First "thrown overboard" at the age of seven, Jean-Michel Cousteau has spent his entire life carrying the torch first lit by his father, Jacques Cousteau. He is one of the most impassioned environmental advocates, communicating globally the many wonders the ocean holds and why we must strive to protect it.
Tonight, that tradition comes to PSU’s doorstep when Cousteau presents a free "Seas the Day" community lecture at 7 p.m. in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom.
A self-described "voice for the ocean," Cousteau founded the Ocean Futures Society, a non profit marine education and conservation organization, after the death of his father, a world famous ocean explorer, in 1997. Since then, he and his colleagues have worked tirelessly, researching ocean systems, advocating for conservation efforts and developing education programs.
"Fish and whales cannot vote," Cousteau explained in a telephone interview. "Someone needs to speak on their behalf."
"That’s what I’ve done all my life," Cousteau said.
The event will be hosted by Nike and the Academic Sustainability Programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at PSU.
Though at the time of interview Cousteau was unsure of what the precise emphasis of the lecture will be or even under which format it will be presented, he assumed it would somehow touch on ocean conservation and protection.
"The ocean is a life support system, literally," Cousteau said. "We are using the ocean as a garbage can, as a universal sewer."
Cousteau will be speaking on ocean conservation ethics, according to Jeanie-Marie Price of the PSU Office of Marketing and Communications. She also said the presentation will include video footage.
Cousteau said there is no one threat to the world’s oceans that outweighs all others, that it is a multi-faceted problem that takes a multi-faceted approach to correct.
"You have to look at the big picture and realize everything is connected," he said.
He did point out three broad dimensions of conservation ethic that would go a long way in preserving and improving the quality of our oceans. By halting ocean dumping which kills the coral reef and saltwater plants, and eliminates much needed ocean salts, protecting ocean habitats and putting an end to harvesting and poaching, he said, we would vastly improve the quality of our oceans.
These measures would benefit humanity as well, he said, pointing out the role of the coral reef and mangroves which act as a natural shock absorber, protecting coastlines from tsunamis, cyclones and flooding as an example.
Areas in Southeast Asia with healthy reefs and mangroves, Cousteau said, were more protected from the recent tsunami disaster.
Cousteau graduated from the Paris School of Architecture in 1964, acting on a childhood dream to build self-sustaining underwater cities.
"I wanted to build cities underwater as a kid," Cousteau said, "because my father was involved in experimental habitats."
He has since gone on to produce over 70 films and has been awarded the Cable Ace Award, the 7 d’Or (French equivalent of the Emmy), the Emmy and the Peabody Award.
Cousteau first came in contact with the Nike Corporation when on a voyage to Kure Island in Northern Hawaii, he found discarded sneakers along the shoreline. He has since contacted Nike and begun to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive effort to promote clean shipping.
Nike, which has a clean shipping program, contacted the PSU-Smithsonian Aquatic Bioinvasion Research and Policy Institute, a joint venture between the Smithsonian and PSU that researches bio-invasive organisms and their affect on alien environments.
According to Mark Sytsma of the PSU-Smithsonian ABRPI, ports and bays around the world are being invaded by unwelcome species brought over in shipping vessels’ trim balance water tanks.
Cousteau will meet with Nike representatives, along with two representatives from the PSU-Smithsonian ABRPI, Wednesday, at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton to discuss Nike’s sustainability program with an emphasis on clean shipping and water quality.
Sytsma said he was still unsure what the outcome of this meeting will be but believes that it will somehow produce results.
"Obviously we wouldn’t be meeting if we didn’t think something could come of this," Sytsma said.