International Year of Biodiversity
The tradition continues with Philippe Cousteau's daughter Alexandra. In July she will be involved in "Expedition: Blue Planet" where she and her crew will "...journey across North American to investigate global water issues “in the backyard” of one of the world’s leading economies."
"Another Cousteau Working to Save the Waters"
Patricia R. Olsen
April 2nd, 2010
The New York Times
Patricia R. Olsen
April 2nd, 2010
The New York Times
I FIRST went on an expedition with my father, Philippe Cousteau, and my mother when I was 4 months old. He had outfitted an amphibious plane, named the Flying Calypso, as a base of operations, and it became our home away from home. By the time I was 4, I had traveled to over a dozen countries.
Jacques Cousteau, my grandfather, taught me to scuba-dive when I was 7. He suited me up in a mask and fins, a small weight belt and child-size air tanks and gently introduced me to a whole new universe.
I remember standing at the edge of the boat and feeling concern about how I would breathe underwater. But I trusted my grandfather, and after a few tentative breaths I plunged in and found myself surrounded by a huge school of silver fish. It was a different universe — alien, beautiful and exciting — and a defining moment. That memory keeps me pushing the boundaries of exploration and discovery.
My family had a home in the United States and in France, and we alternated living in the two countries. My father and grandfather worked closely together, co-producing their award-winning documentaries. I spent the first several years of my life on expedition with my parents. But in 1979, when I was 3 1/2, I lost my father to a plane crash in Portugal. His example has moved me to ask the hard questions, to challenge old thinking and to carry forward a legacy that inspires each of us to act.
After graduating from Georgetown University in 1998, I moved to Barcelona for a year. I worked for Canal Natura, a “green” TV channel, writing and producing environmental programming. Several years later, I went to Costa Rica to work on projects that engaged communities in sustainable practices and responsible management of marine-protected areas. I was there two years.
In 2008, I founded Blue Legacy International to shape society’s dialogue to include water as one of the defining issues of our century. Last February, I took a nine-person crew on a 100-day expedition across five continents to explore the interconnectedness of our global water resources. We produced over 30 short films, as well as photographs and blogs we published through a network of media partners.
I love the feeling of arriving in a new place and immersing myself in something I’ve never experienced. I love coming to know a foreign culture, new people and the perspective they offer on the world.
We were recently filming about water issues in a slum community in India when the back of my jeans split. Before I knew it, a group of young children were having a delightful time throwing pebbles aimed at where I had crudely repaired the tear with duct tape. After weeks in the field, it was wonderful to have a chance to laugh at ourselves and marvel at the humor and mischief of children. After a while, a local woman took me inside her house and sewed the rip for me.
As a woman continuing in the tradition of a male-dominated legacy, I have had to learn to stand on my own and assert myself more than I would naturally. But by developing a strong personal voice, I have been able to define my mission in a way that has generated great successes for my organization.
I’ve logged quite a few gypsy miles over the years, but there are times I enjoy being home in Washington to catch up with my friends and family.
I especially enjoy rowing on the Potomac River. It’s like a focused meditation, because if you don’t pay attention to balancing and keeping your oars straight, the boat will tip over. I love the feeling of gliding across the surface and gazing across the water at the birds and forests.
"Expedition: Blue Planet"
In July, Alexandra Cousteau and her international Expedition Blue Planet team will depart on a 14,500-mile journey across North American to investigate global water issues “in the backyard” of one of the world’s leading economies. Living, working and exploring water stories together, Alexandra and her team will use everything from the underwater gear invented by her grandfather to the latest in satellite technology and live social media to bring thrill of adventure and the wonders of nature to audiences across the globe. Through the lens of this expedition, global audiences will have the rare opportunity to join the expedition from an entirely new angle: sitting down with the crew as they discuss the work of the day over meals they’ve prepared as a traveling “family,” experiencing the camaraderie and adventure of solving problems in the field, and experiencing firsthand the thrill of discovering grand places and meeting everyday people in cities and villages along the way. Throughout the journey, the team will explore some of the great water treasures of the region, investigate issues surrounding water conservation, as well as bear witness to stories of people from all walks of life working to solve one of the great challenge of our generation – the global water crisis.
Traveling from the far northern stretches of river in Alaska, across canyons, mountains and prairies to reach the coral reefs of Florida the team will experience more than six distinct ecosystems and work in everything from urban to wilderness and ocean environments. Along the way, the team will be joined by visiting artists, musicians, writers and celebrities who will meet up with the Expedition in 10-15 cities along the route to host “watershed” awareness and action days where local citizens can join the team to work on watershed restoration projects.