Alexandra Cousteau to Receive Stroud Award For Freshwater Excellence

Stroud Center

Her grandfather, Jacques, and father, Philippe, advocated for the world’s oceans, but Alexandra Cousteau understood that most of the oceans’ problems are occurring at the source — way upstream. So, in 2009, she founded Blue Legacy. 

Blue Legacy explores the interconnectivity of freshwater and ocean issues around the globe and tells those stories through short films, news and social media to build public awareness. It aims to empower people to reclaim and restore water resources.

A Credible Voice For Freshwater Stewardship

Cousteau will receive the Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence™ at our annual Water’s Edge gala, on November 19 at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

“Alexandra has dedicated her life to the conservation and sustainable management of water and provides a credible voice for freshwater stewardship on a global scale,” said Bern Sweeney, Ph.D., director of the Stroud Center. “She honors her family’s legacy, and I am thrilled that she will be here to receive the 2015 Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence.”

Honored as a Young Global Leader and Emerging Explorer

In addition to her work with Blue Legacy, Cousteau serves as senior advisor to Oceana; was named as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum; and serves on the boards of the Global Water Challenge, Mother Nature Network and EarthEcho.

Cousteau served as a keynote speaker on environmental issues for organizations such as the United Nations, National Geographic, Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Press Club, Bioneers and the Telluride Film Festival.

In 2008, Cousteau was honored as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer — one among a group of eleven trailblazers from around the world who push the boundaries of discovery, adventure and global problem-solving. 

In early 2009, she joined the Discovery Channel lineup, co-hosting “Blue August” with her brother Philippe Jr., and served as a chief correspondent on water issues for the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green.

She served as the water advisor and spokesperson for the global Live Earth 2010 Run for Water. Cousteau has been honored as an Earth Trustee by the U.N., was named a Principal Voice by CNN International, and regularly delivers testimony before government agencies on critical policy issues.

Born in California, Cousteau grew up in France and the United States. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Georgetown University. Cousteau, her husband, Fritz Neumeyer, and daughter, Clémentine, call both the District of Columbia and Berlin, Germany, home.

The Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence

Presented each year since 2011, the Stroud Award for Freshwater Excellence, also known as the SAFE Water Award, honors individuals, institutions or organizations whose work contributes broadly to the conservation and protection of freshwater resources and ecosystems, improving the quantity and quality of fresh water on the planet or developing policies and practices which help perpetuate clean fresh water for future generations and wildlife.

Prior recipients include Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 2014; Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., and Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., in 2013; John Briscoe, Ph.D., in 2012; and Olivia Newton-John and her husband, John Easterling, in 2011.

Alexandra Cousteau Will Visit Chevron Oil Spill in the Ecuadorian Rainforest

CSR Wire

Alexandra Cousteau will visit this week the areas that were contaminated by Texaco, now Chevron, in the Ecuadorean Amazon, to convey to the world the situation that the affected communities lived through in the last few decades due to the company’s denial to correct the immense environmental damage.

Cousteau arrives in Ecuador invited by the National Secretariat of Communication of Ecuador as a part of the campaign launched by President Rafael Correa last September 17, to inform the world about the environmental disaster left by Chevron when it operated there between 1964 and 1990. During that time, Chevron used the wrong methods to manage the toxic waste as a result of oil drilling, deliberately spilling 18,000 gallons of toxic water and derivatives in unprotected pools, contaminating the soil, rivers and aquifers in the areas where it operated.

The environmental filmmaker will visit one of the sites where Chevron-Texaco operated to verify the contamination caused by these pools that had no protection in the Rainforest.

Alexandra Cousteau has achieved world recognition through her impeccable narrative, a tradition she took from her family (she is the granddaughter of well known activist, photographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau and is the daughter of film director Philippe Cousteau) and thus has the singular capacity to motivate her audience in relevant issues, like conservation rules and the politics of action. As a consultant for Oceania, Cousteau is dedicated to the promotion and defense of the preservation and sustainable management of water resources on behalf of the planet.

Cousteau’s participation in this solidarity crusade with the people affected and Ecuador, joins the recent visits by actor Danny Glover, oil expert Antonia Juhasz and the Mayor of Richmond, California, Gayle Mclaughin, who confirmed the environmental damage caused at the Aguarico 4 well, in the Province of Sucumbios, left by Chevron in 1986. Actress Cher also published a video to support the affected communities and promoted a boicot in the US against Chevron. Meanwhile, Human Rights activist Bianca Jagger wrote and article and accompanied a group of Ecuadoreans in a protest in New York against the judicial actions Chevron has taken against the affected and their lawyers, in a New York court.

