STORIES
Earthkeepers Heroes

Jean-Michel Cousteau

by Interviewed by Slater

COUSTEAU: Are you going to ask me questions? Or am I asking you questions?

SLATER: I’m asking questions.

COUSTEAU: Oh, okay. [Smiles]

SLATER: We were wondering, with all these problems in the ocean, do you eat fish? Because…

COUSTEAU: Yes, I do.

SLATER: You do? Okay…

COUSTEAU: But, I eat certain fish and there is, depending on where you are in the world, you will have different recommended lists of fish to eat or not to eat. And, because people have different cultures, they will do it differently. For example, in Europe a fish is going to be served whole, with the head. In North America, you will never see a head on the fish. So you have to approach the selection process differently. In Europe, you will have a way to measure if the fish for a specific species is the right size it’s okay. In the U.S., it’s by category, so when you buy a fish, you ask, “What fish is this?” And if it’s on your list of the fish not to touch, you don’t buy it. And pretty soon, the fish will be left out, left alone, and they will go and they will reproduce, and there will be enough fish so we can harvest them in a…and here is the magic word…sustainable way.

SLATER: What do you think of all these fish factories and, well, I know they’re not good but…(pause)

COUSTEAU: Well, I’m not sure I understand what you say by “fish factories.” I know one thing…

SLATER: The floating…boats…

COUSTEAU: Oh, you’re talking about fish farms.

SLATER: Right.

COUSTEAU: It depends upon where they are again. Personally, I’ve been opposed to farming fish in the ocean for several reasons. Number one, you don’t know if an accident is going to take place and the investment that you’ve put there is going to be ruined by an oil spill, or a runoff of some nasty chemicals, for example. When, if you have a fish farm on land, away from the ocean, you’re going to be able to control your investment. And, not only that but, as long as you’re going to do this, why not do this where, if the demand is for filling Kansas City, why not do it in Kansas City? And then, you will avoid transportation, the cost of transportation, and you will offer the customers fresh fish, instead of frozen fish.
Now, all the farms that are in the Pacific Northwest, for example, in Canada and United States, these farms are putting all the little fishermen out of business. And the fish are being fed with all kinds of vitamins and antibiotics. Which means that when they pass it through, it goes on the ocean floor and all the other animals will feed upon it. There are certain species which are introduced, like the species of the Atlantic Salmon. They are introduced in the Pacific. Well, we were told originally that these fish will not escape and will not breed and will not interbreed with other species. They do. So, we are creating monsters out there. We have lost control of what’s going on. And, in addition to that, the untreated sewage that is produced by these fish will go through the net, onto the ocean floor. Today, what’s happening in the Pacific Northwest, is as much sewage produced for the equivalent of a city of almost 100,000 people. Untreated. We have to treat our own sewage, but the farmers, who have these huge fish farms, do not have the obligation of treating the sewage of their fish. Plus, when you look at salmon, to make one pound of salmon, you need to feed them seven pound of fish. Does that make any sense? Absolutely not. What have we done on land when we run out of wild creatures? We settled down and we became farmers. That’s where you are right now in Canada.

SLATER: Yeah.

COUSTEAU: Right?

SLATER: Yeah.

COUSTEAU: And are you farming animals?

SLATER: We have horses and cows.

COUSTEAU: Okay. What do they eat?

SLATER: They eat grass…

COUSTEAU: That’s right.

SLATER: …and hay.

COUSTEAU: That’s right. They don’t eat meat. And that’s what we’ve done on our land. We are farming animals that are herbivores. As far as the ocean is concerned, we are nuts. We are farming carnivores. That’s the wrong set of species. There are a few, like catfish is okay, tilapia is okay. And there are many other species that could be selected and ultimately used to farm on land or in a controlled environment. And your return on the investment is a lot higher than if you have to feed those animals meat.

SLATER: Um hm. Like with this, um, little kids, like they go to the ocean and they have a great time and then they take home a souvenir and then they see all these shells on the beach and then they just grab one without really even thinking. Is that good, or is that bad…or what should these kids do?

