Photo: Amber Cypress (16) - Florida, U.S. “Respect the land was a message passed down from my ancestors for generations.”

Student Contest

Winners and Finalists: The Environment Is in You

Photography and Original Illustration Contest
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Inspired by the writing of Linda Hogan, Robert Hass, Wendell Berry, and Dara McAnulty, this contest was an invitation for students to take a photograph or create an original illustration that documents the fragility, hope, and future of our planet due to climate change. Many students connected to the following statement by writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry: “The environment is in you, it’s passing through you, you’re breathing it in and out, you and every other creature.”

We asked students how their local ecosystems have changed over the last few years and how their artwork would tell that story. We also asked: How might their artwork document their feelings about climate change and how might the living world shape their identities? We received close to four hundred submissions from students around the world. They captured the living world from multiple perspectives, including landscapes, plants, animals, and sea life while including themselves in inventive ways. Students brought to life the words from environmental youth activist McAnulty, who wrote, “In a fast-paced and competitive world, we need to feel grounded. We need to feel the earth and hear birdsong. We need to use our senses to be in the world. Maybe, if we bang our heads against a brick wall long enough, it will crumble and fall. And maybe the rubble can be used to rebuild something better and more beautiful, enabling our own wildness. Imagine that.”

Winners

Romina Arredondo

Romina Arredondo (18) - Naucalpan, Mexico

The Face of Progress

A leaf rotten from its center.
A dark stain that at its fervor steps burns.
A leaf without precedents nor relations.
I am the only witness of its existence.
And even though I don’t watch, it lives and dies.

Observant, I find the stain taking shape in its expansion. 
Clouds of steam push towards the edges of the leaf
Unpainting every green brush stroke with indifference.
Agonizing, the leaf talks to me through its pattern
and its drawing has the face of progress.

Two sentences inspired the creation of my project. Linda Hogan wrote, “What a strange alchemy we have worked, turning earth around to destroy itself, using earth’s own elements to wound it.” And, Wendell Berry wrote, “The environment is in you, it’s passing through you, you’re breathing it in and out, you and every other creature.” Both statements address the arrogance and impudence of human beings who feel that they are the owner of everything and then become destroyers. The process that I carried out to embody the idea was to put an acetate with a photo of a factory on a leaf of a plant called Pothos, so that it would be printed under the sunlight.

We find so many resources in the nature environment, and instead of taking care of and thank that source of wealth, man is coldly exploiting it. Hand in hand with the above, we have built a hierarchy in which we, as humans, are above everything and that is now part of our molding, so we ignore the fact that as living beings that make up the same world, we are equal. As individuals we exclude ourselves from what we consider to be resources, and we turn them into products that unbalance the environmental order.

Dylan Mong

Dylan Mong (16) - California, U.S.

My artwork is a “love story” to the planet showcasing the vulnerability and hope we all have. Four eggs in a tiny nest symbolizes a new hope for life. The mother bird laid these eggs at this location due to the lack of human activity around this site. I’d like my artwork to communicate freedom and excitement to the world. The anticipation for the pandemic to be over is represented with the goal of raising new life. 

Paolo Fajer

Paolo Fajer (18) - Mexico City, Mexico

I took this photograph in 2020 at the Inbursa aquarium. My dad is a photographer and he always takes me to these kinds of places to take pictures. Most of the time they are nature photos; be it landscapes or animals. This has always helped me to connect more with a reality that has been here longer than us; it is a completely different world that we rarely value. I think about how these beings are on the margin of absolutely everything that is human and are a gift of nature. While I am alive, breathing, aware of what I am seeing, this creature is also existing in the same frequency and energy, dedicating itself to existing. Although I have no way of communicating with him or relating to him in a human way, I feel a very real connection, a love that is not human-it is natural. 