In February 2011, a Court in Sucumbios ordered Chevron to pay $18.3 millions for environmental contamination and for affecting the health of the residents. Chevron has not paid saying, among other things, that the judicial order was obtained by fraud by the attorneys representing the people. Right before the ruling, Chevron sued the people and their attorneys and the trial started last October 15. The judge Lewis Kaplan has been accused by the defendants of siding with the oil company and of repeatedly acting against the Ecuadorean defendants in the partial rulings before the trial.

'Nobility of purpose' will encourage environmental projects

Superyacht News

The final day of The Global Superyacht Forum began with an emotive session by Alexandra Cousteau from Oceana, addressing the environmental concerns that affect the seas which the superyacht market so rely on.

Cousteau presented the audience with an honest portrayal of the consequences of over-fishing, bycatch and pollution, with statistics and a video. So far the superyacht industry has had no large part in the driving force for change, and Cousteau encouraged members in the audience to consider what they could do to help.

"We have learned more about the oceans than ever before," she explained, "but we have also lost more than ever before."

With the slogan "Save the oceans, feed the world", Cousteau explained the intentions of Oceana were to push for policy change, research and ocean recovery and for conservation to continue to be a main global concern.

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Although the ocean as an environment can recover quickly, the global population growth will slow recovery. Cousteau expressed her concern that there was only a "small window of time" for something to be done. By touching on various examples around the globe, the reality of the situation settled in and the audience began looking to brainstorm solutions and ways for the industry to be involved.

It was suggested that the industry look inwards to its new technologies, its owners, crew and the builders. It was also agreed that there are many owners who would participate in research and expedition and that the industry just needed quantifiable and tangible evidence to move further with it.

Resounding agreement also pointed to education as key driver for change and, in terms of yachting, a 'nobility of purpose' for an owner and a return for investment could make it a more attractive proposition in going forwards for industry involvement in conservation and environmental issues; with a hope for ambassadors and fewer sporadic environmental groups in the industry, instead coming together as one.

Alexandra Cousteau: We have a global water crisis

Muncie Free Press

In just a few generations, Alexandra Cousteau has seen the Mediterranean Sea go from hosting large fish and sharks to shrimp and octopus with the threat of gas and oil wells that could make it look like the Gulf of Mexico.

"We have a global water crisis," said the granddaughter of famed ocean explorer Jacque Cousteau and daughter of Phillippe Cousteau.

The activist, explorer and storyteller came to Ball State University Wednesday as part of the Bracken Environmental Speaker Series to talk about water conservation and sustainability.

Her Blue Legacy efforts that traveled around the world told countless stories about water have renewed worldwide efforts at water management. Two years ago, she joined Oceana, an international ocean conservation group that works to protect and restore oceans.

Cousteau said demands on drinking water like rapid population growth and persistent climate change constantly diminished clean water supplies and resulted in more conservation.

Some of her stories seen on National Geographic and Discovery channels illustrate natural wonders like the reserve Mekong River in southeast Asia that provides fish and other aquatic life in forests. Those stories also show the lack water in many desert countries besides others where water was dammed or diverted.

On the issue of dams, like plans to dam White River to create Mounds Lake, Cousteau said there was good and bad dams, and that she always wanted to push the button to blow up a dam.

She talked about problems with damming the Colorado River and other waterways that restricted a river's flow.

Cousteau said her early documentaries worldwide gave some Americans a false impression that the water crisis did not hit home.

Her effort then turned to America where she found countless stories about water needs, pollution and work to protect drinking water.

And the United States has the means and technology like no other country to improve water quality and make sure it is conserved, she said.

The worldwide explorer and activist encouraged students to engage and participate in efforts to conserve and protect water. Recalling the 1970s when the United States passed the Clean Water Act and created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cousteau hoped the country would continue to pioneer clean water efforts.

Andy Sharpless, Oceana CEO, said Cousteau came from a family of "ocean heroes" 

"It's in her blood," he said. "She has been at this since her first expedition when she was four months old. She has a level of experience and creditability theta is extremely unique.

 

Alexandra Cousteau to speak in Charleston, kick off STEM speaker series

The Fayette Tribune

Alexandra Cousteau, award-winning filmmaker, National Geographic Explorer and granddaughter of the late Jacques Cousteau, is coming to Charleston on Thursday, Nov. 13. She will be the first in a series of guests who will appear in the Chancellor’s Speaker Series over the next few months.

Cousteau’s presentation, “How to be a Lifelong Explorer: Leadership through the Lens of Exploration & Invention,” will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the West Virginia Culture Center Theater. The event is free and open to the public.

The Chancellor’s Speaker Series is organized by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research with support from a federal grant from the National Science Foundation. Organizers said that the goal of the series is to promote the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in West Virginia.

Dr. Jan Taylor, director of the Division of Science and Research, said, “By bringing nationally-renowned speakers, such as Alexandra Cousteau, to the state, we hope to connect a broad audience with fascinating science topics and the people who are passionate about them.”

