This Earth Month, as we reflect on our shared responsibility to protect our planet, we’re excited to talk with Philippe Cousteau Jr., an environmental activist and Emmy-nominated TV host and producer. The grandson of filmmaker and conservationist Jacques Cousteau hopes to inspire the next generation of eco-conscious explorers.
What’s the most important way in which you’d like to build upon your family’s legacy of environmentalism?
To me, my father’s generation represented a wider social shift toward protecting the world, not just exploring it. Now the work of our generation is to grow the movement beyond the traditional group of environmentalists to a wider audience. Through my nonprofit, EarthEcho International, my contribution to my family’s legacy is to build on that idea of participation and grow the movement. We have activated more than 2 million people in more than 140 countries that are passionate about protecting the environment because they realize it is not only the right thing to do but also key to a sustainable economy, healthy people, and global security. The global environmental movement has come a long way in the 77 years since my family has been on the front lines of it. From exploration, to conservation, to now a shared sense of participation, the world is evolving, and I have hope for the future.
How can people balance a respect for the environment and a desire to get out there and see the world?
We have a mantra: “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.” A good rule of thumb is, pretend you are at someone’s house. Show respect for the owners, be it the people who live in a city or the animals in the forest, and don’t behave in a way that you wouldn’t want a visitor to behave in your home. When we travel, we always try to leave a place better than we found it, even if it means just picking up a piece of trash on the beach or the sidewalk. Travel is a great privilege, not a right, and we should treat it as such.
You and your wife, Ashlan, have a young daughter. Do you hope she follows in your family’s footsteps and becomes something of an explorer when she grows up?
Growing up, I was inspired by my father and grandfather, but my mother always said t he on ly t hing she expected of us was to follow our passion and recognize that, as a human—not just as a Cousteau—we have a responsibility to make the world better, no matter what path we chose in life. So, my hope for our daughter, whether she wants to be an engineer, a scientist, a politician, a teacher, or an explorer, is that she will fight every day to make the world a better place.