An interview with Céline S. Cousteau NOW talks to the filmmaker and explorer

An interview with Céline S. Cousteau
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NOW talks to multi-talented Céline S. Cousteau, a filmmaker, explorer, public speaker, sculpture and jewellery designer passionate about connecting people and the environment and reconnecting the human tribe. Granddaughter of Jacques Yves Cousteau, she is the creator of Tribes on the Edge, an impact film & campaign to support the indigenous people of the Vale do Javari. Find out more here.

All the environmental crisis we face have a huge toll on humanity – on poverty, security, public health and disaster preparedness. The interconnected nature of our eco systems and climate means that no country or community can be immune to any of these threats. How can we best harness human power and creativity to come up with solutions for all of our sakes?

Talented people are coming up with solutions to every problem, but that we either don’t know enough about them or we’re not listening or supporting them enough. Renewable energies exist and are moving forward with thanks to amazing people like Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk – but more should be jumping on board with this movement. You have to be bold!.

Solutions to environment threats can still be profitable and we can continue to enjoy luxuries while doing good this is something that I feel people have not realized enough in the past. We are not doing enough of everything – we need to implement what’s already been invented immediately and on a much grander and more rigorous scale – then we will see change.

There are examples of the negative environmental and social impact of corporate greed all around us. Some companies are starting to realise that addressing sustainability issues can actively spur economic activity and growth – how would you galvanise more companies to act responsibly?

We should look to inspirational companies who are leading the way and show corporations who are interested in profit examples of how you can make a profit and also do right. Examples are like the teams created by Richard Branson, a big name who is always trying to do better business with smarter solutions and put humans and the environment at the forefront of his businesses. Ocean Unite for example is bringing together the private and public sectors to come to joint decisions, because collaboration is how we will make things happen. It’s not always easy – but it’s possible.

We should also remember that we as consumers and citizens must demand of ourselves what we expect of corporations – if we demand better products with better stewardship, we should be looking at our everyday choices as wholistic approach to leading more environmentally sound lives.

Single use plastics, for example, are so prevalent because they are so easy and readily available. It’s easy for us at the restaurant to take the straw, but do we need it? No, we can drink without it. But if you like the straw, then carry your own metal ones like I do for my 5 year old son. Take responsibility. I often order an apple juice for my son, ask specifically for it not to include a plastic straw, yet it still comes with the straw! So repetition is key … say it twice.

It’s not just in small actions that we create change though, it’s about being a new way of life – we need to change the way we think about ourselves and the planet. I can understand that people get overwhelmed very quickly when you start to talk about an enormous issue like climate change. But I suggest they just choose one change and implement that in their lives, such as deciding not to eat bluefin tuna or shrimp anymore because it’s unsustainable. Then when that becomes simply part of your life, chose something else to implement. Make informed choices and make them part of your everyday life and don’t assume others are doing it for you.

Companies and sustainability issues

What in your opinion is the most pressing sustainability issue facing the travel industry today?

The fact that to travel still requires fossil fuels to get anywhere, whether you’re going by car, train or plane. Most travel companies still do not give back. The travel industry makes a big impact on the planet, but a big impact means a
tremendous potential to make change too. Accreditation is necessary, but can be very confusing – one system for everything would work well but in reality I can’t see that happening.

This said, there are inspirational companies. I’m a spokesperson for The TreadRight Foundation, for example, the charitable arm to The Travel Corporation, a family of 30 tour companies. They have identified that the people and the environment in the places they are organising trips to need to be thriving for the benefit of all, and that it is their responsibility to ensure that they are thriving. Consequently they choose to work with local artisans, support wildlife protection and educate their guests, working at the grassroots and corporate levels to activate change.

Do travellers care about sustainability?

Informed travellers care about sustainability because once they have information, they realise the negative impact we can have as travellers but hopefully they have also witnessed how much good travellers can do when they are conscious of the potential support they can bring to the people, places and species in the places they travel to. Sustainability is a shared responsibility which travellers, travel agencies, and the tour operators should strive to excel at so that the entire travel industry can stand out as leaders in positive change.

Do travellers care about sustainability?

Can you share a favourite place to stay that you feel is doing something genuinely sustainable for people and planet?

Of course I want to highlight the Resort in Fiji that carries my father Jean-Michel Cousteau’s name. It’s a privately-owned, family-friendly hotel of just 20 thatched huts on the shore’s edge between beach and mangrove. It has the feeling of a quiet, secluded village and sports a lovely kids club run by local women. It was built with sustainability in mind, employs local people, uses local products, has a great filtration water system, a garden to supply the restaurant’s food and a dive centre where staff ethically educate guests about the environment. Read more

I’m also looking forward to checking out the Misool Eco Resort in Indonesia, having met the owners and heard their story. Their vision is crafted with thoughtful integrity. It’s a dive resort and conservation centre in the remote southern area of Raja Ampat, where they’ve invigorated the local economy by working extensively with the locals, training them to be carpenters and hotel managers, teaching them English and running education programmes in local schools to explain why the environment is important for people as well as planet. They’ve also created a marine protected area with the help of the government, and worked with local fishermen to stop the shark finning industry in the area. Read more

Your life’s work is being an environmental and humanitarian activist, but is there anything specific you do you do in your daily life and when you travel in the name of sustainability?

In my bag I carry a set of GoTo Ware cutlery made out of bamboo – a spoon, fork, knife and chopsticks – so I have it to use instead of plastic whenever I need, and I like all-natural Acure facial products, which are not harmful to the environment and contain no micro-plastics. When I travel I bring my own carry-on size refillable bottles so I make sure to extend my use of environmentally friendly products in my travels as well as not opening a new little plastic bottle in each hotel.

Though you can offset your carbon when you travel (and I admit I haven’t done that in a while) – it’s not enough to just plant 10 trees and assume you’ve done your bit. Because most of my travel is based around the work I do, protecting the environment and people either through gatherings, filming, art, or meeting, I feel fine with travelling. Meeting in person with a group of like minded people can move the needle and be the catalyst in making real change, but the follow-through is key. Of course I do a lot of calls over Skype/Phone and don’t need to even leave my home office most of the time. It’s about balance.

If you had one hour in a room with all the world’s leaders this year – what would you ask them?

My request would be one that might sound lofty and grand – we have to shift consciousness, and change the way people think about their connection with other people and the environment. I’d ask them to unify our efforts towards saving our global human tribe by protecting the ecosystems on which we depend and think about the people at the forefront who are ensuring our future survival on this planet as our true defenders and heroes. We need to create more unity between people, rather than dividing them for personal or economic interests – division is the oldest page in the war book and I’m seeing more and more of it in our supposed leaders. The species that’s at risk of extinction is us, and we are the only ones that have a choice as to whether or not we become extinct.

Do you care about sustainability? Please leave a reply here.