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Cousteau Activity News
Francine Cousteau at Ships to Save the Waters

FC, Pete Seeger.jpg (13992 bytes) Ships to Save the Waters brought traditional sailing vessels together in the Hudson River, July 1 and 2, for a weekend of environmental messages, education and music, with the splendor of OpSail2000, the Fourth of July celebration, the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline as a backdrop. The conference was chaired by singer/activist Pete Seeger and sponsored by the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the Delaware Bay Schooner Project and the Schooner Ernestina Commission.

Francine Cousteau's keynote address.
    First, I want to say thank you to Pete Seeger and all the people involved in this conference for having invited The Cousteau Society here tonight. If we are enthusiastic about carrying on the work of Captain Cousteau, it is because he brought us courage and hope that, whatever the difficulties our Water Planet faces, we will find solutions.
    Waters of Peace is the name of the program we are building in his spirit, to clean the traces of conflict from the waters of the world. It sounds like a titanic task, an unrealistic objective. But what the will of a man can do, the will of a woman will do, too. Military wars have left behind deadly poisons that time and currents will scatter. Economic wars have resulted in incredible despoiling of resources, lack of precautions and safety, the abandonment of reusable production in favor of ready-to-use, throwaway products. The increasing accumulation of packaging results in an incredible amount of pollution landing on coasts, banks and shores, with sometimes irreversible destruction. All these mistakes put not only the environment at risk, but also the people, who are our first concern.
    What is the state of our water resources? Only a very small percentage of the global water supply is available to human beings, and that is distributed unequally, by Nature and by economics. A human being needs 2 liters a day to live. In industrialized nations, the actual use is 200 liters a day or more while one billion people have no access to drinkable, safe water. Only nine countries share 60 percent of world’s water reserves. For instance, Canada has 30 percent, Amazonia 15 percent but those two areas have less than 1 percent of the population. At the same time, Asia, with 60 percent of the world’s people, retains only 30 percent of the freshwater reserves. You can easily see that the result is an increasing risk of conflict over water.
    The situation is already not far from explosive. In Israel, water is so important that it is part of the national security defense. At this rate, water will quickly become a market commodity and we will see diasporas of environmental refugees flocking to the doors of rich countries. If you consider that we are living more and more in a global village, we have to take measures to stop this global pillage!
    That is why The Cousteau Society has taken the time to think about supporting initiatives to form global institutions for addressing critical environmental issues like water. Such institutions will have to forge decisions concerning the use of resources, actions in case of major pollution, access to natural reserves, transportation of dangerous substances to ensure global environmental equity and the long-term health of our Water Planet.
    Just as important as global equity, however, is the integrity of local equity. The biosphere is precious because of its incredible richness of life, its biodiversity. People need to be able to refer to their roots, their origins, as the price of their dignity. We have to cope with international rules for the environment since water and air ignore political boundaries, and this will oblige countries to relinquish part of their national sovereignty for the greater good. At the same time, we must enhance the beauty and value of each different landscape––we must stop trying to promote white sands, parrots and palm trees as the only standard for beaches. Wherever we are, we must learn to recognize the unique values of each place, prize them, preserve their natural riches, and teach our children to treasure every living thing, the miracle of life.
    In less than 30 years, 70 percent of the world’s population will be living on the banks, shores and coasts of the world. These are among the most productive places on earth, at the junction of land and water, with nurseries for fish, birds and plants. They are also the receptacle of all terrestrial pollution, the end of the pipeline. Sixty to seventy percent of water pollution comes from the land. Pressure on these fragile edges is increasing dramatically.
    But we can do something to protect these coasts. What has been done by governments or states is far from enough. A huge amount of good work done by volunteers and environmental organizations has helped accomplish what is not done by governments. But maybe it is time to consider how, in the middle between the two, we could do more.

    I suggest that we can create jobs, basic employment in caring for the environment, and we can begin with our coasts. The Unites States counts millions of people unemployed or underemployed because of declining fisheries or mechanized industry and agriculture. Many of them can offer only their arms––hundreds of thousands of arms that the environment needs. Cleaning and restoring the environment is not a question of technological skill; most of the time, it is a question of meticulous manual craft. Well- managed, those hundreds of thousands of arms are the seeds of the long-term care of our rivers, lakes and shores.
    The market economy has helped destroy the environment: short-term profit-taking linked to unbridled resource exploitation and the lack of precaution have left dramatic scars. In its time, the planned economy achieved exactly the same results with other means; our expedition to the Caspian Sea testified to the environmental catastrophes of collectivism. The difference is that the market economy has the power to restore what it has destroyed ... if it finds it in its interest.
    In France, we apply the rule “polluter pays,” so industry and agriculture are subject to heavy taxes and requirements for clean technology. Because they see no return on these investments, they do the minimum legal, and only when they cannot delay any longer. So, The Cousteau Society’s quest is to find a way that polluters would find a clean environment to be in their interest, in terms of a return on their investment.
    It is with these considerations in mind that we decided to create the Cousteau Label for coasts and banks. Consider a group of coastal communities. We look at all the existing parameters and help them establish a three-year management plan for the coasts they include. We create new synergies between them and stimulate new methods for managing coasts with the help of micro-enterprises created from existing needs. We teach, we evaluate, we help, we verify, we adjust. After three years, we grant them certification and the label. This certification of sound coastal management makes the value of real estate climb, which is good for the permanent residents and at the same time, because it requires an ongoing effort to clean and preserve, it creates jobs which bring more revenue to the local economies. All the people concerned are voices that can influence their representatives to effect political change and influence the creation of new laws to protect the environment.
    The Cousteau Label for coasts and banks is based on a charter of environmental quality and this quest for excellence is what makes the difference. Yes, we put a price on our landscapes because they deserve it, and our children and grandchildren deserve it.

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