I wonder if Philippe Cousteau ever feels frustrated that some of his words are lost in a sea of sighs and giggles. The first time I heard him speak in Los Angeles, almost a year ago, I didn’t notice. Maybe I was too rapt up in his insights into the BP Oil Spill or maybe sitting in the middle of the audience obscured the sound. On the front row, however, one can definitely appreciate the affect he has on female audience members especially when he drops a phrase like, “We’ve made a Faustian pack with fossil fuels.”
Philippe was back in LA, thanks to the Artists and Athletes Alliance, to talk about his recent sojourn to the Arctic with CNN, and report on the areas critical and incredibly underfunded climate crisis research, which is only in it’s 3rd year. The Arctic scientists are analyzing carbon saturation, salinity, and ice levels. One assumption being tested (finally) is that carbon does not pass through sea ice. If carbon does pass through it will dramatically shift climate modeling. The Arctic acts as the worlds air conditioning unit and regulates the flow of ocean currents so any ice thinning, increased carbon release, or change in seawater chemistry could spell disaster for the planet
Cousteau pointed out the Arctic team is working with under 2 million dollars of funding and one Tomahawk Missile costs 2.2 million. He noted that the U.S. has dropped quite a few Tomahawks in recent years.
Two weeks in sub zero temperatures had exhausted the host, who also suffered a bit of frostbite, but he riffed good-naturedly about the experience, which started at Resolute Bay in northern Canada, “Resolute just sounds hard core. Like Mad Max-ish.” He went on to lament that the most frequently asked questions on the CNN blog weren’t as much about climate science as body science aka “How do you go to the bathroom in the North Pole?” According to Cousteau men have an easier time while women have to employ skills.
Philippe didn’t just watch from the sidelines at the research station located at Catlin Ice Base. He helped dig a grave size hole in the ice for one study - wondering aloud why his fellow scientist was tethered to a rope in case they fell through the ice while he was not.
Philippe also discussed the Japanese tsunami and the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. He surprised the audience by taking the stance that nuclear energy was less deadly than fossil fuels, pointing out that car emissions alone kill 30,000 people each year in the U.S.. Cousteau calls himself a free marketer and argued that if we actually paid the unsubsidized price for oil and other fossil fuels, “there is not a renewable energy source that would be as expensive.”
At the end of the evening Steve Ross, Executive Director of Artists and Athletes, had to basically hold back the enthused crowd so Cousteau could catch a plane back to Washington D.C. The ultra private AAA events are a rarity in Los Angeles where every bagel shop opening and shoe launch is celebrated with a red carpet photo session, and loads of superficial conversation. Steve’s A-lists invitees’ anonymity is carefully protected so they might enjoy speakers like Philippe Cousteau, Ambassador Andrew J. Young, or Roland Jones, and Jessica Yellin from CNN and stretch their intellects.
Philippe Cousteau brought pure environmental science and passion to LA for one night so that celebrated icons might pass on the message to their fans. No doubt Philippe is a bit of a rock star and the clear front-runner for this generations environmental spokesperson. Dealing with fatigue and still giving a memorable talk indicates he’ll carry his job and that famous final moniker gracefully.
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