“Through this speaker series and inspirational individuals, we hope to highlight science and innovation as the bedrocks of a thriving economy — and as an exciting, promising path toward a bright future for our young people,” said Dr. Paul Hill, chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission.

Taylor said that Cousteau continues the work of her renowned grandfather and will bring the audience of this event on a story-telling journey from her earliest memories with her grandfather teaching her to scuba dive to her many adventures today.

“She will also provide a unique perspective on how important it is to be not only a curious observer of the world but also an active participant in its preservation,” Taylor said.

While the event is free, the Division of Science and Research requests courtesy RSVPs at wvresearch.org.

The Division of Science and Research directs the EPSCoR program in West Virginia, while also managing other state and federally-funded academic research programs in the state. It provides strategic leadership for infrastructure advancement and development of competitive research opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

Cousteau: Good People Can Work Together for the Environment

The Herald Sun

Cousteau: Good people can work together for environment

But it wasn’t until a year later, when she spent 150 days traveling around North America, especially the United States, that she came to grips with the real problems.

“This is the country that taught me about the crisis and where the solutions are,” Cousteau told an audience Wednesday evening in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center Theater at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Cousteau, granddaughter of famed explorer and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau, spoke at the campus as keynote speaker kicking off Earth Week. She talked about her own experiences making films about the environment, as well as how she has incorporated social media to engage viewers.

But much of her focus was on efforts to resurrect the Colorado River, which once traveled south from the Rockies, through the Grand Canyon, and emptied into a delta in Mexico along the Gulf of California. That delta used to be the size of Rhode Island, she said.

Since the construction of Hoover Dam, cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix have thrived on water from the Colorado. Demand from Las Vegas has grown so much, Cousteau said, that they’re putting in a second intake valve.

Meanwhile, the Mexican delta ran dry, turning into a mix of desert and mud flats.

Just last month, after lobbying by environmentalists, the International Boundary Water Commission released water from Lake Mead in Nevada to flow toward the Colorado River delta. The river’s expected to meet the sea again on May 7 or 8, Cousteau said.

“It’s an incredible thing to see water start flowing back,” she said. She spoke of Mexican children letting the water rush over their feet and ankles. “This is a moment they will never forget.”

More releases are planned in the next five years as part of the effort to revitalize the delta. After that, she said, “we’ll see what happens.”

“When good people come together … you can actually accomplish something incredible, important and life-changing,” Cousteau said.

 

Voice of Water: How Mike O'Malley is Speaking Up for the Appleton Wetland

Huffington Post

by Alexandra Cousteau

"So this is the Appleton wetland," Mike O'Malley says to me as we kayak along the Drummond Creek, a side channel of the Mississippi River in Eastern Ontario on our River Mission expedition. Haggard maple trees have fallen or lay dead as far as the eye can see. I can tell that something is deeply wrong with this wetland. "What we're looking at are the dead and dying relics of the soft maple tree canopy that's been decimated by a very small rise in water levels of about 10 cm during their critical summer growing season," explains Mike, who heads up the local Mississippi RiverWatchers.

Mike, along with many others in his community of Almonte, Ontario believe that Enerdu Power System's dam is the culprit for the ecological destruction I see before us. In 2004 the company erected 40cm high flashboards on The Cascade of the Mississippi River to increase their power draw. That small rise in water levels downstream has drowned the upstream wetland, whose tree roots need to be dry during their summer growing season, explains Mike.

My expeditions always remind me that we all live connected to one another. Once we recognize this fact, and truly live by it, then watershed stewardship is no longer a choice but a necessity. In the case of the Appleton Wetland (a textbook example of the provincially significant hardwood maple wetland ecosystem) the dam is operating with little regard for the delicate ecological system upstream, and has thereby endangered what ecologists call the true lungs of the earth, a precious wetland.

Lucky for this dying forest wetland, people like Mike have mobilized to try and save it by trying to find a financially feasible operating model for the dam that also allows the wetland to thrive. "If we manage the water levels so that we have a healthy ecosystem and don't be greedy about how much power we get when, we could have a financially viable hydro operation downstream," he tells me. "We could have a healthy wetland that's accessible to both animals and humans for recreation. It could be very harmonious." Like so many situations where development seems to butt up against the needs of environment, there is a win-win solution to be found. The question is just whether all the people at the table are motivated to find it.

O'Malley first became the voice of his waterway in 2012, when a group of concerned citizens first joined together to become the Mississippi Riverwatchers, part of the Ontario Riverkeeper's River Watch program. Now, that voice has become a chorus of a dozen volunteers who advocate for a balanced approach to development (such as expansion plans for the dam that threatens the cascading waterfalls in the heart of Almonte) that ensures good stewardship of the river and its wetland.

