By JEFFREY POWELL
Florida Chautauqua Assembly keynote speaker Céline Cousteau opened this year’s festivities with an informative and entertaining presentation at the Walton High School auditorium on Friday, Jan. 28. Cousteau is the granddaughter of legendary explorer and oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and is an accomplished filmmaker and environmentalist in her own right. During her talk she impressed upon attendees the need to protect the precious waters of Florida and of the world’s oceans.
“In my world everything is connected,” Cousteau said. “I care about what happens to the world and want to be a voice for what my family has done for years. We have to preserve what we have for generations to come.”
Cousteau admitted being involved in a male-dominated profession is not always easy but she had strong role models to emulate. Most of the world is familiar with her grandfather’s and father’s work through many television specials. What the world did not know was that her grandmother and mother were behind the scenes and onboard the Calypso the whole time.
“These two women were a big influence in my life,” she said proudly. “This is a male-dominated field, but we are working on that. I was never forced to do anything, I just seemed to come back to the world’s oceans.”
Another thing that has helped her excel is her original field of study. She studied psychology and focused on interpersonal relationships. “This helped me understand how people interact with their world.”
Cousteau’s passions are not exclusively below the ocean’s surface. In recent years she has spent many hours with the people and creatures of the Amazon Basin. She has been involved in a non-profit organization intended to bring medical relief to the area. She pointed out that there are some areas were 80 percent of the population has some form of hepatitis.
“The Amazon has a hold on me,” she admitted. “These people are struggling for the most basic of necessities. The planet and mankind is made-up of an intricate webbing, pull one piece out and the whole thing falls apart. I realize I have had a unique life but you can help by exploring your own backyard. What we do to the environment comes back to us.”
To learn more about the problems in the Amazon see amazonpromise.org.