The Big Oxplore Essay Competition Results… Part one

A BIG thank you to everyone who took part in our ocean-themed essay competition that we ran in November/December 2020. We were absolutely delighted by the number of entries we received. The judges were really impressed by the high quality of the essays and found it a tricky task selecting the winners.

We previously announced our winners on social media at the end of 2020 but we’re excited to be able to share our winning and runner -up entries on this blog for you to read. You can read these across two posts, starting with those in the Year 7-9 category. Plus, you can view the video messages our judges sent to the students which include personalised feedback on their essays.

Enjoy!

Winner in the Year 7-9 category:

Should we prioritise ocean over space exploration?

Since we have been on this planet for about 200,000 years, we have the right to explore the ocean (more so than space). It is our responsibility to look after our planet because it is our only home and looking after our ocean is essential for the planet to survive. Oceanic exploration should be our primary concern more so than space exploration. Presently the balance is more in favour of space exploration.  

Despite the fact that our ocean plays a massive role in everything from the air which we breathe to the weather and climate patterns our oceans are being polluted by industry and human waste products especially plastic, this along with over fishing is depleting our fish stocks. To start with we have only discovered five percent of the ocean and yet we have discovered four percent of the known universe.

What we know about the ocean is mostly the shallows which is just the tip of the iceberg. More is known about the surface of the Moon, Mars and Mercury using satellite and radar technology, (scientists have even photographed black holes). But this technology cannot be used to research the surface of the Earth at the bottom of the ocean but this does not mean it cannot be mapped. When Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared in 2014 sonar was used to try to locate the airplane and although the plane was not discovered, what was discovered was extinct underwater volcanoes, ridges and trenches previously unknown. The technology is there but why is it not being used more?

The ocean does have its difficulties though when it comes to exploration. To start with the sea is extremely corrosive on equipment because there is a lot of salt in seawater and then there is the extreme pressure exerted on equipment at great depths. Extreme pressure is also very dangerous to humans wishing to dive to great depths. Another thing to consider is that machinery needed is very expensive. But as expensive as rockets to the moon?

The available funding for space exploration (NASA only) is $22.6 billion, and this does not include private ventures such as SpaceX. The space shuttle program cost $209 billion. Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) spends $219 million only on ocean, coastal and great lakes research. Something is definitely wrong with this, especially as a big proportion of oceanic research and exploration funding goes towards deep sea drilling for oil (which is in turn damaging to our planet in the form of global warming and acid rain).

Understanding the ocean can help us on land in many ways. Knowledge of oceanic ecosystems will reveal to us new medicines and food source and oceanic exploration can help us to predict underwater earthquakes and tsunamis and help us how we are affecting and being affected by changes in Earth’s environment.

Oceanic exploration is certainly not boring in comparison to space exploration. If more was known about the deep ocean then it would most probably be better looked after. At the moment it is being increasingly polluted at alarming speeds and this is resulting in the death of coral reefs and the needless deaths of countless species of marine wildlife. Many species are becoming extinct.

Ocean exploration can improve ocean literacy and inspire young people like myself. It will help us to seek corners in mathematics, technology, engineering and science. The ocean is critical to our human life and it produces fifty percent of the air we breathe. We believe that ocean exploration is more important than space exploration, yet we only receive about one hundredth as much funding. More than fifty percent of the ocean floor has never been explored or mapped to date.

After seeing David Attenborough’s documentaries, I feel really inspired by his voice and knowledge and we all should take a piece from what he is telling us to do and do it. Us children have a voice and this message has to be spread all around the world, that we need to research our oceans before it is too late. The ocean and creatures living in the depths are in urgent need of saving, just think if you were in their shoes you probably won’t like it so don’t do it to other people or creatures. Space can wait, it’s not going anywhere but our ocean is endangered, if we don’t act now it could be too late and the destruction of our oceans will impact greatly on the lives of everyone on our beautiful planet. Explore our oceans – then we can go to Mars.

Written by John Andre Rodrigues Nutting

A message from our competition judge Natasha Gillies (Department of Zoology)

Runner-up in the Year 7-9 category:

Should individuals take more responsibility for protecting the ocean?

I believe that individuals should take more responsibility for protecting the ocean. I think this because it is clearly an increasing issue that our ocean is suffocating in our waste. We have created a disaster and we must fix it. This is a complicated and layered issue that must be discussed. And in these next few paragraphs, we will begin to see there is not a simple yes or no answer.

I believe that this question involves two main types of people. Both can make a difference. Firstly, the lower income worker. Let’s call them person A. This worker may be interested in the environment and want to make a difference but doesn’t know how, possibly due to lack of education or possibly due to lack of belief that what they do will make a difference. They could also have no interest for the environment for the same reasons as the person with an interest.This first possibility, isn’t their failure. This is an issue that needs to be tackled by the people with the substantial knowledge on this subject. These people must share their findings if they want to make a difference! The second possibility can occasionally be true. But let’s focus on the beneficial factor for now. A study undertaken by Jonah Berger showed that people are psychologically inclined to follow the ‘trend’ or what their friends are doing. This means that when person A decides to use less plastic straws or buy produce with less plastic packaging, it can inspire others to step up, and if it transpires that person A  can no longer sustain a completely environmentally friendly lifestyle, due to lack of money, then the people who person A has inspired can step up.

The next person, let’s call them person B, has a high income. They have no interest in the environment, this could be because they also have not been educated enough on the issue. They also believe that if they take an interest in making a difference, that they will not help in the right way as this is such an unexplored issue. I believe this is an urgent obstacle that needs to be overcome as one of the problems with ocean conservation is lack of income for companies exploring these issues. These companies need to say if they need money or resources and create a way for these people to donate money to their companies. This is not entirely their responsibility though. These companies are likely to be low level companies that won’t have a very high platform to promote their research. When these establishments are discovered they need to be promoted by influencers because, as mentioned in the last paragraph, people are inspired by ‘trends’.

Let’s not forget the big production companies of course. A lot of these companies are heavily responsible for creating devastating amounts of waste that will often end up in the ocean. The main aim for these companies are quite often to make money and in reality, being environmental is not cheap. For example, in a study completed by The Sun on produce in popular supermarkets, loose produce was found to be as high as 44% more expensive than produce with packaging. This price difference is essentially an encouragement to buy less environmentally friendly products. Again though, these production companies aren’t entirely responsible. Even though many companies try to be more environmentally friendly, their main goal will always be to make enough money to get by. This means that if companies aren’t funded to solve this price difference, making a difference will be a painful struggle.

In conclusion, I believe that even though the responsibility is greater in some areas, each individual should take responsibility for looking after our ocean. In the final analysis, all of the times you picked up some litter, the overall sum of plastic in the ocean may only be marginally smaller but the point to focus on is that it will be smaller. This is a distributed responsibility that needs to be taken on by everyone. Some people won’t even have a whole number percentage in that responsibility but every single effort will count. We must remember that this is a global fight, we need to come together and struggle together to clean up our ocean.

Written by Isobel Burfitt

A message from one of our competition judges, Sean Phillips (History Faculty)

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