Back on the water, Mike gestures to the landscape, which he has seen transformed from a lush and green canopy to a leafless skeleton of a forest in the span of nine years. As we glide along the river, the duck grass that floats at the surface of the water sounds like sand beneath my kayak. Mike's next words deeply resonate with me. I've heard them uttered over the years of water advocacy at Blue Legacy from the mouths of countless citizens and friends who have taken up the fight for their waterways; who give their rivers a voice; who ensure that governments are held accountable for environmental protection laws and that enforcement is upheld; who do what's right when those around them do not. Even in its denuded state, Mike sees a stretch of wilderness that is poised to take back what it has lost. And he's there to give it all the help he can muster: " This is accessible wilderness and it's worth fighting for."

The Blue Story of the Ottawa River

Ottawa Life

The Ottawa River has many stories to tell.

They are the stories of the Algonquin heritage, of colonialism, of nation-building and the Industrial Revolution. They are the stories of everyone who shares the river: whether fishers, kayakers or canoeists.

But Alexandra Cousteau, grand-daughter of the world-famous oceanographer and conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, will help the Ottawa River tell its blue, untold story.

Alexandra stands below a dam on the Ottawa River.

Alexandra stands below a dam on the Ottawa River.

Through her not-for-profit organization Blue Legacy International, Cousteau continues to do what her grandfather and father devoted their lives to: conservation of the Earth’s precious resource – water. She traveled to Ottawa as part of River Mission – a joint initiative between the young generation of the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation, Blue Legacy and the Ottawa Riverkeeper to raise awareness of the poor health of the Ottawa River.

In September, Cousteau and her team spent 10 days on the Ottawa River. During her stay, Cousteau shot three short films about the river’s water quality, dams and governance.

Cousteau traveled along the river, meeting community leaders and volunteers. She explored the river watersheds and studied the way hydro dams are built. Even though Cousteau and her team were happy to see frogs and turtles in the river just below Parliament Hill, Cousteau says there is still a lot of work to do to protect the Ottawa River.

“The Ottawa River faces challenges of improving water quality in the river, managing the impacts of dams on river ecology and biodiversity, and perhaps - most critical of all - creating a collaborative management strategy for the river that bridges the different government entities,” Cousteau says.

The Ottawa River Watchdog

“Life,” says Meredith Brown. “The Ottawa River signifies life for the people of Ontario and Quebec. We all need water to survive.”

Brown is the executive director of Ottawa Riverkeeper - a grassroots charity formed to protect and restore the health of the Ottawa River. For almost a decade, Brown has been bringing important issues such as sewage dumping and radioactive waste to the attention of the public and governments.

Brown says the Ottawa River faces almost every issue threatening its fresh waters: from dams to nuclear pollution, from municipal sewage to shoreline and floodplain development.

With Cousteau’s film crew, Brown sampled the river’s water for dissolved oxygen, water clarity, alkalinity, phosphorus and nitrogen. These are basic water quality parameters to monitor, Brown says.

Alexandra joins the Ottawa Riverkeepers to test water on the Ottawa River.

Alexandra joins the Ottawa Riverkeepers to test water on the Ottawa River.

But many toxic chemicals go into the river. Ottawa Riverkeeper simply doesn’t have the means to implement a thorough water quality monitoring program.

“We know our river contains pesticides, pharmaceuticals, ibuprofen, estrogen, tritium, and heavy metals," Brown says. "There are many different compounds going into the river that come full circle to us as they can end up in our drinking water.”

The Ottawa River needs help. Brown hopes that Cousteau will put the spotlight on the river.

The Ottawa River Needs a Collaborative Government and One Strategy: Cousteau

Cousteau says that Ontario, Quebec and First Nations communities need to work together to preserve the Ottawa River but that, so far, governments have no common plan.

“My crew and I were struck by the lack of communication between the two provinces and especially between Ottawa and Gatineau regarding the work that each is - or is not - doing to address problems such as pollution, sewage overflow, E. coli, etc.,” Cousteau says. “There also seemed to be a lot of tension from both sides that is counter-productive, especially since people on both sides of the river share a sincere concern for the health of their river.”

Many government agencies are involved in regulating aspects of protecting the Ottawa River. Yet there is little accountability, Brown agrees.

“The federal government could do a better job regulating toxic substances, which I know is a big challenge, but critically important," Brown says. "The federal government also needs to enforce its own regulations. There is a lack of understanding about the economic benefits that a healthy river brings to our communities and to our provinces."

Will the Governments Keep Their Promise?

Last year, Ecology Ottawa launched a petition to support the Ottawa River Action Plan to stop sewage spills. Over 10,000 people signed the petition, calling on the federal and provincial governments to support the city's plan.