COUSTEAU: It is bad. It is bad because an abandoned shell is a home, a potential home for hermit crabs. If it’s a big shell, it can be an octopus. It could be all kinds of other creatures that are constantly looking for little homes, other habitats, places to hide from predators. And some of these creatures grow so they have to change their home from time to time. And what it means is that they have to go from a smaller home to a bigger home. And, you know, that’s what we do. When parents have one child, is one thing, but if you have four or five children, you are going to have to find many more bedrooms. Well, same thing happens with many species under water so, seashells should be left alone. They can be looked at and left alone. And all these people who collect shells to make necklaces to sell shells or put them on the shelf at home just for the fun of it, they are taking away from the ocean homes for many, many species. It makes it very difficult for them to live.

SLATER: What are your goals in what you’re trying to achieve with this camp here on Catalina Island?

COUSTEAU: We have eleven “Ambassador of the Environment” locations worldwide. Catalina was the one where we started many, many years ago. And it’s kind of a flagship, if you like. We are…what we are trying is to reach young people like you and give them enough information so, when they grow up, when they become adults, when they have a job, when they have a family, they will make better decisions. We know it works, because we have done it for more than thirty years and I now run into people who have a home, have a family, have a job and they tell me that the experience that they have had in such camps as this one is impacting their decision-making power all the time. Then there is a secret thing that we hope the children do and that’s to educate their parents. Most of their parents are ignorant. They do not know. And by going home, you share with your family the information you’ve learned. And we have a program which we are going to launch soon which is called, “Ask me about…[holds up a sea urchin shell] the sea urchin. Ask me about…another creature.” And parents don’t turn down their children. They do ask. So it’s a sneaky way to make sure…[cups his hands around his mouth, with a sly grin] that the parents learn.

[Adult laughter in the background]

SLATER: What do you teach here?

COUSTEAU: Here we do several things. This program is very special. This is called “Family Camp.” The parents come with their children, any age, grandparents, it doesn’t matter. The normal camp is, the kids from a classroom will come with their teacher. That’s the regular program, which in this case is called, CELP – Catalina Environment Leadership Program. And what you do, you learn about the relationship between the land and the ocean. What lives there and what lives there depends on what we do on land. We talk about erosion, we talk about pesticides, we talk about fertilizers, we talk about heavy metals. All these things that end up in the ocean and how much does it affect the ocean. Not just things we see. See, you and I are visual animals. We relate to things we see. Trash is not pretty. But that’s nothing compared to all the other things that are ending up in the ocean. So, they learn about that. And then, in the process, we make them literally improve their self-confidence. Realize that they have to believe in themselves. That they can make a difference. And then, we also do a very important other thing. And that is teamwork. We present them with problems which they have to solve which they cannot solve by themselves. They have to talk to each other and ultimately say, “Okay, you’re gonna do this, I’m gonna do that, and you’re gonna do this…” in the proper order, in order to solve a problem. Called teamwork. So self-confidence, teamwork and learning about the environment. The fact that the ocean is a life support system. If you don’t have, you know… It doesn’t matter where you live – if you live along the coastline or in Ohio or way up in the middle of nowhere, we all link to the ocean. We are all connected to the ocean. Our life support system. Because, the ocean evaporates…see? [gestures toward the ocean] See these clouds over there? For it’s gonna go somewhere and it’s going to drop water in the form of rain or in the form of snow. And what you see on top of a mountain, is the purest water that is being produced by the ocean. And that water, or that ice, is going to melt, is going to go down streams and then we put all kinds of stuff into it. And we are using the ocean as a garbage can. So we need to stop that and realize that every time we do that it’s affecting the quality of the ocean and the ocean is having a harder and harder time to clean that water, produce the fish that we need to eat in a sustainable way and we continue to destroy the coastline which is the habitat for many, many species. And they are like nurseries. If you eliminate them, the babies won’t grow. So, we have a lot of work to do. And you know I’ve done that all my life. It’s going to be your turn. You’re going to have to… [picks up a sea urchin shell and shows it to SLATER] This…imagine we are in a race. We are doing a relay and this is the baton. I’m passing on the baton to you. [Hands it to SLATER]

[SLATER takes the shell, smiles and nods]

COUSTEAU: It’s your job now.

SLATER: Thank you. Who’s your hero?