The love of coexisting in this same universe, the love of appreciating its beauty and feeling the energies that surround us, it is a love story that no matter how much I am living it, it is not mine; it belongs to everyone because we all coexist and live on this planet. From a being that is not aware of its own existence to that energy that we do not understand but feel—some call it god. I do not know what to call it. I feel this every time I see the way our world works, the very organic way of simply existing and being beautiful. This is my love story with nature, with this photo and with what I don't know, but I feel love and intrigue for. My message to the world is simple: Why disturb what is calm? Why damage what is part of us? Why destroy what is perfect and why not just try to understand it? We must learn to live this love story with nature. 

Lily West

Lily West (16) - Maine, U.S.

Do you feel all the fish swimming to the surface?

"Do you feel all the fish swimming to the surface?" is a part of a small series of pieces about the beauty of and the destruction of the environment. As I learned more about the environment, I started to focus on whales and sea creatures. The ancient nature of whales is so clear in their size, the way their migratory patterns and song patterns work in communication with one another. There is something about the wisdom and knowledge of the oceans that these animals possess that would be lost if they were to go extinct, or their numbers were to drop greatly. 

People have such little understanding of the ocean, which is why the whale's tail is all that is revealed. We do not, and simply cannot, know the waters to the same depth that they do. Also in the piece, there is a hawksbill turtle below the whale's tail. The beautiful pattern and colors on the back of hawksbill turtles inspired me to choose them as a species. Both of these animals have a history of endangerment. Humpback whales have made a major comeback since 1950 when their numbers dropped to 440. The current population is now around 120,000 to 150,000. In contrast, however, the hawksbill sea turtle is listed as critically endangered. They are in danger due to people hunting for their beautiful shells, among the other threats they face. The red lines are up for interpretation, but in my view, they show how much understanding of the oceans these creatures carry within them, and what it would mean for this to be lost. The beauty and wisdom of such animals are something that must not be destroyed.

Shelly Fatal

Shelly Fatal (17) - New York, U.S.

I sought to illustrate the interconnectedness of humanity and nature by composing the human body as if it were a landscape. By highlighting organic abstract forms, I hoped to express a love story between the inner and outer worlds—how they are mirrored in each other and intertwined. By monumentalizing this organ, I hope to communicate how the outside world is not so different from the smaller ecosystems within us, and how we rely on both systems' unity to survive.

Nikki Honchell

Nikki Honchell (17) - Illinois, U.S.

Haikus on nature: 

The autumn has passed 
Winters are growing shorter 
Spring will come too soon 

Beautiful winter
Leaves us sooner every year. 
Will it leave for good? 

Sepia roses 
Dormant in the winter ice 
Dead yet elegant 

In all of nature 
Everything is connected 
We all breathe the same 

I can love a rose 
Like I love a neighbor 
Like I love all things 

Nature comforts us 
Will it still be our refuge 
In the years to come? 

Cold flowers outside 
Protected in a cone of ice 
Is there warmth within? 

The environment
Is a part of all of us
Take care of our world. 
 

Amber Cypress

Amber Cypress (16) - Florida, U.S.

Silence

Being Indigenous, nature has always been an important aspect of my culture. In this photograph, the subject has a handprint on her mouth, symbolizing the ignorance of others and the silence of my people. "Respect the land" was a message passed down from my ancestors for generations. The land provides, it heals, and it is beautiful. Climate change is a major issue and has been for hundreds of years. My people fought for this land and they died protecting it. We won’t be the only ones affected by this issue: the animals are at risk, too. The animals are just as important as the land itself and we need to protect both. The reservation is home to many marvelous animals such as panthers, snakes, birds, and many more. There was a pipeline that almost ran through their home, destroying their chances of survival. The Keystone Pipeline was almost completed before it was shut down due to growing concerns. The pipeline would have run 100 miles through reservations across America, destroying not only our homes, but the home of animals as well. Climate change is a problem that still needs to be talked about today, and I want to be one to spread the message. My people were silenced for long enough, and we will not stand for it anymore. I refuse to remain silent.