Graham Saul, executive director of Ecology Ottawa, says Minister John Baird, who served as the Minister of Environment in 2007-2008, and again as an interim environment minister in 2010- 2011, promised in writing that he will make the Ottawa River Action Plan a priority in the in 2014's federal infrastructure funding.

"I've been told that the challenges with the National Capital Commission are resolved, and really the last remaining barrier is the federal and provincial government coming up with the money," Saul says.

Ottawa Life Magazine asked Minister Baird about his promise, and received an email from Rick Roth, a spokesman for Baird.

“We are proud to have been the first level of government to fund the Ottawa River Action Plan,” Roth writes. “Minister Baird has repeatedly urged municipal leaders to make protecting the Ottawa River - one of Canada's heritage waterways - a priority. He views this as a moral issue."

Roth writes that the City of Ottawa is urged to spend the $33 million that the federal government committed for the Ottawa River clean-up... and that the city has yet to seek reimbursement for even a fraction of that funding.

Dixon Weir, general manager of Environmental Services, says the City received $33 million from the federal and provincial governments five years ago. The funds were used to implement sewage separation projects that have resulted in a 70% decrease of sewer overflow volumes.

Now, the City of Ottawa is working on another project which will effectively reduce combined sewer overflow volumes to zero, Weir says. “The City has committed its share of the funding for this project as part of the draft 2014 Budget.”

As for Minister Baird, he still promises to support the Ottawa River Action Plan in the upcoming budget.

David McGuinty, Member of Parliament for Ottawa South, says he sees nothing specific regarding the Ottawa River in next year’s federal budget: “I know Mr. Baird says he is committed, but I think it’s time for Minister Baird to put his money where his mouth is.”

McGuinty says the federal government should do more than just fund the Ottawa River Action Plan. McGuinty has been long calling on the federal government (and other levels of government) to create a single united council with a holistic approach for the Ottawa River.

All It Needs Is Love, Love Is All the River Needs

A young generation of the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation stepped up to raise awareness about preserving the Ottawa River among Quebec's population. The foundation committed $490,000 to the River Mission.

Dominique Monchamp, the executive director of the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation, says she and the fourth generation of the de Gaspé Beaubien family were inspired by working with Cousteau's team and Ottawa Riverkeeper.

"The reason for these expeditions is we believe we must go on the river, feel the river, love the river, touch the river, and live the river to better understand how we can make a difference," says Monchamp.

That’s why the next-generation de Gaspé Beaubien family believes the decision-makers should first listen to what the river has to tell them, Monchamp observes. “They want to find a way to bring these people on the river. The minute you are on the water - you just fall in love with that river, and you would want the best for it."

Cousteau says people should take the time to experience all that the river has to offer, find out what initiatives exist in the communities and join the effort to protect the river.

“As my grandfather used to tell me: 'People protect what they love, and they love what they know'," Cousteau says.

"The Ottawa River needs Ontarians and Québécois to work together to protect it.”

Cousteau's short films will be released in 2014. The final phase of the River Mission will be to host the Ottawa River Summit in 2015.

Hopefully, the summit will bring together key players and stakeholders of the watershed to come up with a united strategy to protect the Ottawa River.

The First Question

Huffington Post

By Alexandra Cousteau

Since arriving in Canada on September 11 to film three documentaries about the Ottawa River as part of River Mission, a joint initiative between Ottawa Riverkeeper, Blue Legacy International, and the de Gaspe Beaubien Foundation, I have kayaked, whitewater rafted and canoed on the river. As the source of the region's tap water, I have drunk from the river and seen firsthand the watershed's sewage plants as they clean and return water to the river.

As closely as I've gotten to know the Ottawa River during this expedition, I have gotten to know the people that are its champions even better -- people like Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown, Ambroise Lycke, director of the Temiscamingue watershed, and Algonquin elder Skip Ross, all of whom fight to give this river a voice.

While we've borne witness to stories of empowered and impassioned individuals advocating for the river, we have also discovered there is a dramatic lack of accessible information and technology tools to support public action and understanding of the state of our water.

All that I have seen and heard here truly underscores the importance of knowing the state of our water -- is it safe to swim in, can we fish in it, can we drink it. Information about water quality is the most critical tool we have to empower people to reclaim and restore their water. And yet, time after time, I see how hard it is for people to obtain and make sense of that information.

Ultimately this is a river that belongs to the communities of people that enjoy and rely upon it every day. Hearing about their concerns for the river and their visions of a better future has truly reinforced my belief that we are all stewards of the quality of our own water. But to bring about the change we seek, we need the right tools, technology, innovation, access to water quality information, public accountability and openness.

Water advocacy on every level starts with one question: How well do you know the state of your water?

