WASHINGTON, DC -- Secretary of State John Kerry tasked several hundred participants in his international "Our Ocean" summit, being held at the State Department here yesterday and today, to come up with (yet another) planetary plan for saving the seas (from ourselves, primarily), saying that the ocean is literally "in his blood," as it is in all of our own blood.
Joining with Secretary Kerry and the several hundred others assembled to try, once more, to come up with a plan to protect what is left of Earth's maritime resources, our planetary lifeblood, was Philippe Cousteau, Jr., taking center stage as once held by his late famed grandfather, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who would have turned 104 just last week.
Opening his oceanic summit, Kerry cited his own family lineage of involvement with the ocean, from his youthful sailing with his late father to his mother's family's historic participation in the "China trade" of olden clipper shipping days, as the former Massachusetts' senator delivered a passionate invocation to his cabinet department's signature ocean policy event.
Attracting at least three heads of state, a plethora of ambassadorial and ministerial participants from many nations and a literal "Who's Who?" of ocean, fisheries and climate scientists from the U.S., the U.K. and other nations, European and not, "Our Ocean" (singular, and that is also the primary point of this conference) is a multi-media "how to" of blending powerful surround-sight-and-sound graphics, Twitter and celebrity participation into an effort seeking planetary attention, if but for a moment.
Among notables from the ocean science and exploration world, Dr. Sylvia Earle, former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and herself among the first female "aquanauts" (an honor she shares with young Philippe Cousteau's grandmother, the late Simone Melchior Cousteau) is also attending to "Our Ocean."
Competing with headline-grabbing breaking news, from Iraq's boiling sectarian strife to President Barack Obama's sending American troops back into that theater of operations, along with a Navy carrier battle group and amphibious assault ship to the Persian Gulf, Secretary Kerry and his Our Ocean team, some cynicism and snark notwithstanding, are striking out for transnational, planetary awareness of serious, even potentially catastrophic, oceanic impairments.
If or when "world peace" ever does break out for real, presidential pronouncements aside, there are indeed troubles aplenty our global community must confront, rationally and scientifically, to avoid, in the words of the secretary himself yesterday in opening his ocean conference, "breaking the entire ecosystem." Evidence suggests he's not exaggerating.
Without diminishing the importance of headlines dominating the perpetual news cycle, crowding out Our Ocean from coverage it otherwise might garner, Planet Earth is not respectful of nor much concerned with tribal and religious wars fueled by greed, obsolete energy technologies and rampant human ignorance trampling on its ecological complexity.
Environmental and scientific leading lights, many of whom are represented at Secretary Kerry's ocean conference, in our recent past evoked "global" issues in the hopes of refocusing humanity, lifting our collective vision up from the dust of war making and short-term thinking, showing us a range of alternative futures, some exciting but others catastrophic.
Among these, for many of us in the Baby Boom generation, was the aforementioned late ocean explorer and film maker, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, whose spirit and words were invoked by Secretary Kerry in his call to convene his summit to consider some of these continuing and unforgiving challenges to us, our planet and "Our Ocean."
Kerry took note of a refrain familiar to those of us who had our "ocean consciousnesses" shaped by Cousteau and his Calypso explorer divers and scientists as they explored "The Silent World," as he called it in his first book and film, more than half a century ago.
Kerry quoted Captain Cousteau, at the close of the last century, not uniquely but in Cousteau's unique French-accented phrasing, that "for most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century, he's beginning to realize that, in order to live, he must protect it."
Or, as in the case of this old writer, and others who worked directly with Cousteau and his ventures, words which were among his directives of what we were doing, and why: "People protect what they love!" We add here: "and understand."
As noted, among his invitees to join him in striving to put protection of "Our Ocean" again on the American and global political agendas, Secretary Kerry included a grandson of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the son of one of that late ocean explorer's own two sons, Philippe, who died when his PB-Y amphibious aircraft, Flying Calypso, crashed in 1979.
The elder, surviving son of the late Captain, Jean-Michel Cousteau, continues his efforts with his own Ocean Futures Society, a Santa Barbara, CA-based nonprofit organization long engaged in a range of educational, scientific and public awareness initiatives.
The elder surviving Cousteau combines promoting public awareness with encouragement of new technologies and business practices supportive of new ways of doing things, something his younger nephew recently has embraced with his own latest initiative, Voyacy Group, besides his own nonprofit Earth Echo International.
Would that they, and the rest of the somewhat diffuse Cousteau family, could find some way to unify their efforts and combine energies to advance their grandfather's legacy. But we digress, as they're making do with what's in reach.
Born six months after his father's sudden and tragic accidental death, Philippe Cousteau, Jr., is himself a rising "social entrepreneur" and more recently an environmental messaging consultant to companies and investors desiring to do business differently so as to reduce or even reverse negative environmental outcomes, and he gave summit attendees a glimpse of a new Cousteau generation's passion.
Setting a tone of infectious optimism to motivate action in the face of seemingly overwhelming challenges arising from: over-fishing and "strip mining" oceanic life; onslaughts of marine pollution from cast off worldwide consumer trash; oxygen-smothering nutrient overloads from unsustainable agricultural and land use policies; and acidification of ocean waters from fossil fuel impacts on the atmosphere, the young Cousteau reminded attendees of his grandfather's style.
Opening his brief presentation with a video montage of early Cousteau underwater documentary adventures, Philippe reminded of the imperatives confronting those who take it upon themselves to acknowledge and address the issues.
"Our Ocean" is being live-streamed in real time via the Internet to the world. Readers should consider joining in, as we who value The Cape and Islands, and who are fortunate enough to live or visit there or elsewhere along the edge of the sea, will not escape consequences if alarms raised about oceanic and planetary ecological health are much longer ignored.
If you've read this far, why stop now? Else you'll have to admit to your children or grandchildren you ignored it. Again!
To watch "Our Ocean" as it unfolds click: http://ourocean.info/livestream/
Schedule and other information about State Department's ocean summit is here: http://ourocean.info/
Philippe Cousteau, Jr.'s organizations are here: http://philippecousteau.com/ and here: http://earthecho.org/
Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society is accessed here: http://www.oceanfutures.org/