Posted by: Celine Cousteau | January 20, 2012

Society of Environmental Journalists Annual Conference 2011

On the occasion of the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Miami in October 2011, I found myself surrounded by actively involved change makers and information seekers. From the likes of Carl Hiaasen, Ken Salazar, Jim Toomey, Carl Safina, and Sylvia Earle to name a few- the cast of characters was impressive to say the least.

Most of the time when I come to speak at such events, I zip in and then have to promptly leave for another flight, another destination, another event. This time I had programmed my schedule to be able to stay and attend a few seminars…absorbing information and inspiration.

One of the two sessions I attended was “Climate Change as a Cultural Issue” with Shahzeen Attari, Michel Handgraaf, and Kenny Broad. Here are a few comments I jotted down from the panelists: Environmental decisions are a trade off between your own and other people’s outcomes. There are trust issues- how can we trust that people will do what they say they will? This leads to uncertainty and plays on the duality of the analytic vs/ the psychological sides of the brain.

Conclusion- How the movement is framed if key- make it relevant to your audience and follow through!

A good question that came up: “Is there a commonality of purpose between the journalists and scientists?” After all- without each other, there is no message and no audience. The panelists are addressing just these kinds of issues so if you’re intrigued I encourage you to read more about them from the links below.

Another great part of this event was that 5 members of my family were all in the same place for the first time in…well, a very long time. Pulling this off took months of preparation by Jeff Burnside who never waned in his efforts to get us all there. Our respective schedules put side by side must have been like staring at the architecture of the Matrix! Each of us was asked to take 5 minutes to share our projects before opening to the audience for questions. It was wonderful to share how my grandfather has influenced so many of us to carry on a piece of the work forward (and I don’t mean just those of us on the stage). Each has added his/her own interest, focus, and strength to create our an individual path within the one we share

L to R: Alexandra (cousin), myself, Fabien (brother), Jean-Michel (father), Philippe (cousin)


We are often asked why we don’t all work together- something that makes sense based on the shared name – with this event, I hope the answer was evident. Each of us is focusing on a variation of the same theme, a nuance on environmental education and protection. And here goes a cliché…it was clear that the sum of the parts truly is greater than the whole. Our combined strength comes from the unity of individuality with commonality. But we are just parts of an even bigger whole- an incredible army of people doing incredible work to help us all understand and protect this planet and the people upon it. It was not the 5 of us- it was every person there- every scientists, writer, journalist, activist, and participant present. This is the strength- the pieces of the puzzle coming together to create the whole. Without each part, the puzzle is incomplete.

And so I pay homage to my family for doing what they do- each of us a piece of the whole- coming together now and again- that in itself being a piece of an even greater whole. There are a myriad of people out there who are working day in and day out to better understand and share their understanding with others so we can collectively move to action. We count on the communicators to get the word out; without each of you, the message stays quiet.


Shahzeen Attari-

Kenneth Broad-

Michel Handgraaf-

Posted by: Celine Cousteau | August 4, 2011

Falling for Antarctica

Many people I know dream of a journey to the white continent, but it was never an ambition of mine. Then I shot a documentary there, and I fell under the spell of the magical land. Antarctica has the uncanny ability to enchant its visitors in a way no other place on this planet can.

It all began when I was asked to host a 12-part documentary series for Chilean television (Oceano: Chile Frente al Mar) — I jumped on the occasion. Looking at the list of our destinations for filming, we would travel the entire coast of Chile, exploring areas above and below water, diving whenever we could, as far out as Antarctica. As much as I love new adventures in exotic lands, the idea of diving through icy waters brought bodily shivers. But as soon as I set foot on the terrain, I realized my reaction was only skin deep. What I felt, sensed, experienced, and remember were brilliant and intense reactions of falling in love with an incredible place.

We spent two days navigating the notorious Drake Passage, where we were blessed with unusually calm weather conditions. After that, our production team, anxious to film more than the creatures in the dining room, landed on the Antarctic peninsula. On our first stop, we tested our equipment. We divided into groups, one of which got into the water. I got dropped off on land with a videographer, in an area where Gentoo penguins were forming their colonies, getting ready for mating season. “We’ll be back soon to get you guys.” And they took off.