COUSTEAU: My hero is an Indian chief in the Amazon whose name is Kukus. He is a Jivaro Indian and Kuskus taught me the constitution, the unwritten constitution of tomorrow. By showing me trees that he had planted…in the Amazon. And he said, “You know these trees, I’ll never see them big enough to use them. My children won’t, my grandchildren probably won’t, but the children of my grandchildren may be able to see these big enough to use them.” And then he turned to one which was six feet, two meters, and he said, “You see this one? It’s gonna make a good canoe.” Because he knew. These people, still today, don’t exist. Those Indians in the Amazon are not on the list of human beings on the planet. They have no identity paper, they don’t own the land where they live. They’re just like tapirs and cockroaches. And he’s the one who taught me the most… about taking care of your own backyard, taking care of the future.

SLATER: What do you think of kids who are living in cities, or just living anywhere, and they want to try to help but they don’t what to do. What do you think they should do?

COUSTEAU: They, if they really want to help, they can. There’s all kinds of things they can do. They can help teach other kids. They can write to their representative. They can write to the mayor of their city and ask them very important questions about, “What do you do with the sewage? How do you recycle? Are you planting? Are you making the city a green city?” In certain places, you can ask things such as, “Are you growing things on the rooftop of your buildings? Because not only, maybe, the garden, just like in nature you go in the ocean, all of what you see on coral reefs and right here with the kelp, is a garden on the rooftop. And so, that’s learned from nature. And you not only can have your garden on the rooftop, but you are also helping control the temperature inside the building, whether it is heat or cold. There are places where that’s been done. You can also make sure that there’s no leak in your house. You can make sure that everybody turns off the electricity of their bedroom when they leave their bedroom. Or the bathroom. It’s a waste. And you know what? If you can tell that to your parents, whether it is making sure that nothing is wasted, at the end of the month, you’re going to have more money to do other things with. At the end of the month, they can take you to a movie or to a restaurant or buy you a new dress or buy you something which they could not buy before. Now you can. That’s all it takes. Very little changes. Same thing with your driving automobiles. You know, now there are hybrids. Buy hybrids. You save money. At the end of the month, you’re going to save a lot of money. And on and on and on. I mean, you have to think a little bit. And stop the monkey reflex! Where you have a banana, you peel it and throw away the banana peel, like the monkeys do – that’s going to help a tree grow. But when you have your can of soda, or bottle, and you throw it away, it’s not going to help anything. It’s going to make it difficult. And, ultimately, it ends up in the ocean. Now, as it ends up in the ocean, the plastic bag, for example, is going to kill turtles. Turtles eat jellyfish and they go to munch on the plastic bag and it’s going to coat the inside of their stomach and they are going to starve to death. Nobody wins. I mean, it helps no one. It’s that reflex, that gesture [as though tossing something over his shoulder] that we have all the time, should stop. And you recycle. And you know, you go to big cities, you’ve been in big cities, you’ve seen homeless people?

SLATER: Yeah.

COUSTEAU: What do they do?

SLATER: They ask for money, or they…

COUSTEAU: Or…they do other things.

SLATER: They throw garbage… they…

COUSTEAU: They go in the garbage… and what do they pick up?

SLATER: Things that are useful?

COUSTEAU: They pick up bottles. They pick up cans. Why?

SLATER: So they can sell them?

COUSTEAU:They get money for it! So, every time you throw a can away, you are throwing money away! Obviously. Because this guy over there, he’s gonna pick it up and he’s gonna get money for it. So, you know, we need to stop throwing money away. And that’s what we do with our monkey reflex.

SLATER: Well, thank you very much.

COUSTEAU: You’re welcome.

 

JEANNE: I’d just like to know… Just where you feel most at home? You’ve lived in a lot of places, but where do you consider home?

COUSTEAU: Well, home for me is the planet. I could not conceive being stuck anywhere. That would be like being in jail. And, as long as I am near the ocean or water... In a few days, I am going to be up on a mountain and we are doing a whole program on the mountain which is the ocean. And we are going to talk about that. So, give me water and I’ll be happy. Now, where do I recover my sanity, is when I go diving. Because it’s peaceful, because it’s fascinating and you discover things all the time, even on the one square meter of sand. And that’s an experience which I wish everybody had.

