June 11, 2013, is the 103rd anniversary of the birthday of my grandfather, Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Having traveled to many places around the world, I keep hearing people say; “I grew up with your grandfather”, “your grandfather inspired me to start diving” or “I got interested in ocean conservation because of him.” Because of this, I am reminded of the incredible uniting force that one person has the capacity to generate. This force was a great inspiration for me personally as I set out to launch my own organization, CauseCentric Productions a few years ago in the hopes I could highlight people (and their causes) who have the capacity to inspire as well.
Another great aspect of my grandfather’s legacy is that so many his family members are still involved with environmental causes, many of us with oceanic ones. With my own work focusing on creating a bridge between humans and the environment, both above and below water, my relatives have in some way continued on with their own form of his work. This says a lot about the power of the environment and the power of inspiration that has created this incredible legacy that we’ve all followed through with in our own ways. But most importantly, I believe that through my grandfather’s ability to inspire, each person that has in some way been touched by his work has also inherited his legacy. This makes us all a little bit “Cousteau,” doesn’t it?
On a personal level, my grandfather was a charismatic, engaged person who was so passionate about what he did that he spoke of it in an enchanting way. A great attraction for all of us is the exploration and adventure, as it was for him, but the desire to protect those areas that we know are fragile has become the more prominent goal. Growing up, we were taught that we are active participants in the whole system that is the planet, not just what happens in our homes and our backyards.
No one pushed me to choose this path, but starting with my grandfather, I saw that doors were open should I chose to enter. It was really the whole family that inspired me – in addition to my grandfather, my father, Jean-Michel Cousteau, has continued ocean work since the 1970s. Less well known are my mother and grandmother, both of whom were a part of the family legacy albeit the lesser known part. My grandmother was aboard Calypso more than any other crew member; my mother was an expedition photographer for more than 13 years. I studied psychology and intercultural relations (so again there’s the human angle) – but my experiential education was out in the field, in the river, in the jungle, and in the ocean. The experiences with my family came together with my formal education to define my part of this legacy.
I enjoy meeting people who are problem solvers, everyday heroes who might not get public recognition because they are actually out there, on the ground, doing amazing work, day in and day out, without the means to get their stories told. We at CauseCentric are motivated to help these amazing people and their organizations get the attention they deserve. People like Patty Webster of Amazon Promise, Peter Luswata of the Uganda Rural Community Support Foundation, the staff of Green Chimneys, Amy Greeson of Healing Seekers, and all of the MAR Leadership fellows. (And there are so many more!) All of these organizations are a part of the Jacques Cousteau legacy.
Although I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to my grandfather and his mission on what would be his 103rd birthday, I would like to express that it is not just about him, but about the power one person has to influence many. I want each of you to feel empowered to use your talents to be a proactive advocate. I want you to know that you can have an impact every day from the food you eat, to where you choose to spend your vacation, to supporting non-profit organizations, to volunteering your time. So I hope that in looking at the CauseCentric website (and the many organizations we champion) you will walk away inspired, feeling like you can find something tangible to do and have the motivation to move to action – and in this way celebrate my grandfather’s birthday with me.
Merci and à bientôt,