Maria Isabel Guevara Beltran

Maria Isabel Guevara Beltran (18) - Mexico City, Mexico

We think we are superior to Mother Nature. We see nature as an accessory in our lives when we really are nature herself. Every wound we inflict on her, we are inflicting on ourselves. This artwork represents how we are nature and how we are inferior to her. Not only is she a beautiful thing to admire, she is strength, she is energy, and she is our home.

Sabine Wolpert

Sabine Wolpert (15) - California, U.S.

As a little kid, I thought that life was like a flat line with bumps and dips rarely occurring. The news of floods, earthquakes, and fires might flash across the news but they were never close enough to really touch my life. Now that I’m older, these natural disasters are closer to where I live. The rainy season seemed shorter than I remembered and signs started to appear in restaurants and hotels saying “save water” or “minimize your water use.” 

When fires got really close, little pieces of ash, like black rain, would fall from the sky. Soon I learned that these events were not random, and I realized how responsible we were, how responsible we are. I began to learn how connected we are to our environment. I began to realize that it mattered whether I kept the water running for that extra minute or left the hose on for too long. When the fires got so close to our house that evacuation was a threat, I had to pack a bag and look at the forest outside wondering whether it wouldn't be there in a month or a week or tomorrow. 

I have been lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I get to see the ocean, the redwood forests, and thousands of blossoms hanging over daffodils in the spring. It's dark enough at night to see a thousand stars and quiet enough in the morning to hear birds and bees. I have grown up in nature, and I am so saddened to see our earth deteriorating at our hands. I think that people can become so used to our luxuries that we forget how fragile and impermanent they can be. I hope my artwork can help people remember how connected to the environment we are. I think we all need to remember that we live in the environment and it lives in us. We breathe the same air as butterflies and our hair gets blown by the wind that sways tree branches. We must come together to save our land because it will not last if we continue to treat it as disposable. It is our responsibility as people to save the earth that provides us life.

Marguerite Baxter

Marguerite Baxter (18) - Minnesota, U.S.

I was walking down my alley, a place that I visit everyday. It was spring and the snow was melting into puddles. When I looked into the puddle, I could see a perfectly clear image of myself and my surroundings. In this moment, I understood how I was a part of the environment and Earth. The reflection of my small hand as I recognized this symbolizes my connection to the environment. Living in a city, natural and man-made beauty is intermixed. Both exist together, but not always in harmony. I believe that all of these things can be beautiful together, but they must respect one another.

This work is a love story to the planet, as I appreciate that in the tiniest puddle a whole environment can be reflected. What a beautiful and miraculous thing. I was taking a moment to see myself as a part of that environment, not separate but a part. Reaching out and placing myself in it. I loved that puddle and I loved the asphalt that looked like a million little stars. I want this work to communicate the tiny details that people so often walk by and ignore. There are truly millions of miracles around us all of the time: the perfect circles that raindrops make in puddles, the way that our bodies can heal themselves, how still water can perfectly reflect like a mirror. This earth is amazing and resilient. This recognition is the first step to understanding how to solve our problems. It starts with love. We must love our environment and recognize all of the beauty in it to become passionate protectors of it. We are not more powerful than nature. We are nature.

May Wu

May Wu (17) - California, U.S.

My drawing carries a message of hope for the future of our planet’s ecosystem. The background shows the environmental consequences of war and pollution—the smoke and burning vehicles behind a girl holding a glowing earth in the center. My use of color symbolizes optimism: we can save the earth but we must come together to make change. The girl carries this message into the future. My piece raises awareness of the fragility of our environment and denounces those who cause harm to our one and only earth.

Mustafa Toslak

Mustafa Toslak (18) - Michigan, U.S.

Nature is within the core of all of us. We are sometimes blind to it, and we decide to ignore it. It finds a way to grow and prosper in all of us. As an artist, I wanted to capture the way nature captivates me as a human being. I made jewelry out of copper, patination, and a strange medium, moss. 

I think it is vital for us to understand that we cannot block nature out. It will always find a way to grow and become dominant in us. We are a part of nature. This illustration of the environment represents the comfort the environment provides for us. With the pandemic and global warming, this comfort is essential for human beings.

