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Oceans are Important

28 February 2007

So, I had promised to tell you all why the Consort was hobnobbing with Jean-Michel Cousteau this weekend. Forgive the delay, but then the news made me angry yesterday…

Every year there is a Festival hosted by a church in our neighborhood, in collaboration with the university, which focuses on “strengthening the culture of peace” – using the six points UNESCO uses to define the culture of peace (respect all life, reject violence, share with others, listen to understand, preserve the planet, rediscover solidarity). Every year the festival gets bigger (and better). This year they focused on point 5: Preserve The Planet (specifically, water quality). And the Consort was asked to be on the organizing committee as well as be a participant in several of the sessions. The special guest this year was—you guessed it!—Jean-Michel Cousteau. Now, you saw the pictures from this weekend. We had weather. Which meant (a) that JMC’s flight was cancelled, so he rented a car from Kansas City, where he was stranded, and drove up here. In a snowstorm. (Silly Californian.) But he made it! Although the person who was supposed to be the liason couldn’t make it in from their home in the far suburbs. So the Consort was in charge of driving JMC to and fro, bringing him to the sponsors’ brunch, and escorting him to the event.

First of all, did you all know his group, Ocean Futures Society, produces an educational television series about ocean life, shown on PBS? I didn’t (one drawback of not watching TV). He had just returned from a visit to the Amazon, where they are in the process of filming an episode on scuba diving aquatic research down there.

To dovetail with the theme of this year’s Festival, Cousteau’s talk highlighted some of the important points from their exploration of the islands and atolls northwest of Hawaii, shown in the episode, “Voyage to Kure.”

He spent a bit of time discussing the trash that has decimated the plant life on some of the islands, and is killing albatrosses (who eat everything, but then starve when their stomachs are full of undigestible crap like toothbrushes, disposable lighters, and pencils).

Now, the team, in order to prepare for visiting such ecologically fragile habitats, had their clothes sprayed with DEET, sealed, and frozen for 48 hours, in order to prevent any invasive seeds or insects from being brought ashore during their visit. After considering that, take a look at this picture, which shows what they found on Laysan Island:

No, I mean really look at it—in fact, look at the enlarged version. Don’t worry, I’ll wait here.

Did you see? They found televisions, computer monitors, glass, plastic, metal—tons of trash. And this stretched for miles. Miles, readers! There was one bit (which I can’t find online anywhere) where you saw Cousteau standing beside a pile of discarded fishing nets that had been collected in a cleanup operation. The pile was taller than he was, and stretched beyond the edges of the screen (I don’t know how deep the pile was, but it looked immense). Wait I found it! Please look. It won’t take but a moment. That’s 82 tons of marine debris collected by NOAA’s team at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in a two and a half week period.

Cousteau was a fine speaker. And the work that he and his team have dedicated themselves to is worthy of his father’s legacy. If his series is shown on your PBS station, I recommend you take a look.

If you’re interested, you can do some additional surfing (hah!) here:

  • About the Kure Expedition
  • Kure in the Headlines
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