Sipadan Has Not Changed-French Explorer

Borneo Post

KOTA KINABALU: Sipadan is still the same as it was in 1988, when world famous French underwater explorer and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau made his remark, “I have seen other places like Sipadan 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art.”

Making this claim recently was none other than the late explorer’s own granddaughter, Alexandra Cousteau, who is now attached with the National Geographic as an explorer.

“We watched his film with the crew and it was really interesting. We were comparing how it was in 1988 to how it was now. The abundance looked to be the same and we dove on the same spots. He has written so much about it in his books – in so many other parts of the world, things have changed,” said Alexandra, who was in Sabah to explore and make a short documentary for the National Geography on the beauty of islands in Malaysia with the Scuba Zoo.

“This was in 1988 which was 25 years ago. It is still the same (now) as it was then, the abundance is still as it was then. And we have lost so many since then. It is indeed the most beautiful places I have been. It is 10 out of 10. It is really a revelation. In Sipadan I have never seen so many healthy corals, so many turtles, so many fishes,” she said.

Alexandra mentioned that she first learned how to dive under the guidance of her late grandfather in a diving spot at the southern of France when she was seven years old.

“So much is gone. The Caribbean is almost gone. You have a real treasure. I hope to come back one day with my daughter so that she can dive here like my grandfather did,” she said.

“So many things in Sipadan are extinct like in other parts of the world – it is a real treasure,” she said.

She then mentioned of the conservation effort that were being undertaken in Sipadan — the turtle sanctuary and the shark sanctuary.

“One hundred million sharks are fished and finned every year so it makes sense to have the sanctuary. It may be (one day) the last place in the world that has sharks. A live shark is not only important to the environment but also to the communities around.”

Meanwhile, Scuba Zoo founder and chief executive officer Simon Christopher explained the importance of maintaining the ecological balance in the sea and mentioned why sharks had to be conserved.

“Without sharks, the weak and old will not be predated. There would be massive overgrazing and soon, there will be a desert,” he said.

And having predators in the sea is also a crowd puller and makes perfect sense in the context of touristic attraction.

“If you have no more predators, no one will come,” he said, simply.

He emphasised that a framework needs to be put in place to protect sharks species in Sabah and that various issues related to awareness and controlled fisheries need to be addressed.

Explorer Jacques Cousteau granddaughter to visit Toledo

Spending her summers in the south of France as a child, Alexandra Cousteau would walk from one tank to the next at The Oceanographic Museum with her grandfather, the famous explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

She asked myriad questions of Mr. Cousteau, who worked as director there. But while she learned to scuba dive at a young age, she shared her apprehension of leaping into unfamiliar water, as she gave one of the keynote addresses to Toledo-area leaders and advocates at Friday's GreenTown Conference.

“I looked down into the inky blue darkness of the Mediterranean ...” she said. “I had some concerns.”

After taking what she described as “a few tentative breaths,” her grandfather grabbed her by the hand and they plunged into the deep blue together.

Today, Ms. Cousteau is a filmmaker and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who travels the country. While she has an urge to explore, she acknowledged that many of the magical sites she explored during her adolescent expeditions are largely gone from the modern environment.

“They taught me about water ... they taught me about ecosystems,” she said, adding that many of the places now are either polluted or “ceased to exist.”

Knowing many of the exciting sites she toured were losing ground, Ms. Cousteau turned to storytelling as a medium to get her message out.

“Storytelling is an incredibly powerful thing. Stories can change our world,” she said.

Going on expeditions is a way of life for Ms. Cousteau, who enjoys traveling to new places and hearing new ideas. But because she didn’t want to create traditional documentaries, she decided to create an “interactive exploration” method.

She and a crew of seven traveled for 100 days around the world in 2009, visiting places such as Israel, Australia, and Botswana. They posted rough cuts, short films, and daily blog posts to allow the rest of the world to accompany their journey virtually.

But then a large environmental issue crept up on her radar — the global water crisis.

“Clearly, there’s a global water crisis,” Ms. Cousteau said. “There is a myth of abundance that we need to address.”

Issues such as shifting climates and groundwater drying up have contributed to water loss. She and a crew of a dozen hit the road again and went out to discover what was happening with water, in the most unexpected places.

“America is what taught me about the global water crisis,” she said. “Climate change is a gas pedal on all those issues. Our systems are what is in trouble.”

Ms. Cousteau and her team traveled a span of 1,800 miles, from Canada to Mexico, starting their journey at the Colorado River.

“It’s an incredible example of the birth of water,” she said, adding that the resource is responsible for making the deserts bloom. “It produces so much of the food.”

Three films came out of the work that was done along the river.

Ms. Cousteau showed Limits to Growth during GreenTown to give attendees a look at Lake Mead, an artificial reservoir on the Colorado. The Hoover Dam was also showcased during the film.

