As a little boy, my life didn't seem much different than that of my friends. The wonders and mysteries of buried treasure or slimy worms lying in wait to be discovered in our back yard or just beyond the fence filled both my waking hours and my dream time. I spent hours propped up on the washing machine to get a better view thru the window at passing deer and birds. Losing myself in this fantastic natural world, my chores often took a back seat. My mother would occasionally reel me in to remind me of them and my teachers would do the same for my homework. I am a dreamer by birth... or is it by influence?
From the perspective of a child, growing up on the shoulders of a famous man was not as strange as the public imagines. "Captain Planet", as Jacques-Yves Cousteau was often called, was first and foremost my grandfather. He loved his family and even took extra care to share time with the children when he wasn't half way around the world. To him, children were the essence of life and hope. JYC, as those close called him, saw boundless curiosity, energy, passion, creativity and love reflected in the eyes of the world's youth. Whenever we were with him, my sister Celine and I, would eagerly be entranced by tales of exotic cultures, the lives of dinosaurs, stories of his underwater adventures, the beauty of our planet and its fragility...
It wasn't long before I was invited to tag along on expeditions. Starting to scuba dive on my fourth birthday, the ocean world had become a more comforting place than land was. With that in mind, I was soon given such important roles as "head barnacle scrubber" for Calypso's hull. School breaks allowed me to join the family and crew on expedition and earn further stripes by painting the rails, scrubbing the decks and eventually even manning the helm during the grave yard shift. These experiences opened the doorway of discovery to amazing places such as Papua New Guinea, The Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon and so on. A life long passion for our blue planet had been forged.
Adventures past and present are increasingly revealing the influences our human species is having on the planet. Even though we have barely begun to explore the undersea world, we are seeing signs of human impact where no human had ever been. Our planet, our one and only life support system, is showing serious signs of failing health. We are facing a crucial moment in human history. The decisions we take now and in the coming years will guide the fate of our future. The recent UN vote denying CITES protection to certain endangered species of sharks, bluefin tuna and red and pink corals is just one example that only adds to the challenges.
Although we are headed toward an imminent world fisheries collapse and quite possibly a world human collapse, it is not too late to change the course of our actions. While they are too few, there are some burgeoning stories of success such as the creation of a few new marine sanctuaries.
During challenging times and when impassioned to act, human beings can be capable of miracles. Now and looking forward, 2010 is slated to be a very special year for the oceans. TED prize winner Dr. Sylvia Earle, a renowned marine biologist, recently made her wish:"I wish you would use all means at your disposal -- films! expeditions! the web! more! -- to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet."
June 11th, 2010 would be my grandfather's 100th birthday, and it's a perfect time to celebrate our ocean planet. The stewardship of our water planet and the health of our future generations can be summarized in the five words I heard as a child:
People protect what they love.
It is time we stop living on this planet and start living with this planet.