Although the Ocean Film Festival is called BLUE, the other important color of the event is red. The bright knit caps like the one Jacques Cousteau and his Calypso crew wore can be seen bobbing throughout the crowd, reminding us this legendary ocean explorer is always among us. I’m sure that is how Celine and Fabien Cousteau feel, long after their grandfather’s passing. He would have been 100 years old this year.
Indeed, watching the descendants of a legend like Cousteau on stage on Friday, one cannot help but expect them to be doing something grand. Under the watchful eyes of the world, perhaps such expectations did help motivate Fabien and Celine to, while not exactly following in their legendary grandfather’s flippers, to certainly be on a similar path of trying to make the word a better place.
With their father Jean-Michel in the audience, the brother and sister team told a room of BLUE attendees about their latest projects. While independent, they were created out their mutual desire to turn the sometimes passive act of conservation filmmaking into more hands-on. As Celine said, “Maybe people will see those films and go home and feel bad about [what is happening to the environment], but what then will they do the next day?”
Fabien also commented that while showing stunning images of our blue planet can inspire, it is also misleading that all is well with our ocean. “We do an injustice to the world if we only show pretty pictures.”
Fabien launched his Plant a Fish project on World Oceans Day this year out of “my frustration of not being able to answer the question satisfactorily … about what we can do.” Patterned after the long-successful plant a tree campaign, his program has “replanted” marine species in their local habitats in distressed bodies of water around the world. Initial targeted projects in 2010 to 2011 will include sea turtles in El Salvador, mangroves in South Florida and corals in the Maldives. The first project they completed was to replant oysters in New York harbor. They did it on “zero dollars and only volunteers—at risk youth, with a graduating rate of less than 50 percent, that have one-parent homes, who never have seen the ocean or gone swimming. To get them to go out and become stewards of the ocean. It is very empowering.”
Celine has created CauseCentric Productions to give more punch to nonprofit organizations that don’t have the resources to produce film to explain what they do. Combining her passion for different cultures and her desire to assist those in need, Celine recently completed such a short for an organization providing medical assistance to the inhabitants of the Amazon. “Traveling from the ocean to the Amazon, I feel like I have a flipper and a hiking boot on all the time.”
Taking a question from the audience after their talks, Fabien tried to explain what environmental economics really means: “What does it mean if we loose a whale? What does it mean if we loose the Gulf of Mexico? ... Why not look at our planet as a bank account? Why not stop eating the capital and start living off the interest?”
Perhaps Celine explained it best: “We owe it to ourselves to put everything into this life we can. Whether it be in the oceans or the Amazon, it all comes back to us.”