Grace Bonk

Grace Bonk (17) - Wisconsin, U.S.

My family and I were visiting the Upper Peninsula of Michigan earlier this year. My dad went to college in Houghton and my mom's family is from there, so it is a very special place for our family. In the moment captured in the picture, my dad, my little brother, and I were walking across the frozen parts of Lake Superior. From the shore, my mom was calling out to us to be careful, and my brother and I were chuckling off her warnings. We were filled with adrenaline with the possibility of the ice breaking and in awe of the beauty around us. This photograph represents the fragility of Earth's climate. Humans walk along the thin ice that is the Earth's climate—fully aware of their actions and the risk they bring—just to see how far they can push before the ice breaks for good. 

Gianna Gazulla

Gianna Gazulla (16) - California, U.S.

As quoted by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” My photograph captures the unexpected beauty that exists within my community. It represents the significance of national parks in the United States and across the globe through the tangible aspects and genuine opportunities that they offer. These opportunities allow us as protectors of the earth to more fully form a personal connection with our planet—to be conscious about our actions and the impact that they have on the earth. My photograph was taken in Yosemite National Park, and though it doesn’t depict the popular imagery that many people associate with this national park, such as Half Dome or El Capitan, it symbolizes that beauty can reveal itself through lesser known, or unexpected, places. 

It wasn’t easy to achieve this image, but the process reminded me that anything that is worthwhile isn’t easy—for example, protecting the Earth against climate change and environmental impacts. We have a responsibility to make sacrifices in order to call ourselves true stewards of the Earth, and during that process, we recognize the beauty that we are called to protect.

Ava Pecora

Ava Pecora (15) - Ohio, U.S.

This painting is the embodiment of being one with the natural environment. It is supposed to illustrate that nature is beautiful in every form—from the plants and atmosphere to humans and magical creatures. The green is meant to symbolize the liveliness and tranquility of forest life. Green has many different meanings, such as calmness, safety, growth, harmony, and most importantly, the environment. The figure has a deep emotional connection with the woods and is completely immersed in the environment. The area around them is abundant with forest plants and creatures. This makes for a certainly magical universe. 

Marlene Auer

Marlene Auer (17) - Weimar, Germany 

Nature is Coughing

Thirty-six billion tons of energy-related carbon dioxide were released into the Earth’s atmosphere in 2021 alone.[1] The accumulated carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses trap low-energy sun rays reflected from the Earth's crust, in the Earth's atmosphere, leading to an increase in this system's heat, and resulting in global warming-global warming leads to increasingly extreme weather conditions from which people suffer worldwide. Germany, for example, suffers from a generally reduced availability of water in agriculture, an increased proneness to storm surges, and a higher risk to loss of biodiversity and loss of topsoil and erosion.[2] The Earth and future civilizations will pay the price for our current lifestyle established through excessive pollution (air pollution in particular), unless we do something about it. The climate is generally always changing, but through our polluting actions we are escalating this change. Carbon dioxide emissions have peaked in 2021 since the introduction of fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes in 1750.[3]

We tend to think that industry contributes to the majority of pollution. This is true, but we tend to ignore how much we pollute ourselves.

My photograph aims to show a snapshot of how much smoke a tiny house in a small German city releases at a given moment in winter. It delineates how we utilize the earth's slowly formed fossil fuels to destroy our natural habitat. The photograph depicts the outline of houses from the reflecting snow in front of a tree background, where one house is releasing a great deal of smoke, highlighted by the sun shining through it as a partial trigger for global warming and hence, climate change. Even though the photograph seems heavily edited, only the color saturation and contrast have been elevated, to emphasize all the small components that contribute to global warming and how every household (in cold countries in winter in particular) contributes to this. The smoke captures all the different colors of light the sun emits and coherently juxtaposes nature's beauty with humanity's destruction of it. The sun seems to emit positive energy from the warm colors, whilst we as the civilisation just seem to absorb it and don’t give anything back, illustrated by the cool, surrounding colors. The smoke also looks like a volcanic eruption, portraying the dangerousness of our reckless polluting actions.