A somewhat gentle but determined snowstorm was already underway, creating an incredible landscape of beautiful white skies, white land, white flakes, and horizontal winds. Great to look at, tough to film in. We were there three hours! By the end, our gloves were soaked through, our bones were stiff, out clothes were sticking to our bodies, and a permanent smile spread across our faces.

© Çapkin van Alphen - CauseCentric Productions

We had stationed ourselves near the path of the migrating Gentoos, photographing and filming them as they waddled past us. Our various cameras, including the small HD GoPro on a long monopod, allowed us to get really close without being too intrusive. We could not help but anthropomorphize the creatures and narrated some their looks as they tilted their heads and eyes, assessing us as they scooted past. Unbeknownst to them we had a few conversations going, too. We were witnesses to an incredible life-happening: that of simple survival.

Though our reason for being there was to film, this is a journey a few determined people can also make, since there are boats that take limited groups of visitors to the area. We had traveled down on such a boat, our production partially supported by the owners, and though we followed their path, we took off on our own to film. For those who aspire to see and experience this place, I suggest you do so — but please be mindful that this area is fragile, under great pressure from the global changes on our planet. It is important that we keep the numbers to a minimum so as to avoid creating any greater impact than humans already have. Most importantly, what is learned there should be taken home; the care and thoughtfulness with which we tread on the white continent should be applied to our own backyards.

This story originally appeared on FATHOM and is reprinted with permission.

Posted by: Celine Cousteau | July 20, 2011

Ocean Inspiration- The After Effect

Two months ago I put on an event in honor of my grandfather Jacques Cousteau. “Ocean Inspiration” took place in New York City May 18 with an all encompassing cocktail, awards ceremony, and fundraiser and in Washington, DC May 20 there were two panels, as well as dance and live music performances. The mission of the event was to celebrate, recognize, and reward ocean advocacy in all its forms, showcasing that anyone can be an ocean advocate the moment they take the time and make the effort to defend this fragile ecosystem. This to me was the best way to honor my grandfather’s life work on the year of his 100th anniversary: pay tribute to those who are inspired by the oceans and continuing his work, each in their own way, to be the spokespeople for it’s protection.

Obviously events like this don’t happen unless companies, foundations, and individuals support it happening. Without all of them I would not have been able to make the May 18 evening what it was and importantly, I needed their contributions in order to make the May 20 forum free to the public and create the website to give everyone a view into the event. The list of individuals is long and I can only hope each of you know that you have been appreciated and are acknowledged for your support and belief in this event! From the August 18th 2010 fundraiser, to ticket purchases, to donations- all of it was instrumental. Every bit did indeed count.

It would be like speaking at the Oscars (only a little less posh) if I were to start listing everyone…yes, I may even get cut off by you clicking away or scrolling down to the next paragraph….

So all this is to say that I am thankful, I am grateful, I am humbled, I am proud, and I am ever hopeful that a piece of Ocean Inspiration has gone home with each one of you who was able to participate, enjoy, see, be, hear, and feel what this was all about.

The website is still active and you can easily browse through to get an idea what it was about- there are news links, photos, videos. The Washington, DC panels are on the website as well as my You Tube channel: CelineCousteau and the videos from the music and dance performances on May 20 are linked here. You can also join the Ocean Inspiration Facebook page! OI on FB

May the ocean continue to inspire each of you and may you chose to continue to defend and protect her, educating those around you, empowering them to become ocean advocates through whatever means possible. Now get out there and do something grand for the oceans! You both deserve it.

Below…a few photos…but check a lot of them out at Sara Stathas Photography

Posted by: Celine Cousteau | April 22, 2011

Earth Day- One person, One community, One planet

I was contemplating writing an entry for Earth Day…but I decided to do this instead…

As I do most mornings I have access to my computer and the web, I read the news and browsed through Twitter and saw so many good posts related to Earth Day so I thought- why not give some of these links as my contribution? Let me do some research for you- all you have to do is click, click, click…isn’t that saving energy too? So get out there and do something for this planet- it isn’t that tough really…just read on…but more importantly, follow through!

David de Rothschild’s MYOO:

Why Family Planning is Critical to Global Energy Strategy:

Reporting on the Environment, 365 Days a Year:

Bring in your travel mug to Starbucks today- and get a free coffee!

