Erstellt am: 30. 9. 2016 - 18:00 Uhr
A Voice For The Oceans
For Céline Cousteau, the environmental film-maker and activist, diving is a form of meditation, a “disconnect from life on land”. She says she can spend 10 minutes at a time almost completely still, watching all the little things that happen in the hidden world under the waves.
Far from the “Silent World” described by her legendary ocean explorer grandfather Jacques Cousteau, Céline says the submarine world is “loud and busy”.
Compared to floating around in a wetsuit, life on two feet on land seems restrictive. “I love it that when you are diving you can move in every direction. It’s not like flying, but it is freedom.”
Celine Cousteau is an eloquent ambassador for the ocean at a time when it is screaming for attention. A new report published in the journal Science this autumn says humanity, with its hunger for large fish, is driving an unprecedented extinction of marine life in a way that will disrupt ocean ecosystems for millions of years.
Céline Cousteau was a guest at this year's Erdgespräche
A separate report showed microplastics in consumer products are choking our oceans and killing the world’s fish before they reach reproductive age. Meanwhile: the coral bleaching episodes documented this year have been more extensive than any in recorded history.
Our oceans are in dire straits and yet these horrifying announcements, which are urgent warnings of the cost of inaction, always appear way down the news agenda. You’d think we didn’t care.
Paul Naylor/ the Wildlife Trusts
And yet we should, says Cousteau.
“Everything that happens in the oceans happens to us. If our oceans are polluted that comes back to us through the food that we eat. The chemicals that run over off our land go into our oceans. I think that when we realize we are completely interconnected with our oceans then we will take better care of them. If we want to be healthy then we need healthy oceans.”
A Childhood on the Calypso
Few have done more to connect people with the oceans than the Cousteau clan. Most famously grandfather Jacques, rarely seen without his little red beanie cap, exploring the deep seas on his research vessel the Calypso.
But Céline says her grandmother Simone, who sold her family jewels to pay for the Calypso's fuel was equally as inspiring:
“I wouldn’t say that she was the quiet one but she was behind the cameras. She enabled a lot of my grandfather’s work to happen. There’s an incredible strength in this sort of silence.”
Simone was a pioneering scuba-diver and aquanaut and was in many ways the heart-beat of the expeditions. “They called her La Bergère – the shepherdess. She was the glue that kept all the parts together.”
Kat Sanders / Wildlife Trusts
"Women need more visibility"
Her father Jean-Michel is a renowned documentary-maker and environmental advocate, while her mother Anne-Marie, spent 13 years as expedition photographer – again behind the camera. But Céline decided to be the face of her ocean documentaries, a welcome rebalancing act in a world of adventure still dominated by male presenters: “Women are in production teams. There are women on expeditions. There are incredible female scientists. It’s just we need more visibility.”
If it doesn’t surprise you that, given her family background, Céline, like her brother Fabien, followed the family tradition of ocean filmmaking, she insists she never felt under pressure to do so. “I was encouraged to do what I love. I actually studied psychology because I’m fascinated by the human mind: why we behave the way we do, how we influence behaviour, how people can change. But when you extrapolate that and bring it into my family history and legacy, I put the human at the centre of the environment.”
The Oceans and US
Céline focussed on the needs of people not fish – including a three year stint on a sustainable development project in Costa Rica. But the more that you focus on the needs of people, the more you realize that a healthy environment is essential to those needs, and that the needs of nature are reliant on local people understanding their role in ecosystems.
Her films are on the same subject as the rest of her ocean-obsessed family but they come from a different angle:
“I came back to this as an adult very conscious of what I was doing and willing to take that legacy forward as a thinking adult.”
"We are visual creatures"
Films are vital tools in the environmentalist movement. Well-made awe-inspiring films can create a powerful sense of advocacy even among those who live hundreds of kilometres from any shoreline.
If we are to be moved to deeply care about the oceans, we need to see what is under the glittering but monotone surface of the seas. “Wonder and inspiration are really important,” says Céline. “We are visual creatures so visual story telling is an essential tool."
Kat Sanders / Wildlife Trusts
Films about the ocean show us what is hidden below the waves and, like a mafia-boss sinking an unwanted corpse, much damage has come because we never look below the waves.
Between 1946 through 1993, thirteen countries used ocean disposal or ocean dumping as a method to dispose of radioactive waste. To this day, international mining corporations dump their toxic sludge of waste products straight into the oceans. We don’t see it but it is poisoning us through the food chain.
“The human mind has to shift,” says Céline. “The human consciousness has to shift so that we realise that just because it is not in front of us, it doesn’t exist.”
Reality Check Special: Céline Cousteau
On this Saturday’s Reality Check special, Céline Cousteau tells us of Austria’s direct link to the ocean, tells us about life as a child among the eccentric crew of her grandfather’s ship Calypso and tells us why by harming the oceans we are harming ourselves. Saturday 1st October, 12:00 and afterwards in the FM4 Player.