Therefore, we should start thinking more about our actions on the climate, so we can preserve its natural beauty for future generations to enjoy.

1. “Climate change in Germany.” Wikipedia, 2 April 2022. “Increased use of coal was the main factor driving up global energy-related CO2 emissions by over 2 billion tonnes, their largest ever annual rise in absolute terms.” [^]

2. IEA, 8 March 2022, "Global CO2 emissions rebounded to their highest level in history in 2021." [^]

3. Tiseo, Ian. “Historical carbon dioxide emissions from global fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes from 1750 to 2020.” Statista, 5 November 2021. [^]

Ellie Knight

Ellie Knight (16) - North Carolina, U.S.

The world creeps up on you in the most unexpected ways sometimes. In the beginning, you may not even notice any changes, but it makes itself known pretty quickly. The excerpt written by Robert Hass inspired this photograph as a reminder that the world wasn't always like this. My photo reflects our environment from two different times, one where climate change seemed as though it wasn't an issue and one where its stark existence is hitting so close to home. 

I like to show my passion for photography through seemingly basic pictures that take on a double meaning. The side with trees looks way more lively than the reflection it shows in the water. 

Climate change directly influences the way autumn appears—the warmer air stunts the development of coloring within the leaves. The noticeable delay in autumn color has caused the season to become a three-day homage. Most people know about climate change, but it goes without a word, just like autumn leaves. I noticed the significance of the color yellow, which can represent a joyful, energetic mood. The problem with our society right now is that no one has that spark of energy to save our planet; we've lost our yellow. To quote Hass, it is in our best interest to "recover an elder imagination of the earth." If my photograph could be used to communicate to my peers, I would want it to say that the world around us is the only planet we get. It's our only chance at life, and we need to get back to a time when these global forces weren't so life-threatening and find the yellow within ourselves to do what we can now. If you look closely at the reflection, you can see some raindrops. Those droplets, however, make the reflection a bit blurry. This documents my feelings by expressing that environmental issues, like climate change, are still a little blurry to me. Everyone starts somewhere, and there is always room to learn. The environment is in you, and you just have to make an effort to bring it out and show the world what it really means to you.

Melody Zhang

Melody Zhang (15) - New York, U.S.

The wind threads itself through the trees, whispering a song. Infinitely many songs join it: the sound of dripping water (melting ice), the crunching beneath your boots and your friend’s, a branch crackles, something moves in the bushes, two birds chirp and four crows join it, a car drives by but you’re moving away from it, taking the side path as it slopes down; at some point, you realize, the world around you is a stream. A stream of sounds, tastes, smells, colors, feelings.

A song that is noise and all. The earth sings a song that is a want, a need, a memory. The song is ephemeral.

Without thinking too much, you steadily step your way across the ice. It freezes in the winter, the mass of water becoming a field becoming a plate becoming a place. Here, the earth stops singing; the above and below of the lake is quiet, the pure white of the snow sitting on the surface undisturbed like a pearl—or an eye without a pupil.

It is looking; looking at nothing.

You know not what it had looked like years before, or decades earlier. You are confident that no one can know everything; knowledge comes in hundreds of people who all know too little until one being is formed from trillions of facts. You are one of these facts, your friend another, the unseeing eye the last.

The earth’s song starts up again: now, the wind scratches against your ears. It screams freely over the empty lake, no trees or mountains to divert it, not until you stand in the center of the lake and become a lightning rod. At the epicenter, the wind is so strong that it nearly knocks you over. It goes so fast that it rushes into your ears and SHOUTS, 

and in that moment,;
you realize:

The earth was never singing.
It was simply crying.

A need, a want, a memory.

Your friend begins to walk further. You blend in, but you are out of place. Without you at the center, there was no one to cry to (a want): just seventy miles of wind measuring a lake frozen in time, running circles around nothing (a need).