JEANNE: What was your first dive like, or your first time…

COUSTEAU: I do not remember my first dive. My father pushed me overboard when I was seven. I had a tank on my back. My brother was four and a half. My mother was there. And, as a family, we started exploring the French Riviera and we wanted to talk. That’s like I’m talking with you or you may have questions and we would take our mouthpiece out. My father would put it right back in my mouth. And those are the memories that I have. But we were diving all the time, so it’s not, you know, the first dive. It was very, very young. We were diving all summers, vacations, holidays, all the time. And then, when I was your age [nods at SLATER] I was on a ship four months a year.

WENDY J.: The Calypso.

COUSTEAU: That’s right.

WENDY J.: Are you restoring the Calypso right now?

COUSTEAU: Well, Calypso is unrestorable. She is salvageable, but not restorable in term of making it safe, modern and being able to take it at sea in a safe way. Can’t do that. We need a new ship and I have designed the ship of the future.

WENDY J.: You’re designing it?

COUSTEAU: It’s designed. Now we need to give it to naval architects who are going to make it such that you can build it. The only little glitch is that we need 25 million dollars.

WENDY J.: Is that all?

COUSTEAU: Little, little glitch.

WENDY J.: What’s the name of the ship?

COUSTEAU: Well, right now, we call him Ambassador. But, that may change.

DAVID: Similar to Alcyone you’ve designed?

COUSTEAU: No, no not… Well, in a way yes. Because Alcyone, as you know, has the bow of a sailing vessel and becomes two hulls, so that principal will stay and instead of having two turbo sails, we would have only one.

WENDY J.: Is there anything, if you had the attention of the planet for ten minutes, or five minutes, is there anything you would do or say?

COUSTEAU: Well, my temptation, my first reflex with a question like this is to have ten minutes of silence…because people need to introspect and realize, you know, what it is that I’m doing that I can do better. And everybody’s different. So, I don’t think I can have the pretension of telling people what to do. But certainly, telling people they can do better.

WENDY J.: I think everyone around the world does need ten minutes to…

COUSTEAU: That’s right.

WENDY J.: …just let it come in…

SLATER: Just listen to the silence, you know?

COUSTEAU: Turn off your stupid cell phone. Stop looking at your totally wasted time on computer games.

SLATER: Television…

COUSTEAU: Stop focusing on violence like you see too much of on television, [nods at SLATER] you are absolutely right. You know, I worked for television, but I don’t watch television because there is nothing to watch. And there are very few exceptions and when I have the opportunity, I do watch those. But, it’s easy to do a bad program. It costs less money. It’s difficult to do a good program and it costs more money. So, people are lazy and they go the easy way for commercial reasons most of the time – to make money. I know from personal experience that I and our team have been struggling all our lives to produce those television shows and we’ve never made money. If anything, we’ve lost money. But, we refuse to compromise on quality. We refuse to produce bad stuff. And what goes on is not always very good, but it’s the best we can do.

DAVID: Monsieur? I have a question for the cynical perhaps. I look around at all the things happening in the world not just the oceans, but streams, the rivers, the forests, our air and I wonder – where do you find your hope? I mean, where is the…?

COUSTEAU: [Reaches his hand toward SLATER’s face] Right there. See these eyes?

[Laughter of acknowledgement]

DAVID: Me, too. Me, too.

COUSTEAU: That it. That’s it.

WENDY J.: I’d like to thank you for those programs because, boy I grew up watching those programs and wow! Really great!

JEANNE: What’s the vision for the new boat? I mean in terms of where you want to take it and as a teaching vessel?

COUSTEAU: We want to create a fleet of vessels which will be permanently in different parts of the ocean, in order to have an eye on 72% of the planet, which we don’t have today. We don’t control our planet. We have sporadic information with the satellite going by, or somebody taking a water sample, but it’s very, very superficial. We need to have permanent bases out there. And that vessel will be the first of a fleet. Now, I am dreaming. It is bigger than me, but it has to start somewhere. And I think we’ll make it. We are getting some feedback of institutions that are today saying, “We want to help.” It’s a huge, huge undertaking. I’ll put a billion dollars on it and I think we can start to do something really serious. Now, I don’t want to get in politics, but I’d like to have one week budget of the Iraqi War, which is a billion dollars.

JEANNE: You’re done.

COUSTEAU: That’s all it would take.

