Granddaughter of famed French oceanographer to speak at Northern

John Becker

On Tuesday, March 30, NMU will host environmental advocate and explorer Alexandra Cousteau at 7 p.m. in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center. Cousteau is the granddaughter of famous French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and daughter of oceanographer Philippe Cousteau, Sr.

The speech is titled “Alexandra Cousteau: Reflections in the Water,” and will be free for NMU students, $5 for non-students.

Ben Scheelk, president of the Eta Chi Chapter at NMU of Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU), the international geographic honor society, said Cousteau has an adept ability to describe things in a way that people can easily relate to and appreciate.

“Her niche is storytelling and getting the message across to multiple audiences at different platforms,” Scheelk said.

Scheelk said the title of the speech uses a play on words to give reflections a double meaning. He said the speech is an opportunity for Cousteau to look back on her experiences, but also to reflect on why water is so important.

Robert Legg, advisor to GTU and assistant professor of geography at NMU, said Cousteau’s work is all about the importance of water.

“The students were interested in Cousteau because she’s an internationally renowned speaker for water issues,” Legg said.

Cousteau is a spokesperson for the Live Earth 2010 Run for Water, and founder of Blue Legacy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the critical issues of clean and easily accessible water. Water accessibility is a huge issue outside the United States According to Live Earth, the Run for Water is a six kilometer run because that is the average distance many people walk daily to acquire their water.

By combining film with the power of social networking, Sheelk said Cousteau has helped spread the message of sustainable water management.

“She’s using technology to bring communities together with disparate parts of the world. It’s really important for that message to be conveyed to all people, regardless of their walk of life,” Scheelk said.

Sustainable water management means not only providing safe water for all, but respecting and protecting water and its inhabitants, Scheelk said.

Cousteau’s work, Scheelk said, helps teach people to better coexist with the environment in order to aid in its conservation.

“(Cousteau will) show the interconnectivity of social and environmental issues, and how global water issues relate to this region,” he said.

Legg said there are many issues facing water that could get worse if left unchecked. He also said Cousteau’s message seeks to teach but also engage attendees.

“There’s everything from over fishing, to pollution, to species depletion, so really (the speech is) a way to call for action for some of these issues and highlight different topics that are associated with the oceans,” Legg said.

Scheelk said anyone who is interested in impacting the environment in a positive way should attend the speech.

“Alexandra Cousteau is a perfect role model for students our age who are looking towards their future and asking, ‘How can I have an effect on the world?’” Scheelk said.