Cousteau screens environmental films, implores student action

It is no surprise that Jean-Michel Cousteau was thrown overboard by his father at the age of seven. In fact, it is to be expected. What may be surprising to some, however, is the effect that deforestation is having on the world’s endangered coral reefs. On October 5, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of filmmaker and explorer Jacque Cousteau, shared his knowledge and his video footage with an enamored audience at Ira Allen Chapel. But his speech was not carefree. As Cousteau spoke of the world’s bombardment by the “communication revolution,” a cell phone rang, literally setting the tone for the evening as nothing but bona fide. Due to topsoil runoff (an effect caused by the abundance of deforestation in the world), coral reefs everywhere, which Cousteau refers to it as his “playground,”are being destroyed, literally choked. While these coral reefs are tourist attractions for certain nations, 70 percent of which are developing countries, their destruction will cause the economy of these nations to “go down the drain,” Cousteau said. Cousteau asked, “How can we protect what we don’t understand?” and stressed that we should “manage nature like you manage a business…and if you live off its interests [it can] keep us going forever…today we are heading toward bankruptcy.” Aside from discovering new species of marine life with almost every dive, Cousteau and his team have discovered an old practice of humans-an island of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that is “inhabited by its debris…a history of our garbage.” Cousteau does not know how this debris, from 52 different identifiable countries, is being scattered. But he does know that it is doing severe damage to the real inhabitants of the island-the animals. He shared with the audience a video of his trip to Kure, the island of debris at least 3,000 miles away from any civilization, and as he approached one of many near-decomposed bird carcasses, he proceeded to pull out non-decomposed items from the remains: a lighter, a leather sole of a shoe, a glow stick and some fabric, to name a few. But Cousteau does not let this issue float by. After screening his two-hour specials on PBS, he was invited by President Bush to share his information at the White House. After Bush’s optimistic “let’s get it done,” he helped to create the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument: “140,000 square miles-the largest protected ocean area,” Cousteau said. “Young people have no right to not do something…[we need to] sit down and have dialogue with decision makers. That is the only way to make a difference,” Cousteau said, stressing the fact that anyone can make a difference. “Our trees above water, are what the coral reefs are below,” Cousteau said. And, metaphors aside, the two are apparently desperate for help.