JEANNE: Do you have any idea of the effect of the tsunami on the rest of the ocean? There’s so much…

COUSTEAU: Well. There’s good things and bad things. The big problem is people. It’s not nature. Because where you have… Now we are getting into a huge issue which is connected to what some people, including in this present administration, do not believe in and that’s global warming. That is a real issue which affects the ocean in a big time. You have more and more hurricanes. You have occasional tsunami – you always have tsunami. The earth is in constant movement. The earth is a moving thing. The continents are moving away from each other or getting closer to each other. So you have volcanic eruptions. You have new islands being formed right now in southeast of the big island of Hawaii – there is an island that is going to show up one day. Way northwest of Kauai, twelve hundred miles, you have islands sinking and disappearing. I mean, it’s a fabulous slow motion story. And, if you take all of that into account, and you see how much we are literally destroying the coastline, from the natural protection which nature has put in place… whether it’s coral reefs – about 30% of them are dead today, and if it continues the way it is, within the next 25 to 30 years, it will up to 60%. I mean, what are we leaving to those guys? [Points to SLATER] Is that fair? I think there’s something wrong there. And then, you have as a result of all these insults, you have an increase of the temperature of the ocean, you have less and less productivity, you have a whole industry of fishermen who are going out of business because the rules are wrong. You have more hurricanes and bad storms, and you have tsunamis, which in the case of Southeast Asia, as we have seen, has killed over 200,000 people – maybe half of those people should not have died. And we can blame ourselves for contributing to that giant catastrophe which has affected not only the ones who have survived, their family, their friends, but also all of us. Because in our guilt mode, we donated a lot of money. And does money replace happiness? No. Is it going to help? I hope so. But it’s like a band aid. What I think could have happened, is what we’ve done in the Pacific with a major tsunami warning station on the islands of Hawaii, which would allow us right here to be made aware within minutes that a tsunami may come to this part of the world, and we would act accordingly. Such as going up in the hills. Over there in Southeast Asia, they do not have that warning system, which perhaps cost, I don’t know, a hundred million dollars? Fifty million dollars? But not billions of dollars and 200,000 lives. So we could have the rich countries, such as ours, could have very easily anticipated that same situation in Southeast Asia like we do in the Pacific. But we are so greedy and we are not thinking far enough, that now it’s costing us a lot more money through guilt and through obligations to help those people. We are nuts. We are complete nuts. We are bad managers. If we wanted to go bankrupt, we could not do a better job. And that’s where we are heading. And that’s unfair again. [Gestures toward SLATER] Back to the young people. I mean they have the rights to enjoy the same quality of life we enjoyed. So, that’s my call and we’ll help you, but you have a big job ahead of you. And by making more and more young people aware, I think you’ll be more and more better prepared. I’ll tell you one thing. In September ’03, 2003, I was in Johannesburg for the World Conference. And I met two young people your age and younger. One of them is from Canada and if you haven’t met him, you need to. His name is Ryan. Ryan created the Ryan’s Well Foundation.

JEANNE: We have a web page from him. [Ryan Hreljac]

COUSTEAU: Ryan, when he was seven years old, went and broke his piggybank because he’d been in Africa and he saw what happened in Africa when he went to a school that had no water. And he broke his piggybank to get some money, which was not enough, but his parents helped him and he raised $1500 which allowed him to go and drill a hole and create a hand pump for that school. And that started a whole process where now Ryan is fifteen years old and I was visiting a few weeks ago in New York and he has raised enough money to drill over a thousand wells for people in Africa and other parts of the world.

ADULT: Wow.

COUSTEAU: Ryan is a regular kid. He goes to school like you go to school and he has that obsession of helping young people throughout the world and in Africa particularly. I will remind you that, in Africa, there are between five and six thousand children, under the age of five, dying every day because of no water, or polluted water. That’s the equivalent of fifteen 747’s loaded with kids, crashing every day. That’s what’s happening right now. It’s very hard to go to sleep at night, thinking about that. So, Ryan is trying to resolve, in his own way…one person… You know, John Denver sang one day what one man can do – or what one woman can do. That’s what it takes. Then I met another kid from Cape Town, in South Africa, who had come to that conference and he stood in front of all of us adults – big shots from the U.S. and many other parts of the world and he said, “You know, you talk about children all the time. But you don’t do very much for children. We, the kids, are going to have to get hold of ourselves and take care of our own problems.” We were dumbfounded. There was a big silence in the room, I can assure you of that – coming from a thirteen year old kid from South Africa. And after a silence, he said, “And if you want to communicate with me, here is my email address.” Here is a kid that can communicate with the rest of the planet. He knows what’s going on. See, in the old days, and you were not there, communication did not exist. When I was your age, there was no way from the ship I could call anybody. Today, you pick up a cell phone and, “Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!” So, the world is linked now, together. Forget about borders. That doesn’t exist anymore. It’s just an issue of commerce and politics, but we are all linked to one another thanks to the communication revolution that we live in. And that’s a tool, if properly used, you can use and make a big difference. Nobody can lie anymore and cheat anymore because we can find out instantly about it. Thanks to that communication system.

