Alexandra Cousteau

Social Environmental Advocate

Emerging Explorer


Photograph by Blue Legacy International

Photo: Alexandra Cousteau with children

Photograph courtesy Alexandra Cousteau

Her legendary grandfather, Jacques, and father, Philippe, explored the world’s ocean wonders, but today Alexandra Cousteau explores new ways to save them. "I believe water will be the defining crisis of our century — from droughts, storms, and floods to degrading water quality. We'll see major conflicts over water and the proliferation of water refugees. We inhabit a water planet, and unless we protect, manage, and restore that resource, the future will be a very different place from the one we imagine today."

"People," Cousteau says, "have created the problem, so it's critical to get the public excited and eager to participate in a solution. A sustainable society will only come about through the accumulated actions of billions of individuals, and that's an enormous challenge.

"We won't meet that challenge by just telling people to do something. Facts and figures go in one ear and out the other. Awareness does not necessarily lead to action. Instead, we need to look at trends in popular culture, interactivity, and social marketing to understand why things like social networks, video games, and fantasy football are so successful. Today's environmental movement works primarily with low-tech, low-impact tools. We haven't reached out to the public in an inspiring, engaging way. I am working to implement cutting-edge communications tools that are truly relevant to people's lives."

Cousteau's latest initiative, Blue Legacy, was created to tell the story of our Water Planet to the world, to inspire people to take meaningful action on critical water issues, and to help shape society's dialogue to include water as one of the defining issues of the century and a critical component of climate change.

Cousteau is currently working on a book that will redefine what it means to live on a Water Planet through the exploration of different water ecosystems around the world and how they are interdependent. She is also planning a series of expeditions around the world to chronicle the connectivity of global water issues and their impact on our lives.

Cousteau explores new media opportunities and partnerships between diverse groups and works to create platforms for emerging environmental leaders. Central to these efforts is the power of storytelling. "We evolved as a storytelling species, but the environmental community hasn't fully leveraged this approach. By turning issues and information into personal, relevant stories, we can engage people much more effectively. That's why my grandfather was so successful. He wasn't an oceanographer, he was a master storyteller," she says.

Video games about water and climate, online simulations showing the cause and effect of resource management options, and text messages that help people make sustainable choices as they order from a restaurant menu are just a few of the new avenues Cousteau is exploring.

Is involvement with the environment inevitable when you're born with the last name Cousteau? "My father and grandfather were both great inspirations," she acknowledges. "The best example they gave me was the importance of living a life of consequence, value, and meaning. I honor their memories by creating a legacy of my own by speaking out for the preservation of our blue planet."

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    Expedition Blue Planet

    Join Expedition Blue Planet: North America, a five-month interactive exploration of critical water issues, as they roll across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.


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    Nat Geo E-Team

    What are Alexandra Cousteau and the rest of the National Geographic Explorers up to? Meet the E-Team and learn about their projects in this interactive mural.

In Their Words

A sustainable society will only come about through the accumulated actions of billions of individuals, and that's an enormous challenge.

—Alexandra Cousteau

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