She is the first African-American woman to host her own science TV series. She also leads Mocha Mermaid, The Big Blue & You, and Sea Youth Rise Up.
Website: Danni Washington
Dr. Katharine Wilkinson is the bestselling author of All We Can Save and the co-founder of the All We Can Save Project, whose mission is “to nurture the leaderful climate community we need for a life-giving future.”
Website: Katherine Wilkinson
Photo Credit: Ben Brinker