SLATER: Right.

COUSTEAU: So, there. How is that for a mouthful?

 

JEANNE: I have one more question, which is – It just seems so odd, and I might be wrong, but our body has the same amount of water to mass that the ocean does? Is that true?

COUSTEAU: In percentage. Yes.

WENDY J.: In percentage.

COUSTEAU: But you are comparing the mass in a human being versus the surface of the planet, not the mass. The salinity is about the same – salinity of our blood. And yeah there is a lot of similarity, but we are land animals. We are not ocean animals. I’d like to be an ocean animal, but I know very quickly that we’re not. I mean, when you spend too much time in the water out there, you come up and you are all wrinkled. Right? So we are temporary visitors.

JEANNE: But since it’s one body of water, what happens in one part of the ocean…

COUSTEAU: It’s all connected.

JEANNE: It’s all connected.

COUSTEAU: Everything is connected. Yeah. It doesn’t matter where you live and the water that runs down… You know the 65% of the lower 48 states of the United States runs down into the Mississippi and has created the biggest dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s as big as the state of Pennsylvania. That’s what we’ve done…by using the ocean as a garbage can. So, it is all connected, no matter where you are. We are all connected to each other. We…the air we breathe, the water we drink, that’s all one system.

WENDY J.: Can we clean up the ocean?

COUSTEAU: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that…

WENDY: Even the most polluted places?

COUSTEAU: Some. There are some examples of success stories. And those success stories need to be…looked at very carefully and taken as an example and see what else you can do. I mean, even here, the people woke up one day and created “Heal the Bay.” It made a formidable difference. Formidable difference. I used to – 20, 30 years ago – I used to harvest, with some scientists, fish that had cancerous tumors. And I have some in jars, still. That’s less and less the case, because we are collecting a lot of our sewage. We are processing it. We are doing a better job. I mean, there is a huge, huge population which, in another way, is ready to eat alive these islands, which have been by a miracle saved from being invaded by people. And I did a two hour special which was called “The Edge of the Human Tide,” many years ago. And I was in the Channel Islands of Santa Barbara and I was also down here. And history has made that happen, but now that we are aware and conscious of what can be done, we will see these islands protected forever. So these are good stories. There are a lot of good stories. We’ve stopped, basically, we’ve stopped whaling. The whales… Some species of whales are recovering. In 1947, Mexico, the United States and Canada decided to protect the Gray Whales. There was no International Whaling Commission in those days. And the Gray Whales have basically recovered. They have a lot of problems, because – and I am doing a one-hour special on this which is called “The Obstacle Course of the Gray Whales” because, for the protection of their young and the food they eat, they have to hug the coast during the longest migration of any marine mammal – 10,000 miles round trip. So, they encounter, run into, all the time – sewage, ships, noise, fishing nets – and they have to cope with all of that. Their food is getting probably not as abundant as it used to be. But, the population is somewhat stable, so it’s a success story… again. Now, you know we are having problems with the Japanese right now because they, not only in my view, fish illegally, and under a pretext of science now for six…or seven years, they’ve gotten a permit for scientific reasons to go and harvest whales. And in all those seven years, they’ve produced one scientific paper. To me, that’s…sounds like an excuse. And then, at the same time, you find that those whales are in the fish market and they go to the point where they cut little pieces of whales which they put in the place of the kindergarten meals at lunch time under the pretext of “protecting a culture.” At the same time, they go to MacDonald’s. So, you know, a bunch of hypocrites. And that has to stop and we are having major effort to stop that. But, overall, the whales are doing better. So, another good story.

