Mr Cousteau, son of famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, is the Founding Chairman and President of the Ocean Futures Society, based in California. The mission of the organization is “to explore our global ocean, inspiring and educating people throughout the world to act responsibly for its protection, documenting the critical connection between humanity and nature, and celebrating the ocean’s vital importance to the survival of all life on our planet.”
Jean-Michel Cousteau has both created and been recognized for many “firsts” in a variety of endeavors. In February 2002, he became the first person to represent the Environment in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, joining luminaries including Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Africa), John Glenn (The Americas), Kazuyoshi Funaki (Asia), Lech Walesa (Europe), Cathy Freeman (Oceania), Jean-Claude Killy (Sport), and Steven Spielberg (Culture). Jean-Michel was also appointed to the Board of Directors of the Athens Environmental Foundation for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, mandated to design and support projects that will improve the environment in Greece and beyond.
In the first attempt ever to return a captive orca to the wild, in 1999 Jean-Michel merged three non-profit organizations to form Ocean Futures Society to continue research and care for Keiko, the captive killer whale of “Free Willy” film fame. In working with Keiko, Jean-Michel and his team pioneered both husbandry techniques and scientific research on wild orcas. In 2002, Keiko was returned to the wild and entrusted to the Humane Society for continued long-term care and monitoring.
In another “first,” on Earth Day 1997 Jean-Michel led the first undersea live, interactive, video chat on Microsoft Internet, from the coral reefs of Fiji, celebrating the International Year of the Reef and answering questions from “armchair divers” throughout the world. In 1998, Jean-Michel participated in a live downlink from the Space Shuttle Columbia to CNN to highlight the International Year of the Ocean, discussing NASA’s contribution to ocean awareness with astronaut and marine biologist, Rick Linnehan.
Jean-Michel has been honored with the Environmental Hero Award, presented to him by then-Vice President Gore at the White House National Oceans Conference in 1998.
Jean-Michel also has a long history of innovative design in the field of architecture and the ocean. Acting on a childhood dream to build cities under the sea, he pursued a degree in architecture from the Paris School of Architecture and remains a member of the Ordre National des Architectes. Artificial floating islands, schools, and an advanced marine studies center in Marseilles, France, are among his projects. In 1969, he led the transformation of a 100,000 square foot section of the Queen Mary into the Living Sea Museum in Long Beach, California. He also directed the design and development of the Parc Oceanique Cousteau in Paris, an innovative public attraction to teach visitors about the ocean without displaying any captive animals.
More recently, Jean-Michel has been involved with the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, an environmentally and culturally oriented family resort, conceived as a model to prove to the business community the economic benefits of environmental concern and design. In order to expand the impact of ecological tourism, he created L’Aventure Jean-Michel Cousteau, a flagship dive operation at the resort in Fiji. He is currently forming an action partnership to expand this ecologically responsible model to other sites.
Quote: “Is it too late to prevent us from self-destructing? No, for we have the capacity to design our own future, to take a lesson from living things around us and bring our values and actions in line with ecological necessity. But we must first realize that ecological and social and economic issues are all deeply intertwined. There can be no solution to one without a solution to the others.”