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Ships to Save the Waters 2000

Keynote Speaker for the conference was Madame Francine Cousteau, president of The Cousteau Society.

Current projects under Mrs. Cousteau’s direction include the installation of famed Cousteau flagship Calypso at the Maritime Museum in La Rochelle, France, and a film and research expedition to the Caspian Sea under the aegis of UNESCO and the Year of the Ocean. She also is playing a leadership role in such conservation measures as Waters of Peace, an international initiative to identify and clean up wastes from the world’s ocean.

  Ships to Save the Waters Keynote Speech

July 1, 2000 Jersey City, New Jersey -

Francine Cousteau

First, I want to say thank you to Pete Seeger and all the people involved in his organization to have invited the Cousteau Society here tonight.

If we are so enthusiastic to carry on the work of Captain Cousteau it is because he has brought us so much happiness, so much courage and hope that whatever the difficulties are, have been or will be. When I remember him, I remember a smile and this smile guides my tough duties.


Waters of peace is the name of the program we built after Cousteau was gone. Waters of Peace has the ambitious goal to clean the waters of the World of the tracks of wars – for that we have planned tools:

  • Expeditions to maintain a boat, Alcyone, as a flag of Cousteau on the oceans.
  • The Label Cousteau, a certification program for the protection of marine coasts and river banks and lake shores,
  • Education programs with schools and the endowment of chairs at universities, the Ecotechnie program.

To clean the waters of the world looks like a titanic task, an unrealistic objective. But what the will of a man can do, the will of a woman will do it too. Military wars have left in all the oceans deadly poisons that time and currents will scatter around. Economic wars have resulted in incredible spoiling of resources, lack of precautions and safety, the abandonment of reusable production in favor of ready to use, throw away merchandise. The increasing accumulation of packaging results an incredible amount of pollution landing on coasts, banks and shores, with sometimes-irreversible destruction. All these mistakes not only put at stake the environment, but the people, who are first concern.

What is the state of our resources in water? Seventy one percent of the planet is covered with water; most of it is saltwater. Only 5 to 7% is fresh water, but most this is frozen glacier or polar ice. So only a very small percentage of the global water supply is liquid and only about 0.26% is available to human beings. A human being needs 2 liters a day to live but in industrialized nations the real use is 200 liters a day or much more! One billion people have no access to drinkable, safe water, which causes over 25,000 deaths a day! So one child dies every 8 seconds because of lack of water or polluted water.

The situation is alarming because only 9 countries share 60% of world water reserves. For instance, Canada has 30%, Amazonia 15%. But those two countries are among the less populated in the world. – Less than 1% of the population. At the same time, Asia, with 60% of the world’s population, detains only 30% of the reserves in fresh water. You can understand that the result is an increasing risk of war for water.

Already, 400 million of people are victims of hydric stress, which means their civilizations use water quicker than nature can replenish it. In 25 years the world population will increase 30%, jumping from 6 to 9 billion. The consumption of water progresses twice quicker than the population increase. So we can estimate that in 25 years 2 million five hundred thousand people in 55 countries will not have access to fresh water.

The situation is already not far from explosive. In the cradle of civilization, turkey could the precious waters of the Euphrates River. Should this occur it would deprive Iraq and Syria of fresh water reserves? In Israel, water is so important that hydric security is integrated into national security defense.

At this rate, water will quickly go on the stock market and we will see Diasporas refugees of the environment forcing open the doors of rich countries. Investments that could solve the problem are enormous. They have been estimated to be 25 billion a year for 10 years just to clean polluted fresh waters. Then if you consider that we are more and more living in a global village, we have to take measures to stop the global pillage!

That is why the Cousteau society has taken the time to think about supporting initiatives that could favor the formation of global organizations or institutions for governing the vital issues of critical environmental risk:

Such institutions will have to make decisions concerning the use of natural resources, actions in case of major pollution, access to nature, transportation of dangerous fluids, but at the same time that we want global equity, we want to insure local cultural equity.