How Does Earth Day fit into your Plan?

ClimateGate: What really happened:

What happens when Earth Day and Good Friday collide:

Organic Agriculture: Science and Ecology:

12 Green Tips:

My Plastic Free Life:

No more plastic straws:

A billion Acts of Green:

Best books to Read to Celebrate Earth Day:

Posted by: Celine Cousteau | April 6, 2011

Chile “Oceano” Part 8- Pisagua

Pisagua is a town seemingly forgotten by time, partially abandoned, it’s crumbling facades a testimony of stories past. Here and there people appear, living in homes between abandoned buildings. Another chapter of “Oceano” in Chile was filmed here- a glimpse into the history of this town and the stories of its inhabitants.

©Céline Cousteau - CauseCentric Productions

In 1879 a war raged in the Pacific with Chile fighting Bolivia and Peru. From Pisagua an assault was launched, marking the beginning of the final battle, putting this little village on the map. It’s cemetery remains as a symbol of these times, wooden crosses etched with ancient names and dates standing crooked in the sand.

©Céline Cousteau - CauseCentric Productions

The village also represents another era in Chilean history- the days when the dictator Augusto Pinochet ruled with an iron fist. It is here that a mass grave marks the place where political dissidents were shot dead. The old prison where they were kept still stands, paint flaking, bars rusted.  This town made for an unlikely beautiful place to film and shoot stills.

Today Pisagua attempts to survive, its people living from small scale fishing and gathering shellfish. They do not have an easy and convenient way to sell their goods to the market- a middle man brings a truck to this very remote village, making the bulk of the profit, leaving the fishermen a sliver of income that barely gets them to the next month.

It was here that we went diving in the midst of a beautiful algae forest, accompanied by Raul Choque and Patricio Saez Godoy. Both of them have competed and won international spearfishing competitions. Patricio still competes but has no financial backing and he trains simply because he feeds his family by spearfishing and hookah diving for urchins. When I think of world athletes and their fancy sponsors, impeccable matching clothes, and then I look back at Patricio, his handmade wetsuit falling apart from daily use… I can’t help but have even more respect for his efforts.

©Çapkin van Alphen - CauseCentric Productions

Not far from town we went on a dive of another nature. With less than 3 meters visibility and surrounded by hundreds of jellyfish, we looked for, found and brought up an amphora which we now know dates from the 18th century though it could have been earlier. Later another one of our divers went back and brought up a second one. Our imagination now runs wild- where there are amphoras, there is a ship- and what else might that ship might have been carrying. Perhaps this is a calling to prepare another expedition!

©Çapkin van Alphen - CauseCentric Productions,_Chile

Posted by: Celine Cousteau | February 18, 2011

Chile- “Oceano” Part 7- Atacama Desert

When I think of the Chilean oceans, my mind does not necessarily wander to the Atacama desert, and yet we traveled here to film an episode for the “Oceano” documentary TV series I am co-hosting. The ocean and the desert are undeniably connected.

Fresh water, salt water; industries and communities pulling on the same resource.

Speaking with Sonya about water issues. ©Çapkin van Alphen - CauseCentric Productions

It is here that the simplest and yet very powerful words were uttered to me by a local indigenous woman, Sonya- “The (mining) companies need water to make the industry work. We need water to live.”

So true and seemingly so simple. Yet the answer is not so simple. In order to find reason we assign blame. But are we not, each of us, a part of this blame? We buy what the (mining) companies provide: copper, zinc, silver, gold, coal, oil, rare earth metals, iron ore, bauxite, platinum, nickel, plutonium, precious stones, and the list goes on.

Where does the blame stop and where does responsibility take over? More important than assigning blame is how to answer the crucial question- now what? I only wish I had the answers.

Moving forward is key and one mining company has decided to spend billions to build a desalinization plant to feed their need for water. Perhaps this example can put pressure on the rest of the industry, alleviating the impact on fresh water resources necessary for life. This is not a perfect solution, but it is a step forward. We do not yet know what the long-term impacts will be on the ocean with an increased demand on sea water.

