Philippe Cousteau Jr., the grandson of legendary marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau, spoke of the challenges facing our planet and the actions we must take to preserve our world as the last lecturer of the President’s Forum Speaker Series this semester. Held in conjunction with Earth Week programming, the environmental activist addressed a crowd that filled the Vandervort Room on Tuesday night.
Cousteau recalled the words of his grandfather, who constantly stressed the connectedness of the planet and the influence of this on the environment. “We live in a global world, what we do affects everyone else,” he said. “Every single time we destroy the environment, we cost ourselves more in the long run; it is a cost we cannot afford.”
During his talk, Cousteau championed for increased education and research, and touched upon the many challenges he sees for the future, such as how to handle and think about energy. He stressed the need to consider the true cost of energy – and oil in particular.
“I propose that the $4 a gallon for gasoline is a fraction of what we really pay,” said Cousteau. “Our reliance on fossil fuel is killing us.”
Hidden costs to using oil include the millions spent on curing illnesses related to the excessive use of fossil fuels, as well as the lives of the men and women employed in the dangerous job of protecting fuel convoys in the Middle East. He noted these costs, which many do not consider when they fill up the tank of their car, need to be discussed in order to create a better world in which to live.
“We have to have honest dialogue to move forward,” he said, noting everyone can- and must -do something to become less dependent on fossil fuels. Cousteau emphasized the need to stop thinking along political party lines and encouraged environmental action groups to push to make changes happen.
He also pointed to what he saw as areas where there is hope, despite devastating environmental events- such as the BP oil spill a year ago and the destruction of the Everglades. It should become a priority, he said, to put more money into scientific research and exploration. It is our duty to be informed and do what we can to slow the deterioration of the planet; we must choose an environmental course of action, he said.
“The challenges the world faces are the ones we face, they are the ones you face,” Cousteau said, echoing his grandfather’s sentiment. “The good news is that there is you, and I have infinite faith in you all.”
Other speakers this academic year included Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director of NBC Chuck Todd, Chair and CEO of Chegg.com Daniel L. Rosensweig ’83, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire of the Episcopal Church V. Gene Robinson, award-winning journalist John Hockenberry, and U. S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer.
Cousteau currently serves as chief executive officer of EarthEcho International and as the chief ocean correspondent for the Animal Planet and Planet Green channels. Recently, he hosted the series “Oceans,” produced by the Discovery Channel and the BBC. Cousteau is also co-founder of Azure Worldwide, a strategic environmental design, development and marketing company, and currently serves on the board of directors of The Ocean Conservancy, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, the National Environmental Education Foundation, and the Advisory Board of Discovery Communications Inc.’s Planet Green. He holds a master’s degree in history from the University of St. Andrews.