At a W2O event last night Celine Cousteau presented “The World Beneath the Waves: Being Human in the Sea” to a packed house at the New England Aquarium. I kept toggling back and forth from this very professional speaker to the image of the person on the screen: cold, tired, exhilarated and most of the time, wet. (Many references were made to the fact that, because of her surname, she is often “thrown in the water” and not always comfortably.) Exploring salt plains in Bolivia, copper mines in Chile, the coastline of Patagonia and what seems to be her most visited and impassioned site, the Amazon River region, Celine documents the intersection of communities and environmental issues. With powerful images of decimated, but beautiful landscapes, she reminds us that in poor rural communities, with no public resources, waste and garbage are left to make its way into lakes, streams and finally the ocean.
There are times when she is the first to explore a remote lake only to find that they are empty of life from the effects of pollution. Sitting on a hill in the midst of plastic pollution and waste, she is photographed looking out onto a magnificent ocean vista. The relationships and bonds that she has made with the people of these regions has inspired her to keep returning, filming, exploring and coming home to tell their stories.
The most dramatic moment of the night was the showing of her short film, “Scars of Freedom,” about a juvenile whale caught in 500 pounds of fishing net. In it, a film crew, which happened to be in the area and with no prior experience of rescuing marine mammals, struggle for hours to cut the net from the whale’s now infected tail. When Celine talks about the film, you can see emotion welling up as she tells us, “Change only comes with action, and action begins with the heart.”
Linked here are the questions to Key Ocean Issues that were given to the audience at our event.