When Philippe Cousteau was invited to talk with school kids as part of an Orange County Children’s Book Festival event on Friday, Oct. 22, the 41-year-old grandson of the legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau did not hesitate.
As a teenager, Cousteau knew he would eventually dive into the same work as his grandfather and father before him, working to celebrate and protect the wonders of the world’s oceans.
And talking with young people — whether face to face, through his books “Follow the Moon Home” or “Going Blue,” or his TV and film projects such as the “Xploration Awesome Planet” series — is crucial to Cousteau’s efforts to convince new generations to love and protect marine environments.
“My grandfather – particularly towards the end of his life, but throughout his career – was very dedicated to education,” Cousteau says. “He would often say, ‘Before we talk about conservation, we need to talk about education.’
“He realized that if we want to create the kind of systemic change, where we have a society that recognizes clean air and clean water is non-negotiable, that happens with education,” says Cousteau, who with his mother and sister founded the environmental organization EarthEcho International.
Cousteau, whose French father and namesake died in a plane crash six months before he was born, was born in Southern California where his American mother and grandmother were Redondo Beach natives. He lives in Los Angeles today with his wife and two young children.
So the recent Huntington Beach oil spill was of both great personal and professional interest and concern.
“When I look at the oil spill, it just reminds me again that we need social change, not just passing a law, not just protecting the wetlands,” Cousteau says. “Because if you don’t have the society to care about these issues, then we’re really not going to see that large-scale change and innovation that needs to happen.”
That said, he also believes regulatory changes are necessary to end future spills whether they are like the Huntington Beach one or the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana, which is believed to be the largest in history.
“It’s not a question of if we have oil spills, it’s just a question of when,” Cousteau says. “The BP oil spill was the worst-case scenario that they all said would never happen.
“You read the regulatory documents, it’s ‘the possibility of this is so small as to not even be worth considering’ — until it happens,” he says. “It will never happen until it does. It always happens.”
For the California coast, Cousteau says new regulation and legislation is needed to cut the red tape around decommissioning old offshore rigs that are not particularly profitable and cheaper to leave open than permanently close.
On Friday, as part of the Book Festival’s S.T.E.A.M. Race to Space Reading Challenge, Cousteau will present his picture book, “Follow The Moon Home,” which features a young South Carolina girl who rallies her classmates and community to help protect the region’s sea turtles.
He’ll also talk with high schoolers about “Going Blue,” the subtitle of which is “A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands.”
Cousteau adds he might also ask his wife Ashlan Gorse Cousteau to join him to talk about “Oceans For Dummies,” a book she primarily wrote that he contributed to.
“There’s a ‘For Dummies’ book about foam rolling, plumbing, composting, you name it,” Cousteau says. “Raised-bed gardening, whatever. There was no ‘Dummies’ book in the entire multi-hundred series about oceans.
“It was surprising, shocking to us,” he says. “We were like, ‘Well, what about, I don’t know, the 70% of the planet that makes life possible on earth?’ They were like, immediately, yes, we need that. But decades after those books started.
“I think it’s just symbolic, that the ocean, which is our core backyard, is still overlooked.”
Get the latest news delivered daily!
We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. Although we do not pre-screen comments, we reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.
If you see comments that you find offensive, please use the “Flag as Inappropriate” feature by hovering over the right side of the post, and pulling down on the arrow that appears. Or, contact our editors by emailing [email protected]