You stand still in the cries, raising your camera with reddened hands, your breath coming out like clouds. The shutter clicks; the shore on the other side sinks into blue, the white looking blindly at the gray sky, the whole thing empty except for one of the two people that heard.

(A memory.)

Finalists

Jessica Zighelboim

Jessica Zighelboim (16) - Florida, U.S.

The Greenhouse

As time has progressed, humankind has grown somewhat disconnected from the natural world, choosing the material world over the natural, but humans can never truly leave the living world behind. The majority of homes people live in now, especially throughout the U.S., do not traditionally include any sort of factor that keeps them continuously connected to nature, not in the way this greenhouse does. This piece is a photograph of the house of a neighbor of mine, an environmentalist and an advocate for the protection of the natural world. The owner has effectively and efficiently created a small ecosystem for all of these plants, birds, butterflies and more, to live and thrive in. The owner lives in unity with the natural world, allowing the plants to cover their home and flourish. 

This incredible interconnectedness between humankind and nature is symbolized by the elegance of the vines and the way they stretch throughout the entirety of the home, keeping the person feeling grounded and connected to the earth. A sense of inner peace is apparent in the precise arrangement of nature as a whole, not seeming overgrown or restricted but perfectly balanced.

Maddox Chen

Maddox Chen (16) - California, U.S.

Instinct

I took this photo after seeing my cat eagerly trying to squeeze her way outside. A block of wood and a brick of marble stood in her way, both man-made obstacles. I initially found this unfortunate dilemma quite hilarious, but then I thought about what had put this cat in this situation. This house pet yearns to be outside, but she has personally never experienced what it is like to be free, roaming her natural domain. Generations of domestication have suppressed the natural instincts and freedom that her ancestors exercised routinely.  

She is confined to the life that humans have molded for her. There is no escape, since there is nowhere to go. This idea of captivity is something many of us have experienced during COVID-19, including myself. Nothing is as it was. Like my cat, we were confined to our homes, with the only “nature” being a withering plant by the table that is constantly neglected. Freedom, the ability to wander in your natural habitat, is taken away. Even when things returned to “normal,” it wasn’t the same. I still wear a mask whenever I go outside, and there are still restrictions for everything. And with the horrific alterations climate change has been enacting onto the world, the fresh air and the “natural” weather we experience will eventually become a distant memory in a few years, regardless of COVID. Soon, it will feel suffocating to be stuck in a nature-lacking world slowly deteriorating to the point where it will be safer to hide in houses rather than go outside. If climate change continues at its current rate, the environment that we have known our entire lives will be another one of the past, like the one the ancestors of my cat once lived in. People will long for that ecosystem that they had once lived in, but nothing will be as it was. 

Eirana García

Eirana García (17) - Ciudad de México, México

I consider that meditating is how we can connect with you, Mother Earth, without continuing to harm you and ourselves. Unfortunately, my species has dedicated itself to destroying you, mistreating you, and breaking you in thousands of ways. The worst of all is that nothing pauses or stops us, and we get so used to the instantaneous and fast that we forget many gifts, such as patience. Breathing is such a simple act for us but is a particularly complex process, so insignificant that we barely notice it. That is the essence of things, noticing how big the small details are. That’s what I call gratitude, appreciating the magic of inhaling and how it affects your body when you exhale with consciousness. 

Closing your eyes, being here and now, this is what Osho calls being awake, the enjoyment of the present. This allows me to feel myself, and feel you, Earth. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that menstruation and the moon cycle are very similar. Could this be the reason why we call the moon feminine energy? I admit that I have been part of your destruction. We abuse plastic, water, noise, energy, your trees, your animals just because we feel superior as if we had the power all around us. We only make up a tiny fraction of the planet, the universe, the entire cosmos. I really am sorry for losing myself in this destructive way of living—thanks for trying to lead me back on the path. 