Connecting the dots back to responsibility, she said local sources are also important factors for environmentalists to consider.

“That’s the water we wake up to,” she said, dubbing the locals who work with watershed conservation “water warriors.”

After an audience member asked Ms. Cousteau about the Maumee River, tying her speech back to the Toledo area, she called on the help of Sandy Bihn, Lake Erie Waterkeeper executive director, to provide some details about the state of the local watershed.

Ms. Bihn said part of the problem is that most people don’t understand rivers and that there are multiple issues facing river conservancy, including agricultural issues and wastewater problems.

The 137-mile Maumee, flowing from the confluence of the St. Mary and St. Joseph rivers in Fort Wayne, Ind., to Lake Erie at Toledo, is “is a shallow, muddy river. It is the fishiest river in the Great Lakes,” Ms. Bihn said.

Locally, three groups meet and work on river quality awareness: Lake Erie Waterkeeper, the Lake Erie Center of the University of Toledo, and Partners for Clean Streams.

While Ms. Cousteau urged audience members to get involved with one of the water groups, she also wanted the audience to know that powerlessness is not an option.

“Don’t assume by doing nothing you're not having an impact. We all make a difference.”

Clean Water: Alexandra Cousteau Keeps the Legacy Alive

Family Matters

Sure, her granddad's name is practically synonymous with the ocean, but that doesn’t mean Alexandra Cousteau had to follow in his flippers. She just wanted it that way.

Calling Alexandra Cousteau “grounded” wouldn’t be quite right. Yes, the 36-year-old granddaughter of the legendary French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau has her priorities in place. As the founder of Blue Legacy, an initiative based at Washington, D.C.’s Ocean Foundation and dedicated to raising awareness about global water issues, she’s a leading expert on the subject. She and her husband, a German architect, are devoted parents to their infant daughter, Clementine, carting her along on business trips to the Middle East and South America with a suitcase of diapers in tow. But “fully submerged,” or maybe “lifting off,” would probably be more to the point. For Cousteau is constantly on the move, boarding one sea- or aircraft or another to reach some far-flung destination in order to learn more about the environment and the threats it faces.  

The Travels Ahead

In the eight months since Clementine came along, for example, Cousteau has completed a 140-day expedition–speaking tour of North America; embarked on a 10-day scouting trip to Belize; overseen a photo shoot in the Yucatan; and enjoyed a brief Thanksgiving break at home in D.C. That was before she jetted off to Paris, Qatar, Berlin, and down to the South of France, where we took the photos for this story. “Next, I’m going to Atlanta,” she says, her deliberate voice betraying just a hint of French. “Then, hopefully, home for a couple of weeks, preparing for World Water Day and Earth Day.” 

This summer, Cousteau will set off on a three-week trek through Belize to trace the country’s water system from its source deep in the Chiquibul forest to where it empties into the ocean, near a part of the Mesoamerican Reef that is so majestic it’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. “Belize is incredible,” she says. “It has virgin rain forests, rivers you can drink from, and amazing biodiversity. But the water system is fragile. We’re traveling across that watershed [the term used for an area drained by a river or other body of water] to show the threats people are facing -- in the wake of deforestation, pollution, and agricultural development -- for a television special and an interactive experience for the Blue Legacy website.”

The Blue Legacy

Alexandra is Cousteau 3.0, the third generation of the French family to devote her life to raising awareness about what she calls our “water planet.” Specifically, she wants to help people understand how our communities depend on the streams and rivers that eventually feed into our oceans. As a young graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in international relations, Cousteau spent her twenties traveling the world and learning about environmental issues, on occasion partnering with organizations to study, say, sustainable alternatives to fishing in Panama, or dolphins in the Bahamas. In 2008, when she returned to the States from her then-home in Central America, Cousteau founded Blue Legacy, with an aim toward focusing on the link between freshwater systems and the oceans. In the years since, she’s made numerous expeditions to study how our relationships to these systems are changing. Last year, she led a film crew to Mexico to document how the Colorado River has been diverted to the point where, at one particular stretch, all you’ll find of a once-vibrant agricultural community and wildlife habitat is a mucky, barren riverbed.

Explorations

"This is really, in a lot of ways, where my grandfather was headed with his work, and my father, Philippe, as well,” says Cousteau, whose dad died in a small-plane crash when she was just 3. It was her early explorations with her parents, she says, dad leading the crew and mom handling logistics, that set the stage for a lifelong passion for conservation and a hunger for new experiences. Throughout her childhood, she says, her mom and grandfather continued to show her (and her younger brother, Philippe Jr.) places that most people had never seen. “They inspired me to continue to make others care about a part of the world they’d given little thought to.” 

