– 11 June 2010
Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born on June 11, 1910, in Saint André de Cubzac, Gironde in France. One hundred years later, we are celebrating the anniversary of the man who made an indelible impression on our planet and its oceans.
When Captain Cousteau and his crew set sail on Calypso to explore the world, no one knew yet about the effects of pollution on marine ecosystems, of over-exploitation on resources and of manmade destruction on coastal zones.
The adventures of Calypso were captured on film and drew the public’s attention to the ecological disasters caused by human negligence. Captain Cousteau, through his work and his life, was a leader in environmental awareness. He left it to the Cousteau Society and Equipe Cousteau, the two not-for-profit organizations he founded, to continue his mission.
Speaking on behalf of the work and in the memory of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau is particularly moving to me, today when the organizations that he created, the Cousteau Society in the United States and Equipe Cousteau in France, are rendering special homage to him.
Throughout his life, Captain Cousteau’s vision encompassed everything. He analyzed, understood, synthesized and predicted what the future of our small blue planet was going to be. We are still receiving personal accounts from all over the world, from people whom he inspired—and I am sure that includes some of you here today.
Despite the sorrow born of a clear understanding of the terrifying challenges that await us, Captain Cousteau always thought that humanity has a chance, for he believed deeply in the capacity of humans to adapt, to create, to invent solutions that would save the future. This lucid and creative optimism, united with a great affection for life, allowed him to show us paths that many have begun to adopt: the Rights of Future Generations, a holistic and thoughtful long-term approach to risk-taking, the conservation of biodiversity, the determined search for clean energy and especially solar energy, integrated management of large aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, the resolution of problems of intervention between States to establish compatible and effective legal practices in environmental regulation …
Equipe Cousteau and the Cousteau Society are on the ground every day working on all these areas. This work is for the benefit of all.
How many of us are doing everything we can to act effectively? Millions, surely! And yet we see that our actions are only rarely coordinated and that the great structure struggles to rise from its foundation. All this time, the profound transformation of our lands and our aquatic spaces, under the combined effect of their inevitable natural changes, of the exponential growth of human populations and industrial trends, proves every day the accuracy of Captain Cousteau’s vision.
In the course of our short lives, we are seeing our universe turned upside down. The planet is in turmoil: earthquakes, mud slides, giant floods, devastating tsunamis, cyclones… and also economic, social, environmental and political crises. Our Earth has entered a phase of chaos. The people of the world have been thrown into confusion and governments are paralyzed by the extent of the problems and consequences in their domains.
So we must step back. Instead of saying, “What’s happening is terrible. Let’s run for cover!” and shroud ourselves in solutions that are inevitably temporary, we must say, “Before my very eyes, the planet is entering a state of violent upheaval. Inadequate development concepts have led us to this, but science, education and the formidable creativity of humanity will let us find the tools we need to change our practices and lifestyles.” The world is changing, and we must change. We must roll up our sleeves and set out with enthusiasm and courage to conquer our future.
The spirit of this message lies in its entirety in the work of Captain Cousteau, who reminded us in one of his writings: “Why, given the price that will have to be paid, would we do all that? Because we owe the joy of living to future generations.”
In paying homage to Captain Cousteau, I want to include everyone who is working in this same spirit. To celebrate this 100th anniversary of the Captain’s birth, let us join forces with courage, intelligence and enthusiasm.
PS. Jacques Cousteau left two worlds behind in June, 1997: the dry world populated by his family, friends and group of admirers, and the ocean, populated by its various mysterious denizens. As admirers of Jacques Cousteau’s world, perhaps the best way to honor his great legacy is to continue to respect the rights of the ocean life he championed, so that it will continue to be there for future generations.