Considero que meditar es la forma en la que podemos conectar contigo sin dañarte. Lamentablemente, mi especie se ha dedicado a destruirte, maltratarte y romperte en más de mil quinientas maneras, lo peor de todo es que nada nos pausa ni nos detiene, nos acostumbramos a lo instantáneo y veloz que olvidamos muchos dones, como el de la paciencia. Respirar, un acto tan sencillo para nosotros pero con procesos tan complejos, que son tan pequeños que ni los notamos. Esa es la esencia de las cosas, ver lo grandes que son los detalles pequeños, a esto le llamo gratitud. Ver la magia de la inhalación y cómo afecta a tu cuerpo cuando exhalas con consciencia. 

Cerrar los ojos, estar aquí y ahora, a esto Osho le llama estar despierto, el disfrute del presente. Esto me permite sentirme a mi, y sentirte a ti, Tierra. Vivo en una burbuja tan automática que olvido lo iguales que somos, eso seguramente tú ya lo sabías. La verdad no creo que sea casualidad que la menstruación y los ciclos lunares se parezcan tanto, ¿será que por eso a la luna le denominamos una energía femenina?, así como este hay miles de ejemplos, pero me gusta pensar que aún hay muchos más sin descubrir y eso me tocará verlo en mi recorrido de reconexión de mente-alma contigo. 

Admito que he sido parte de tu destrucción. Abusamos del plástico, del agua, del ruido, de la energía, de tus árboles, de tus animales, todo esto por sentirnos superiores, como si tuviéramos poder de todas las cosas, y solamente formamos una milésima parte del planeta, de, universo, del cosmos entero. Lamento mucho haberme perdido en el camino, y gracias por intentar guiarme de regreso. 

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Kayla Richardson (15) - Michigan, U.S.

The Sun and the Earth have always had a symbiotic relationship. In this art piece I decided to show the story of the Sun, as she watches Earth both form and die of human parasites. She can’t do anything, but is a mere bystander to nature. The one other being that can live and love her in this solar system will be a smoldering shell, but the Sun will continue to burn regardless. Life goes on, in loneliness and pain, it still goes on. I feel heartbroken at how far we’ve fallen, and I want to portray these personified versions of our celestial bodies to get people to FEEL FOR SOMETHING.

Anea Kennedy

Anea Kennedy (15) - North Carolina, U.S.

My piece is what showed up in my head immediately when I heard 'the environment is in you'. I thought of the way the forests and trees are the lungs of the earth and how we are destroying and suffocating them. Factories' smokestacks emit air pollution as we breathe out carbon dioxide. Underground pipes carry water and oil like our veins carry blood under our skin. Tree roots communicate shivers of fear like our nervous systems when we're afraid. We carelessly demolish our planet that gives so much to us, that we are connected with, that enters us each time we breathe, and all the while we close our eyes and cover our ears and pretend not to notice. Every summer my family travels to northern Minnesota around lake Bemidji and Brainard, where new oil pipes are going in, running through Leech Lake. If those pipes leak they'll spread throughout all those lakes and pollute the water that holds so many family memories.

Edward Bennett

Edward Bennett (15) - Ohio, U.S.

My ecosystem has been gradually decaying. There are fewer and fewer trees standing, and buildings and bridges are taking over the habitat. My artwork documents the balance between nature and new construction, a battle that nature is sadly losing, engulfed by industrialization. My artwork communicates how nature and manmade objects coexist in the world and how there must be limits and boundaries set in place in order to protect the planet. I hope my artwork will show that we need to take immediate action to fix the world.

Meagen Krige 

Meagen Krige (16) - Caledon, South Africa

My artwork is inspired by the vulnerability of animals. All over the world animals are being affected by climate change, poaching, loss of habitat, and destruction of our wonderful ecosystems. Most of these destructive forces happen because of the species called mankind. This photo was taken in South Africa at one of our famous private nature reserves, Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, this poor rhino called Mandgleve faced a traumatic experience with a poacher about two years ago. In this event he got shot, but thankfully the reserve was there to help treat his wound. He is still alive to this day and is doing very well, thanks to the vets and the nature reserve that helped him, because he could not help himself. I hope one day people can all see how the animals of our planet are suffering.

Artist statements have been lightly edited.

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