Concentric circles in a scarce resource. ©Céline S Cousteau - CauseCentric Productions

While in the desert we took a ride on horseback to film the Valle de la Muerte and its sand dunes. We want the public to be inspired by the places we visit and so we wander the landscapes capturing it’s beauty… and there is no reason to not have a good laugh while we are at it too. We grabbed snowboards to try our hand at sand boarding. This is not your bunny slope with fluffy flakes! A camera affixed to the front of my board and holding another one in my hand, I took a deep breath and lunged my body forward. A short-lived attempt. Brushing the sand from my hips, I tried again and this time I went sailing smoothly down…until I was sailing no more but flying. I achieved a full frontal flip, landing, laughing, a mouth full of sand- camera still in hand. After all, if it’s not on film, it didn’t happen!

In the midst of the Valle de la Muerte. ©Çapkin van Alphen - CauseCentric Productions

Posted by: Celine Cousteau | January 19, 2011

Chile – “Oceano” Part 6- Juan Fernandez Archipelago

Some call the three islands of the Juan Fernandez Archipelago the Galapagos of Chile. It is here, with Robinson Crusoe island as our base, that we filmed another episode for “Oceano: Chile Frente al Mar”. There are no lack of stories to bring back from our time here, the challenge is to give a glimpse of it all without writing a novel.

Hiking 3 kms straight up to the Selkirk lookout is a great way to see the expanse of the island. Some believe it is from here that Alexander Selkirk kept an eye out for passing ships to rescue him off this island. It would take over 4 years for that to happen during which time he survived on whatever he could find to eat or use for shelter. From this legendary story was born the mythical tale of Robinson Crusoe, the two protagonists now intertwined in a crossing of fiction and fact.


Our team filming at the Selkirk lookout


In February 2010, a tsunami hit the small town on Robinson Crusoe at 3am, a wave over 10 meters high taking houses, cars, and people with it. We interviewed a few who were in the midst of this chaos and I was astounded by the clarity with which they recounted the night, details of sounds, feelings, and thoughts all coming through. The positive outlook of some was evident- living by the sea was a way of life that would not be changed by what happened. Reconstruction has been slow, the government only supporting rebuilding homes on higher ground meaning that those who wish to rebuild on their land by the sea, must do so of their own means. We dove in the bay, part of a clean-up effort, and there we saw clothes, bottles, a school chair, and endless pieces of roofing, mattress material, and bits and pieces of people’s lives. After a three month clean-up effort headed by Oceana, funding had ended. Only 1/3 of the bay down to 20 meters has been cleaned. The divers had to stop their efforts until more funding comes through.


Where there are now flowering fields once stood homes, a gymnasium, the school, and businesses- the tsunami wiped it all away.


Endemic species of plants have been choked out by invasive species brought here by settlers and later on villagers. Sailors also brought rabbits and goats as a source of food for future passages, much like what happened on many islands around the world. These animals destroyed many of the original vegetation. On the island of Santa Clara, where no humans live because of the lack of water, eradicating these mammals has taken years. Future goals are to do the same on the other two islands, Robinson Crusoe and Selkirk.


The endemic red hummingbird of Robinson Crusoe Island.


Under the sea lies a plethora of life. On one dive we came across flounder, lobsters, moray eels, sea urchin, a shark, starfish, soft coral, and an incredible quantity and great variety of fish. Another dive took us into a seal colony (lobos fino de dos pelos). Swimming amongst dozens of curious females was quite the adventure, until a large male would come close by, bullying his way through with loud warning vocalizations.


A colony of Juan Fernandez fur seals basking their flippers in the sun.


One day in between dives, our filming journey was interrupted by something far more important. A call came in from a fisherman over the radio – they had spotted a humpback whale badly entangled in a net. It was an incredible coincidence that we were only 500 meters away, a boat full of divers, dressed and ready to get in. After two hours of intense efforts, we succeeded in cutting the net lose and filmed the rescue. Watching the young whale swim away was a moment of incredible emotion and yet we also knew, this was only one case- how many other creatures are out there still, caught and suffocating in drifting nets?