JEANNE: How many Ambassadors do you think you’ve trained over the last…what is it…thirteen years?

WENDY J: Thirty.

COUSTEAU: No, we started in 1972. We started at Pepperdine University, then we came to Catalina and then we’ve been all over the place. We were in Papua, New Guinea, we’ve were in French Polynesia, we’ve been in Santa Cruz, we’ve been on the West Coast, East Coast, we’ve been in the Caribbean, and now we are in France. Next year we will be in Italy, in Greece and in Spain. We are going down, in about a month, down to Brazil. We may have a program in Brazil, similar to this. So, I don’t know. Maybe 100,000? 200,000? I don’t know. [laughs] And there’s a lot of repeaters. You look at those families there – I would say 60%, 70% are repeaters.

JEANNE: Do you think you have a choice in this matter, or is this your destiny?

COUSTEAU: [Thoughtfully] It is my choice. Destiny is something that may be imposed upon you; I don’t think anything is imposed upon me. I wish I had two other lives. One, I want to be an astronaut and I work very close to NASA. And, as a matter of fact, we have done programs where we link the ocean with the Space Program. And the other one, I’d like to be a farmer. And so, when you look down on this, you find out, “Oh! Air, water and land.” [laughs] So, I guess I’m not done yet. I have a long way to go.

 

WENDY: SLATER has been working on a surprise for you.

COUSTEAU: [Spots a violin case being handed to SLATER] Uh, oh. No, I don’t know how to play.

JEANNE: No, but she does.

COUSTEAU: Oh. Whew!

[Laughter]

COUSTEAU: I really don’t know how to play…

[As SLATER pushes the sea urchin shell on the table aside to make room for her violin case, COUSTEAU sweeps his arm toward the shell and suddenly produces a toy polar bear as though he has just found it on the table]

COUSTEAU: Ohhh! A polar bear! Now let’s talk about polar bears. [Playfully places it on top of SLATER’s violin case amid laughter] Do you know what a polar bear is?

SLATER: No.

COUSTEAU: It’s a marine mammal.

[Murmurs of surprised “No!” from adult]

COUSTEAU: Polar bear is a marine mammal. Now, they need the ice to go hunting. Because of global warming, the ice is melting. And you only find polar bear in the Northern Hemisphere or in the Arctic. The Northwest Passage is now open all year long. The polar bears cannot go back on the ice, if they are on land, to go hunting. So now they get stranded on land. And they’re desperate. They need food. So they go into villages. And in villages, they go in the garbage can and they go in the homes and they scare people. So they get shot, they get chased away, they die from starvation. That species, you see it right there, may be extinct very soon. And we are – we the adults – are responsible for that. So. I didn’t mean to [laughs and removes the polar bear from SLATER’s violin case] slow down your…

[SLATER and others laugh as she opens the case]

COUSTEAU: [Reads the lid of SLATER’s case while she takes out her violin] Yeah. I like that. “Peace for music, the universal language.”

[WENDY J. Slides something to COUSTEAU]

COUSTEAU: Ah, ah!

WENDY J.: We have a tee-shirt for you too, but we’ll give that to you later.

COUSTEAU: [Busy looking at item, laughs in acknowledgment]

SLATER: [Softly to her violin, as she gets it ready] You’re just decked out. Look at all this stuff.

WENDY J.: She got this in Slovakia last summer at the iEarn Convention. 500 kids…people from all over the world…

[SLATER stands]

COUSTEAU: [Focused on SLATER] And you have to stand up?

WENDY J: …including kids like Ryan…

SLATER: You can sit down, but I prefer to stand up.

COUSTEAU: Don’t violin players sit, normally?

SLATER: Um hmm, yeah. But…

COUSTEAU: In concert?

SLATER: But sometimes people…

COUSTEAU: But you like to stand up?

SLATER: …stand up when they’re learning.

[SLATER plays the “Marseilles.” After she has finished her performance, COUSTEAU applauds, stands and then walks around the picnic table to give SLATER a hug.]

COUSTEAU: Thank you. Thank you very much. [Looks into her eyes sincerely] Have a great life.

SLATER: Thank you!

COUSTEAU: [Walks back to the table and address the adults] Okay!

ADULTS: Thank you!

 

Page created on 2/23/2006 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 8/9/2019 7:18:08 PM

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