October 27, 2009
In front of a crowd of more than 500 people of all ages, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of famous explorer Jacques Cousteau, shared an enlightening and engaging presentation on the importance of preserving our world’s oceans and protecting the marine animals that live in them. “The Great Ocean Adventure” was hosted by the Rollins College Winter Park Institute and included a variety of educational and vibrant video clips that were taken beneath the ocean’s surface.
Cousteau laughed as he shared the story of how he first discovered scuba diving. When he was seven years old, his father pushed him overboard and that was his initiation. He has many fond memories of diving with his father, mother and brother in France. But there was much more to those family adventures than just exploring what lay beneath the ocean.
“Very early in my youth, I realized how fast we were destroying our water and ocean system,” Cousteau said. “It was very frustrating to see the extent of the accumulation of trash. Back then, people even used dynamite to try to catch fish.”
Following in the footsteps of his father, Cousteau has made it his life’s mission to educate the world about the how and why we should all do our part protecting our waters. He believes we were all stuck on this planet and need to manage it properly as well as understand that everything is connected. The pressure on our environment is ever-increasing and it is imperative that we reconnect to nature.
As a documentary filmmaker, one of his proudest moments came after President George W. Bush saw one of his educational films. Three thousand miles from the United States and Japan, near the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the currents collect tons of trash and marine debris that end up on the Islands. After being shown Cousteau’s PBS documentary on this topic at The White House, President Bush declared the Islands a Marine National Monument—the largest protected area in the world.
Cousteau encouraged everyone to stop and think about what we can all do differently. One vehicle we can use to make a difference is the organization he founded, Ocean Futures Society, a non-profit group dedicated to exploring our global ocean, and inspiring and educating people throughout the world to act responsibly for its protection.
“My father always said people protect what they love,” said Cousteau. “We can and will make a difference.”
Now in its second year, the Institute features discussions between the Rollins community and thought leaders from diverse fields who are invited for limited residencies. Seminars, lectures, readings, master classes, performances, open discussions, exhibits, and a variety of gatherings provide the forum for such exchanges. Visit the Winter Park Institute for a schedule of events.