Left side of the humpback whales take with a deep cut from the dragging fishing net. (Photo ©Çapkin Van Alphen - CauseCentric Productions)


Posted by: Celine Cousteau | December 20, 2010

Chile- “Oceano” Part 5- Patagonia

Patagonia, a symbol of nature at it’s greatest and most majestic, has an almost mythical ring to it. And there is just cause for this vision…

Filming another episode of “Oceano: Chile Frente al Mar” we traveled to the Torres del Paine National Park to film flora, fauna, lakes and glaciers. We had previously traveled the channels and fjords of the south, now venturing inland to explore the other side of the mountains from which glaciers cascade into the ocean. From these same mountains, more glaciers ease their way down creating surreal looking vivid blue lakes. The Lago Azul and Lago Sarmiento are just two of such lakes we had a chance to explore underwater, searching for life and stories.

It was odd to think that diving in +6 degrees Celsius glacier lake water was a relief, but considering we were previously diving in -2 degrees Celsius water in Antarctica, it actually was a welcome temperature. In Lake Sarmiento, which to our knowledge had never been filmed before, we found little more than sparse grass and a few fern looking plants, with one tiny fish darting away from us. We concentrated on good shots of the divers going to and fro, hovering just above the silt which when touched, created a cloud from which we emerged. In the Lake Azul, many animal bones were found, all piled on top of each other, a mystery to which we did not get an answer.

On land was a whole other story. This area is full of life: flamencos, guanacos (llama-like mammals), geese, ducks, ñandu (like emus), rabbits, not to mention the plethora of plants, many of them barely a few inches high. But high and above all of this was an encounter I had dreamed of from when I was a little girl; seeing a puma in the wild. It was here that I sat not more than 8 meters from 2 pumas eating their catch, their cautious eyes glancing our way now and again, before returning to their feast. We arrived at 8pm and stayed until just past 10pm, accompanied by a local photographer, Claudio Almarza, who knew these animals well. We inched our way closer as the pumas gained confidence that our presence was not a threat. With my video camera on a monopod, I tried to keep a steady hand while the cold settled in and my body began to shiver. It is an evening I am not likely to forget.

When the filming for the episode was done, I stayed on for a couple more days, and on my day “off” went venturing on an 18km R/T hike to the base of the Torres del Paine themselves, to film close-up shots of the emblematic towers for which this area is named. It was quite an amazing finale to an inspiring journey, with the hope of returning one day.

Spring time brings new life.

Beautiful flowering low lying shrubs.










Stunning landscapes and surreal blue lakes.

A long climb to the base of the Torres del Paine- well worth the effort.

A puma hiding with her prey (a guanaco) on the ground.

Posted by: Celine Cousteau | November 28, 2010

Chile- “Oceano” Part 4- Antarctica

The white continent. Is it the end of the world? Everyone I asked this question of down there replied “no”…it is the beginning, it is the center, it is home.

It seems there is something that happens to many people when they visit Antarctica. It is a bit of what happened to me with the Amazon. A piece of this magnificent and magical place stayed with me and the need to return is strong. From the moment we experience this we are changed, perhaps becoming part of a cliché. But there is a reason clichés exist and there must be some truth to them.

I never truly contemplated going to Antarctica before I took on the role of co-host for the Chilean “Oceano” TV series and saw that this was one of our episodes. Often I’ve worked in hot and humid locations but this time I was headed to a much different place. Now that I have gone- I too am in awe and if given the chance, will return without hesitation.

While we were on location we filmed the usual suspects, penguins. If they had not been on my list of animals to observe, they certainly have captured my attention now. The second day we were there, I was dropped off on land and sat in a total snow blizzard for 3 hours shooting stills and filming. Using the small GoPro HD camera in it’s waterproof housing made it easier to capture footage because of the weather conditions. In the end, having the camera on a monopod was a great way to get close to the penguins without invading their space. Rows of them waddled past us from one end of ocean front property to the other; a slow, albeit short journey seeking mates as the breeding season was near.

One of the goals for the episode was to talk to people who work in Antarctica: naturalists working on the tour boat, the ship’s captain, and volunteers arriving in Port Lockroy to spend 5 months counting penguins, attending to the ship guests that come there to buy a gift and send a postcard home stamped Antarctica. Each of them has a personal story of their connection to Antarctica. One can sense they have a shared knowledge, perceivable through the gaze in their eyes, of the beauty and importance of this continent.