The Biosphere is precious because of its incredible richness of life, biodiversity. As biodiversity is a factor of equilibrium between species, the diversity of cultures and languages is a factor of equilibrium between people. So we are also in favor of very strong respect and expression of cultures through their languages, habits, religions. Cultures have been enriched all along the millenniums by our ancestors. We have the duty to carry them on and enrich them. We must fight the uniformism of cultures. At a time when the Internet allows the global communication everybody must share the same language to be efficient, but also people must refer for their citizen life to the language, the rules of the country they live in. at the same time, they must be able to communicate with their families and relatives with their regional cultures. This is a factor of peace and with the increase of population it is vital to favor the plurality of cultures. People have to be able to refer to these roots, their originality. This condition is the price of their dignity.

It is the same for environment: we have to cope with international global rules as waters and air ignores boundaries. This will oblige countries to leave a part of their national sovereignty but at the same time we must enhance the beauty and the rarity of every different landscape – we must stop trying to put as a standard for beaches white sands, parrots and palm trees. Wherever we are, we must learn to recognize the unique value of authenticity of landscape, privilege them, retrieve the natural rich, original ecosystems of each place and teach our children the treasure that represent every living creature, the miracle of life.

Now in less than 30 years, 70% of the world population will live on the banks, shores and coasts of the world. These places are the most fragile places on earth. At the junction of land and water there are nurseries for fish, birds and plants. They are also the receptacle of all terrestrial pollution. Sixty to seventy percent of the water pollution comes from the land. The pressure of urbanism and industries on these fragile edges is increasing dramatically. If nothing is done it will be too late

But we can do something. Most of what has been done by governments or states is far from enough. The huge amount of good will coming from associations to accomplish what is not done by governments has a very positive effect. But maybe it is time to consider how in the middle of all the situations I just described we could be more efficient.

  1. Whatever our differences, maybe if our goal is the same, we must fight for rights and acts for saving our waters and lands and if the name of Jacques Cousteau can help, it is here for that.
  2. We must create employment, basic employment for environment to maintain it all year long. Our goal is long term.
  3. We must rethink the use of volunteers.


Without the goodwill of people so many things would never have happened! Forced by cuts in government funding and increased desire for profits, all around the world, the quest to find people to help is increasing; for health care, for children, for aged people, for environment. But we have to stop for a while and ask ourselves – concerning environment what is the place of volunteers?

The most precious gift we can make to a cause we want to help is intelligent thought anchored on experience, skills, creativity…intelligence that we use to be executives, stars, students, craftsmen or taxi drivers.… intelligence that allows us to have time for others.

The worst gift we can make to a cause we want to help is to do for free what could be done by people who need a salary to live. I am speaking very specifically about manual work in the environment. The Unites States counts 13 million of poor people living in precarity. Some come from declining fisheries or have been rejected from industry or agriculture. Most of them can offer only their arms – hundreds of thousands of arms. Cleaning and restoring the quality of the environment is not a question of huge mechanisms; it is a question of meticulous hand care most of the time. Well managed, those hundreds of thousands of arms are the seeds of micro enterprises that we need for the long term care of our rivers, lakes and shore. The intelligence, the skills of volunteers have to be used to think to solutions, to help management of new approaches of the long-term care.

As it was done here today, we have to gather volunteers at all levels to think, to propose, to organize, to coordinate the actions on the ground of people that are begging for a dignity in the world we manage – destroyed environment, destroyed people and vice versa. Everywhere poverty reigns, everywhere that environment is at risk.

But the market economy also has destroyed environment: Short-term massive profits linked to the extensive exploitation of resources and the absence of precaution are leaving dramatic scars to the environment. In its time, the socialist economy achieves exactly the same result with other means. Collectivism has also led to a catastrophic situation of the environment in all the countries where it has reign. Our expedition to the Caspian Sea is a testimony.