When Cousteau’s mother, Jan, a California native, met Philippe, she was a New York City model who had never heard the name Cousteau. It was the “quintessential story of a beautiful New York girl meeting a dashing adventurer,” says Alexandra, “and setting off on a life of exploration.” Jan moved to Paris and began embarking on treks to places like Uganda and Chile, eventually bringing Alexandra along for the ride.

"My job is to think and talk about how interconnected we are to these places that my father and grandfather explored,” says Cousteau, who in 2008 was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. She is also a young global leader with the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum, and a senior adviser to Oceana, an international organization working to protect the oceans. “We only now understand the impact of interrupting and degrading these fragile places that drive life on our planet. I’m trying to remind us all how those places are connected to our everyday lives.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

It was back in 1956 that an angular, charismatic young Frenchman named Jacques-Yves Cousteau began taking cameras down into the oceans to gather footage for what would eventually become "The Silent World," the groundbreaking film that introduced the land-based population to its underseas counterpart. With his ship, the "Calypso," as his base, Cousteau navigated nose-to-nose with seals, cavorted underwater with blowfish, and watched legions of dolphins jump in his wake. He would go on to win three Academy Awards, codevelop the AquaLung, and inspire a generation of SCUBA-suited amateur divers. By the time of his death, in 1997, Cousteau had become the world’s most recognized expert on marine life, his iconic pipe and red knit cap familiar to millions of eager viewers whom he’d encouraged repeatedly to become “stewards of the sea.”

Here, Jacques readies for a dive in 1970.

The Steward King

Though Alexandra spent much of her childhood in the United States, her summers were passed on the Mediterranean coast, and it is there that the senior Cousteau’s memory is most alive for her. She was only 3 months old when she began to swim, and by the time she was 7, she’d taken her first dive. “He’d made this little mask and fins and a little tank on these rubber suspenders,” she recalls of Jacques. “I was nervous about breathing underwater. I turned to ask if it would be OK, but before I could, he winked at me and sort of pushed me in. Before I knew it, I was enveloped in a school of small, silvery fish. They were shimmering in the sunlight and dancing around me in the clear blue water. I really fell in love that day.”

Generations at Sea

We had a responsibility to take care of all these subjects, her grandfather said, so that they could live and thrive. I used to ask him so many questions that eventually he would say 'Alexandra, one of these days, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself.'"

She took those words to heart, and today Alexandra Cousteau is bent on engendering a similar passion for exploration and discovery in the next generation. Clementine should feel exhilarated by, rather than afraid of new places. "The greatest gift I can give my child is showing her the world -- not just ecosystems and fragile places, but the people, and the wealth and diversity of cultures and perspectives."

Here, Alexandra and her mother, Jan, are with the Cousteau crew in the amphibian plane "Flying Calypso" during the filming of the "The Nile" in 1978.

The Underwater Kingdom

Among the positions Jacques Cousteau held over the years was director of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. “We’d play this wonderful game as we walked down the steps to the aquarium,” says Alexandra. “We’d pretend we were entering an underwater kingdom. He was the steward king, and I was a mermaid princess, of course. We’d go from one tank to the next, and he’d teach me about all the creatures -- the bonnethead sharks and the arrow crabs, the electric eels, the clown fish, and the sea slugs. He’d tell me about what each one needed to survive, about its habitat and ecosystem, and he would press upon me the importance of our role as stewards. 

The Girl's Got Blue Genes

At the moment, the new mother’s biggest challenge is figuring out how to keep her daughter on a decent nap schedule when every other day seems to begin in an airport. Fortunately, Alexandra’s mom or husband is usually along to help out with the parenting. “It’s certainly going to be challenging to get back up to speed with a baby, but I will not leave her behind. I’m committed to being a mom as much as I’m committed to fighting for all of these issues that matter to me. Blending these worlds is a challenge,” she concedes. “I’m not doing it perfectly, but I’m doing it.”

What You Can Do

Yes, it’s important to turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth, but there are other ways you can help protect your local water sources. Here are three easy steps to making a difference.

1. Identify your watershed. Where does your water come from and where does it go? Each watershed is different, and half the battle is knowing the specific threats and political issues facing your own. At epa.gov, you can enter your zip code to find your watershed and see a list of citizen-based groups you can join that are associated with protecting it. 

2. Visit one water source in the next six weeks. If you already do this regularly, start taking someone with you. Walk along the banks or go swimming, fishing, or kayaking. If people don’t have experiences or memories linked to these places, they have no connection and less reason to care. Explore it, know it, understand it, and show it to your children. 

3. Get involved. Whether it’s protecting our rivers or taking aim at climate change, we have to be both local actors and global citizens. Contact your local chapter of the Waterkeeper Alliance and try to get involved. Giving money to build a well in Africa is important, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of water issues in your own backyard.