Born in France more than 110 year ago, Jacques Cousteau taught the importance of understanding and preserving the world’s oceans. He also pioneered the use of underwater cameras and developed technologies and techniques of modern oceanography. Cousteau’s work in the 1940s helped develop underwater breathing apparatus for safer diving.
As a pre-teen, I read The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure, a book by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and legendary diver Frédéric Dumas. Cousteau was probably my first living hero.
The book was followed by a film for which Cousteau and renowned French filmmaker Louis Malle shared directing credits:
Cousteau found a former Royal Navy minesweeper that had been used after WWII as a ferry in Malta. He outfitted Calypso as a mobile laboratory for research and for diving and filming. Calypso sailed the world’s oceans from 1951 until it was involved in a 1996 collision and sank in the harbour of Singapore. Restoration was planned but stalled because of legal disputes, Cousteau family quarrels, and fundraising difficulties.
In its day, the Calypso was more than an oceanographic research vessel. It was the constant companion of the famed French explorer Jacques Cousteau, as the ship and its captain logged over a million nautical miles together from the Red Sea and the Amazon to Antarctica and the Indian Ocean.New York Times
One of my favourite Jacques Cousteau quotes:
For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century, he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.
It seems like a no-brainer that by protecting nature, we are protecting ourselves and working to ensure human survival. Yet the world’s ruling classes believe they can insulate themselves from consequences of environmental destruction and politicians are unwilling to slow or end the pursuit of wealth. So far, influential forces are oblivious to existential risks facing our physical world.
BBC’s Science Focus reported two years ago:
Human extinction, many experts believe, is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. And some think it will come sooner rather than later. In 2010, eminent Australian virologist Frank Fenner claimed that humans will probably be extinct in the next century thanks to overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change.How human extinction would change the Earth
For most of human history, we lived as part of nature. And we learned through observation and experience how to live within the web of life. Those that didn’t learn those lessons, died. This desire to control and exploit nature is a relatively new behaviour. Can we relearn those lessons we once knew? We must try.
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The frustrating thing is that the whole downbound train mess is so obvious.
Just look at what’s in the news media this week, stories about forest layoffs. As global warming impacts our forests, this could get worse and worse. What happens when we repeatedly get low snowpacks in the winter and prolonged heatwaves in the summer? I would expect more years with more forest fires, myself.
The need for urgent action should be crystal clear. But, apparently not so for our insular politicians bustling about in cities, provincial capitals and Ottawa.