An incredible part of this journey was having the opportunity to dive and film underwater. We captured the incredible reflection of light in the icy waters surrounding icebergs and looked for life along a wall, finding a big white nudibranch, many sea stars, kelp, and a small fish darting away. We even had an opportunity to dive on the wreck of an old whaling boat, the sea taking its revenge on the vessel where life now grows; yellow sponges making their homes. At the end of this dive we surfaced to find a Weddell seal resting on a small floating iceberg, barely interested in our own swim. Though we had trained to dive in cold conditions with dry suits, very thick undergarments, and extra weight while filming in the southern fjords of Chile, nothing would really prepare us for Antarctica, except Antarctica. Some of our 1st stages froze part way through the dives and our regulators began to free flow. For safety reasons, this meant the dive was over, time to come out. The learning curve from one dive to the next was incredible and I only wish we had had more time.

Too soon the journey was over and after a stop on Deception Island, it was time to head back north. Our ship started making it’s way back across the famed Drake Passage and as I looked ahead, I started to think about how I could plan my return. This is always a good sign.

Beautiful sunlit icebergs and mountains.

The production team dropping two of us off on land and going back out for a dive.

Çapkin van Alphen filming a weddell seal.

Chinstrap penguins staking their claim on the nesting grounds.

Posted by: Celine Cousteau | November 21, 2010

Chile- “Oceano” Part 3- Channels and Fjords

I recently finished working on the third chapter of a 12-part Chilean documentary TV series I am co-hosting. For 10 days the production team navigated the channels of southern Chile, including Magallenas and Conception, up to the incredible island of Madre de Dios and venturing into the fjords to approach glaciers.

An incredible amount of shipwrecks dot these watery passages, rusted witnesses of tricky navigation in hostile territory. For us, they make great dive sites, full of life and history. The wear and tear of the cold harsh weather makes its impact on the hulls of the wrecks and salvage operations have only taken what is considered valuable. Unfortunately, this does not include the petrol that lies within the hull and little by little it seeps into the water. Our dives here are not only meant to explore and film the channels they are also an opportunity to test new dive gear and train to dive in Antarctica in colder waters and difficult circumstances.

Another shipwreck in the channels. Now home to birds and plants despite the slow leaking petrol.

We spent time with Juan-Carlos Tonko, from the Kawéskar people whose numbers have dwindled to 21. These nomads of the sea used to live freely in this area, packing up their canoes in search of food and surviving the cold harsh climate with only sea lion skins as protection. It has been a while now since this way of life existed, now they have created and live in a village called Puerto Edén. As it turns out, my grandfather visited this village in the early 1970s when he came through on one of his journeys. I watched the documentary episode with Juan-Carlos and part way through he points to a boy sitting amidst the family my grandfather is talking to. He was just 8 years old at the time. A chill ran through me when he told me this was the first I had heard of this. My family history and this tribe’s history have crossed paths twice now. Will there be another time?

Juan-Carlos took us to a cave his nomadic ancestors used as a shelter. There, on the walls dripping with water, a few paintings gave us signs of times long gone and stories of a past maintained alive by only 4 elders who still speak the native tongue. The experience is intense as it is so real- we speak of a people as we do of a dying species. We speak of his people’s future and Juan-Carlos tells me he works hard to maintain their culture and language as much as possible, intending to inspire the next generation to value the teachings of the past.

Looking out from a cave on Madre de Dios island to our boat, The Forrest.

Our time in the area was also spent diving- training to use our new dry suits and the thick undergarment we will need in Antarctica. We are all heavily weighted to compensate for the extra layers, the freedom of movement is greatly limited, and the rubber gloves covering our hands make for awkward and sometimes useless attempts at dexterity. It is almost impossible to get ready on our own and we rely on the surface team to help us get everything on so we can pitch over the side of the Zodiak into the cold waters. We ventured close to the glaciers not just to get beautiful shots, but to learn to dive with ice all around. Are we ready for what lies ahead? More time for a few more dives would have been helpful but the days tick by and our time is limited. Next up- we haver a boat to catch from Ushuaia (Argentina) to Antarctica…

Since the writing of this c-log, two more “Oceano” episodes have been filmed. Updates coming soon.

L'Italia Glacier- getting up close. Team members dot the rocks.

One of our dive training sites- the impressive Garibaldi Glacier.













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