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 "you pollute – you pay" – so the industry and agriculture is subjected to important taxes and obliged to be equipped the proper way. As they are obliged and they don’t see the return in the investment they have to make, they do the minimum legal and only when they cannot wait longer. At this point, the quest of the Cousteau Society is to try to find a way so polluters would not only invest to clean but they would find an interest to do it, I mean an interest in term of return on their investment.

Because the more we go and the less good will, good feelings alone will not be enough to reverse the massive destructive systems in which we dwell. We live in a world of money, what has no value has no interest.

But we know the unique value of nature; we know the value of the beauty of fresh air, clean waters, little lilies and the value of the song of a bird – the value of silence. This was offered to us and if we want to save it…we have to put a price on it, we have to make it so precious that nobody will have interest to destroy it and everybody will desire and everybody will desire to take special care of it.

It is with these kinds of considerations that we decided to create the Cousteau label for coasts and banks. What we do is: we consider a gathering of riverine communities 70 to 100kms long, 20 km inside the lands 300 meters in the waters. We audit (replace with monitor?) all the parameters that are present and we establish a management plan for three years. We use all the existing means that are already working on the territory. We create new synergies between them and we teach new methods to manage coasts and banks with the help of micro enterprises created from existing jobs. We teach, we evaluate, we help, we verify, we adjust. As soon as the community decides to enter the label process, we open on the web what we call "the Cousteau Site" – a reference sites where communities communicate. After three years we grant a certification and the label. Obliging all the communities for excellence in all aspects of the management of their territory is a very exciting challenge. In addition certification makes the value of real estate climbing, which is good for the permanent resident, but because the territory is controlled. At the same time, we create jobs in the lower level of population, but we also propose new kind of activity to most of the year, which brings more revenues to the local economy.

All the people concerned are voices that can influence their representatives to affect political change; to influence the creation of new laws to protect the environment.

The Cousteau Label for coasts and banks refers to a chart of quality and this quest toward excellency is what makes the difference. Yes, we put a price on our landscape because they deserve it and our children and grand children deserve it.

Fighting for the rights of future generations have been one of the big issues of the Cousteau Society. Captain Cousteau spent his last 15 years on this subject. He collected 9 million signatures and shook as many consciences at the head of government that he could reach. Your country (The United States) was a big support on this matter. I want you to know that Mr. Gore, your vice president, supported our position and my fight for having these rights passed at the general assembly of UNESCO in 1998. It is done and it is a big victory. But the goal is to add the rights of future generations to the chart of the United Nations. And now I am going to tell you what a single man can do, I am going to tell you what a volunteer can do what the will of one fragile human being can do.

His name is Pierre Chastan; he is a former printer and a 15-year volunteer for Captain Cousteau’s works. When he was traveling in a plane, Pierre Chastan would manage that at the end of the flight, all the passengers have signed the petition for the rights of future generations. He was doing the same in his village, in any occasion he was meeting people. One day he sold his business, made his family safe, started to choose and cut trees on his property and built a 34-foot boat. All by himself. Then he traveled all along the canals of France down to the south distributing the petition to all people going near by. He had decided to cross the ocean and bring the petition to Mr. Kofi Annan at the United Nations. He wrote to presidents, by the way they answered, to encourage even President Chriac. He gathered the help of scientists, teachers, people and one day he left and crossed the Atlantic….

He is not a sailor. He is not a diver. He is a fragile person with all the beauty inside and such a strong will. Now he is in New York. The mayor has allowed him free space in the harbor and office commodities in the town hall. Now he went to the United Nations and managed so well to transmit the will of Captain Cousteau that he will see Secretary-General Kofi Annan in October.

By the way, his boat of 34 feet is called message and the man who built it, the man who crossed the Atlantic all by himself to be the voice for future generations, Pierre Chastan, is right here in front of you. He is a symbol of all what a single fragile person to help a course. Here is Pierre Chastan

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that if the name of Captain Cousteau has left us as an heritage can help, federate, support, or encourage the actions you have initiated, let us do it together. I am here to serve…

Ships to Save the Waters
Conference 2000

Schooner Ernestina
Sloop Clearwater
Schooner A.J. Meerwald