THE EARTH TIMES
MAY 14, 1993
PROFILE: JACQUES COSTEAU
‘My dream for Cairo is that all nations will help fund population….”
Noted explorer asserts that nations aren’t doing enough
BY ASHALI VARMA
Famous for his work as a filmmaker, oceanographer and pioneer of the scuba diving gear, Jacques Cousteau today at 83 has taken on yet another challenge –to convince world leaders and policy makers of the urgent need to address the problems of “population explosion,” That explains his presence at PrepCom2.
While 127 world leaders at the Earth Summit were divided about North and South responsibilities regarding environment and development, Cousteau drew attention to how exploding population growth in developing countries was one of the root causes of poverty environment degradation and the appalling inequities between rich and poor nations.
What made this man who filmed marine life, people, cultures and traditions into a vehement activist for population problems?
“I was in Bangladesh and it was raining very hard, and suddenly I saw children under the age of five fighting for food with dogs from a garbage heap. I was revolted and I knew I would be unhappy as long as these things happened, “Cousteau said.
In 1970, his fiend Dr. Norman E. Borlaug won the Nobel Peach prize for his work with hybrid seeds which resulted in the Green Revolution and saved millions of people from famine in India, China and other developing countries. In his acceptance speech he said that at the rate of present population growth the world had only 30 years left to find a solution. With increasing desertification, even the latest technology would not be able to feed the world. Cousteau said, “We now have seven years left from the time Borlaug spoke and I hope it’s not too late.”
Cousteau feels that the industrialized world has created a formidable war machine that consumes the earth’s resources at an alarming rate producing more and more goods, packaging them wastefully and depleting wood, coal, energy, fuel without really benefiting mankind.
As an environmentalist and a world citizen he can empathize with the traditions, beliefs and cultures of different countries and believes that no one has the right to intrude in another’s beliefs and one must respect the local customs, he said, “We have no right to intrude but we have a right to convince -convince to win not fight to win.” For this crusade he feels that NGOs can play the most effective role, provided they widen their horizons thinking not only of the environment or special interests but of the planet as a whole and of all issues being interdependent.
“My dream for Cairo is that all nations will agree to delegate a portion of their funds, perhaps from cuts in military budgets, to a special division created and monitored by the UN.”
He would like to see this money go towards creating better facilities for the world’s poor in the field of education, women’s rights, drinking water for all and access to health services.
In an effort to reach out to the world Cousteau plans to make films that will tell the stark truth of what is really happening in developing countries, to alert the world to the facts.
Being realistic he added, “I am 83 years old, it means I have only a few years left, so I realize whatever I do will be a small contribution to what can be done but I will never stop trying.”
It’s easy to believe him.