Winning for the welfare of mother nature

YERU EBUEN & TITASH CHAKRABORTY –

Many of them were mortified. While most of the people in attendance were students like themselves, just thinking about being in front of hundreds of people presenting and talking about their environmental topics of choice is something that does not happen every day. Nor is ever one prepared to stand in front of such a large crowd.
Amidst the buzzing noise of overly excited students, some of the presenters faltered while others put up a strong front, faking their way into delivering passable performances.
Several of them had awkward pauses while trying to remember lines they have mastered in their heads. While it is easy to see the difficulty and unease, all of the students are determined and believed in the message that they are trying to get across — there are threats to the environment, not only within Oman, but the world and these are the threats that we can do something about.
The ESO intercollege environmental public speaking competition has long ended but the memories of it are still fresh in the winners’ minds. Held on the last week of October 2018, 165 students from 19 universities across Oman faced tough judging.
The winning teams included “Bunya” from Sultan Qaboos University, for ‘Sustainable Built Environment; Are we achieving it?’, ‘Naqaa’ from Sultan Qaboos University for ‘Impact of Fashion and Makeup Industry on the Environment’, Kaizen from Sharqiya University for ‘The Future of Agriculture in the Middle East’, and Green Footprint from Military Technology College for ‘The Impact of Wars on the Environment’’.
On November 27 and 28, the four student groups are headed to the United Arab Emirates to face an even bigger crowd and an even challenging environment.
There, in front of other eco-warriors and environmental consultants, workers, and protectors, they will be presenting an upgraded version of their presentation hoping to win the regional finals and come home with one of the top awards.
Juggling between their studies and the preparations being made for the regionals happening next week, Oman Observer talked with two of the winning student groups to gain insight to their experience with the hope of encouraging other students and universities to participate in the next events while ultimately arming students from all over the country with the right knowledge and information about how to protect Oman’s sensitive and delicate environment.

Explain briefly what your topic was all about and what kind of preparations did you have to make.
BUNYA: Our topic was about sustainable building environments. First, we watched the videos of the students who participated in the competition from previous years to get an idea of the rules, how the competition will be judged, and the steps we had to follow. We then spent time researching and brainstorming topics to discuss, we also set up meetings with people in the field related to our topic.
NAQAA: Our topic revolves on the fashion and cosmetics industry and the impact that it has on the environment. We discussed four main points which were; the meaning of the fashion world, the main effects that it has on the industry, the side effects and the harm it causes to the environment and how we can make a change. We began by looking at a vast number of references, including journals and scientific papers based on this topic. We then arranged all the resources we found and put them into slides to present to the judges.

Did you have a strategy to win?
BUNYA: We carefully followed all of the requirements of the competition and stayed in close contact with the instructor of the team for guidance throughout the course of the event. Talking to the previous participating students and meeting every week also helped us gain more confidence.
NAQAA: Our strategy was to focus on the topic in a comprehensive way, we didn’t want to stick to one specific point but we also didn’t want to deviate too much onto other related subjects. We were in search of accurate information and wanted to display our findings in the most effective and confident way.

Now that you will be heading to the regional competition, how are you preparing for it?
BUNYA: We will apply the feedback that we got from the judges in the local competition and do more research to learn more about the topic and potentially strengthen our chances of winning.
NAQAA: We are going to attempt to improve our speaking skills, fix our presentation based on the feedback from the judges and find more information to make our show more effective.

How was the experience like joining? WAS IT something you would recommend for other students to participate in? Why?
NAQAA: Overall the experience was beautiful. We got the opportunity to learn more about the environment and share our opinions, learn how to research and identify information from reliable sources and boost our confidence in terms of public speaking and presenting. We would recommend all students to take part in this and do the same!
BUNYA: It was a very interesting experience and we would definitely recommend it especially those that are eager to learn new skills and knowledge about topics related to the environment. It also helps you to grow a confidence in public speaking.

Did this experience make you realize anything important about the environment? How are you planning to use the knowledge you acquired in helping the environment?
BUNYA: Yes, from our research alone, we came to know just some of the issues that we are facing in the environment, it is in danger and it needs our help. We are hoping to make as many people aware of the problems in which we are currently facing, in hopes of solving them.
NAQAA: Yes, this competition made us realize of the impact of human actions on the environment and the many factors within the fashion industry that causes damage. We can now use this knowledge to educate people about the importance of consuming sustainable and environmentally friendly products such as ‘ecological’ or ‘green’ clothes. The environmental protection authorities can even use this information to generate and inflict policies on using such harmful materials, hopefully, we can see this change in the future.