Jean-Michel Cousteau brings ocean protection message to CSUMB.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
When CSUMB faculty and staff were asked to submit suggestions for the school’s 10th Anniversary Distinguished Lecture Series last spring, the names came fast and furious. They wanted a speaker with international appeal as well as someone who possessed a connection to Monterey Bay. What they got was Jean-Michel Cousteau—environmentalist, educator, film producer and son of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.
“He’s a great choice because he fits in with what we do here, which is conservation and public policy,” said Joan Weiner, CSUMB’s press liaison. “We wanted people with an interesting life and interesting message.”
Cousteau, who is in on expedition in French Polynesia, boasts a list of accomplishments that amazes even those out-of-touch with the world of oceanography and deep-sea exploration. The phrase, “like father, like son,” may explain his accomplishments.
Since he was a young boy, Cousteau has said, he was eager to explore the ocean.
“At the age of seven, my dad put a tank on my back,” he writes in his bio. “A lot of people have asked me, ‘Were you pushed into doing this, or did you want to do something else?’ I really never had any second thoughts.”
Cousteau responded to the call to carry forward the work of his father, who died in 1997. As President of Ocean Futures Society, a non-profit conservation and education organization, he serves as the “voice for the ocean.”
Cousteau’s duties include serving as spokesman, researcher and environmental diplomat. In an effort to educate and promote positive change, he has produced 70 films, earning an Emmy, a Peabody Award and a Cable Ace Award.
Cousteau brings a multi-media presentation to CSUMB next week to share his ocean views and eco-friendly message. The lecture will focus on two points, said Paul Zemitzsch, Media Representative for Ocean Futures Society.
“First, Cousteau will talk about the interconnectiveness of all things on this planet—including our waters,” Zemitzsch says. “Second, why it makes economic sense to concern ourselves with such matters.”
Milos Radakovich, Director of Bay Net, an all-volunteer organization designed to protect and educate the public about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, marked his calendar long ago for Cousteau’s CSUMB visit. Radakovich says Cousteau’s words serve as an important reminder about the importance of preserving California’s natural treasures.
“The issues are global issues on a local scale,” Radakovich says. “Locals sometimes become deaf to local voices, they need an outside voice to remind them,” he said.
Radakovich says protecting waters such as Monterey Bay is more challenging and more work.
“In this area we are so dependent on the local ecosystem,” he says. “It’s not a disposable commodity, and tourism can have a lot of wear and tear on the area.”
In a world where the environmental needs tend to sit on the backburner, Cousteau’s work is invaluable, Radakovich says.
“It’s our job, not the government’s,” he says. “We have to be proactive.”
With fame and a legendary reputation, however, come critics and naysayers.
Cousteau owns and operates the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, a 17-acre, five-star, getaway destination located on the island of Vanua Levu in the South Pacific. The resort boasts gourmet dining, and world-class scuba diving.
Some accuse the oceanographer of selling out to the hospitality industry, pointing out that he has added “hotel developer” to his résumé. In fact, Cousteau was sued by his father for using the Cousteau name when promoting his resort. The dispute was settled out of court and Jean-Michel Cousteau added his first name to his resort.
Radakovich downplays the controversy and defends the second-generation explorer.
“He’s probably making millions,” he says. “But probably spending millions just to get out his message. A message we could all benefit from and one we should try to understand.”
Cousteau speaks at 7:30pm at the World Theater, Sixth Avenue, CSUMB campus, Seaside. $25; $15 for CSUMB alumni, faculty and staff, seniors, military; $5 for CSUMB students with I.D., Tickets can be purchased online at csumb.edu/anniversary.