Green Living

Cousteau's Legacy Lives On

For the past 40 years, Francine Cousteau has been exploring the oceans—first as a young woman in scuba gear on vacation, later as the wife of ecologist and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Cousteau's Legacy Lives On
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Since his death in 1997, Francine Cousteau has continued to fulfill Jacques' legacy as an eco activist. We spoke with her in New York City about Jacques' old boat, the Calypso, and how the Cousteau Society is educating people about the ocean. (For more information or to donate to the Calypso restoration fund, go to cousteau.org.)

What is Jacques Cousteau's legacy?
Jacques awakened public awareness about the beauty and fragility of our planet, specifically the links between water, people, and life. His motto was, "People protect what they love," so he worked hard to make people understand and fall in love with the ocean.

How is the Cousteau Society continuing the work Jacques started?
The society operates in three areas: education, sustainable development of coastal areas, and expedition. In the 1990s, Jacques launched a program with UNESCO that offers postdoctoral fellowships to people studying the environment. We also have programs for children and a magazine called Cousteau Kids that is sent to members and schools. In the coastal management program, we identify underdeveloped coastline areas and work to develop them in a sustainable way. And we are still sponsoring research expeditions like the ones Jacques undertook during his lifetime.

What are you doing with the Calypso, Jacques' old expedition boat?
I am repairing and renovating it. When she's ready in about a year, she's going to be a floating museum off the coast of France with exhibits of Jacques' work and explanations on how it can be applied to today's challenges. I want the boat to be an ambassador for the environment—a well-known symbol like the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben.

In what ways can we protect the oceans?
We need to develop international laws for our water, and people need to vote for those who support funding for the environment. We also should reduce the amount of garbage we produce. A good start is using less packaging for products. And remember, what you do in your home—what you put down the drain—can have an impact on the ocean thousands of miles away.