ocean environment

Champion of the Ocean

 

If you don't become the ocean, you will be seasick every day. - Leonard Cohen

If you don’t become the ocean, you will be seasick every day.
                                                      – Leonard Cohen

  The impossible missions are the only ones that succeed.                                                                                                                    –   Jacques Yves Cousteau

How appropriate that World Oceans Month is celebrated the same month as Jacques Cousteau’s birthday, June 11. It’s hard to think of anyone who has had a more profound effect on the oceans than Cousteau.

Born in 1910, Jacques Yves Cousteau grew up like any normal boy, maybe more so. People are sometimes surprised that he struggled in school. Now I realize there’s hope for me.

Cousteau’s passion for the sea might never have developed had it not been for an automobile accident. He broke both arms and nearly lost his life. It set him on a life quest that ended where all life began. In the sea.

Make no mistake about it. Cousteau was no slacker, waiting to be catered to. He was tough, passionate, and brave. During World War II, he joined the French Resistance Movement working as a spy. He also worked at the dangerous job of clearing underwater mines.

It was when he went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea that a friend gave him goggles.  It opened his eyes to a world he could never have dreamed of and Jacques Cousteau fell in love with the sea. It held him so deeply that he spent the rest of his life sharing it with the public.

He put it most eloquently when he said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

Among Cousteau’s many roles were French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, author, and researcher. Hundreds of books have been written by or about Jacques Cousteau and his achievements so it’s hard to do his life the justice it deserves in a few sentences.

Divers both recreational and professional literally owe their lives to Cousteau who with Emile Gagnan in 1943 developed practical scuba gear called the Aqua-lung. Finally mankind could dive underwater and truly explore the wonders there.

Profoundly insightful, he knew explorers on any mission needed a base from which to operate. Underwater was no different, and he developed an underwater laboratory called Conshelf I where humans could live and carry out research for long periods at a time. It was so successful, it gave birth to Conshelf II and III.

With his vision, he founded the FOC (French Oceanographic Campaigns) in 1950 and refitted the Calypso, making it a maritime research center. It was an extraordinary move at a time when the world was merrily spraying everything with DDT. But people like Jacques Cousteau and Rachel Carson were just beginning to prick our consciences.

In 1953, he penned Silent World with Frederic Dumas, introducing the world to a fascinating look at life under the sea. The book sold five million copies. He turned it into an award-winning documentary filming aboard the Calypso in 1956. Continue reading →

A Christmas Present to the World

We have a lot to celebrate this holiday.

We have a lot to celebrate this holiday.

Millions of peoples are celebrating Hanukah, Christmas, and other holidays this time of year, the spirit of which is imbued with peace and harmony. The Paris Environmental talks concluded this past week, and the nations that attended did a wonderful thing. They gave a special present to the world. After two weeks, almost two hundred nations finally agreed on a strategy to help put our planet back on a safe environmental track.

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty. There was plenty of arguing, sulking, shouting, and finger pointing. But in the end, the nations who attended showed the world that despite differences on how to resolve the crisis eight billion people are facing, they were able to hammer out an agreement that involved a lot of compromise. It’s a lesson politicians in the United States could learn a lot from.

We’re far from living in a world that will soon be pollution free. The damage we have done so far will be felt for decades to come. If not one more pound of carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere, the polar caps will continue to melt and the oceans rise, and many island communities will still be faced with the inevitable truth that they will eventually be displaced.

While it is non-binding, what the nations have agreed to among other things is put a cap on the emissions that affect rising temperatures worldwide. In short, the nations  agreed to limit the global average mean temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The original target was two degrees. While that half degree may not sound like much, it has incredible consequences. A two degree rise would mean the obliteration of many island nations from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to islands across the globe.

The higher target the nations were originally shooting for would have been comparable to putting out a house fire with a few buckets of water. We’re so deep in shit, (and my most sincere and deepest apology to anyone offended by the word, but there is no delicate way to sugarcoat this), everyone at the Paris conference pretty much realized for changes to have any real significance and to better protect island nations, the thermostat would literally have to be lowered.

Of course, there are many facets to this agreement with a lot of details to sort through. To complicate things, the expectations for developed nations are not the same as they are for developing nations. How could they be? It’s hard to be fair and just making all nations pay the same price when it’s the developed nations who for the most part caused the mess we’re in.
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