Jean-Michel Cousteau carried on the SPA Spring Distinguished Speaker Series on Monday night with an enthusiastic and uplifting talk in Alumni Hall. Cousteau touched on his life, family, the environment, and the future of sustainability in an interesting lecture.
The famous French explorer, environmentalist, and filmmaker has a palpable love of life and what he does, as well as a firm belief in the inherent of people. Cousteau’s decades of experience have given this popular ecological advocate plenty of opportunities to work with some of the most important leaders in the world. But all of his diving and exploration began back at a young age.
Cousteau has certainly had an interesting life jam-packed full of adventures and learning. Jacques Cousteau, the father of Jean-Michel Cousteau, helped design the aqua-lung – better known as the first open-circuit SCUBA equipment.
At the ripe age of seven, Jean-Michel Cousteau began scuba diving, and he certainly hasn’t looked back since. Few, if any, people have as much experience diving as Cousteau, who has been diving for 71 years with thousands and thousands of dives under his belt. Cousteau’s mother, interestingly enough, was the first woman to ever go scuba diving. Both of Cousteau’s children are heavily involved in diving and filming for whatever project Jean-Michel finds himself working on.
After all of those years of diving, it’s really no surprise that Cousteau has dedicated an immense amount of time and energy to the conservation of the oceans and ocean resources. Jean-Michel is the President of the Ocean Futures Society, a non-profit conservation group based in Santa Barbara, California.
“We are treating the oceans like a garbage can,” Cousteau told the crowd.
In 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law a piece of legislation making a specific stretch of ocean near Hawaii the largest protected area of ocean in the world. Cousteau was actually present when President Bush signed that piece of legislation. Last year before he left office, President Obama made the protected area of ocean four times bigger. For Cousteau, this was an important example of Democrats and Republicans working together despite their obvious differences in ideology.
There were two central themes to Cousteau’s talk on Monday night. Firstly, Cousteau repeatedly mentioned that today’s youth will be effective leaders of the future. With all of the information that has been uncovered recently, the famous French explorer truly believes that young people now have the means to correct the mistakes that human societies have made for decades as a result of a lack of information.
Cousteau also holds the central belief that everyone has a “heart.” The noted activist will never lose the conviction that anyone – no matter their political views or past mistakes – can be convinced that our climate faces tremendous challenges and that we can act now to minimize these challenges. In Cousteau’s mind, sometimes all it takes is a personal, meaningful connection to make a major change.