By Kely Lyons
Laguna Niguel, CA(Hollywood Today)4/26/12/–Fifteen years ago, renowned explorer, environmentalist, educator, and film producer Jean-Michel Cousteau, working with the education team at his Ocean Futures Society, developed Ambassadors of the Environment, a hands-on, international outdoor educational program designed to teach the principals of natural and sustainable development.
Two years ago, the Ritz Carlton at Laguna Niguel partnered with Cousteau to integrate the Ambassadors program into the resort’s menu of eco-adventures, and on April 21, 2012, Cousteau and the Ritz Carlton celebrated their partnership with their second annual Earth Day Celebration.
To prepare for Earth Day 2012, the Ritz Carlton joined the Capistrano Unified School District in running a Fifth Grade Earth Day Essay Contest. Nearly 200 fifth-grade students from 12 schools submitted essays, and 15 were chosen to receive award certificates and the opportunity to spend Earth Day at the resort with Jean-Michel Cousteau.
There was an excited buzz as parents, children, resort guests and local residents gathered on the hotel’s giant, outdoor Eco-Quest board game. Lyn Evins, the resort’s Director of the Ambassadors of the Earth program, described the initiative the hotel has created that allows guests to experience firsthand the interconnected ecological web that links all life on the planet, and to understand the critical importance of each and every one of us becoming a steward and protector of that web – an Ambassador of the Environment.
She introduced Jean-Michel, who held the audience rapt as he told the truth about the state of the oceans and the environment, but focused on the positive when it came to what can be done, and how everyone can be a part of the solution. The young Ambassadors really snapped to attention when he told them that 90% of the garbage in the ocean starts on land; this is something they can each take action on, and inform others about, every single day.
Then it was time to recognize the young essay writers. One at a time, the fifth-graders were called up to receive a certificate and congratulations from Jean-Michel. As a group and individually, the young essayists had their pictures taken with Cousteau. He took his time with each and every one of them, and his pride and delight in their achievements – and their awareness of the importance of ecological responsibility – was wonderfully evident in the warmth and generosity he displayed toward them.
Next, it was time to join Jean-Michel in cleaning up the beach. Armed with bright blue plastic gloves and biodegradable trash bags, everyone trooped down to the beach where, as wetsuit-clad surfers out on the water caught wave after wave, Jean-Michel’s Ambassadors combed the beach for garbage.
With a renewed understanding of the devastating effects human trash inflicts on the marine environment and its inhabitants, the children and adults roamed far and wide along the sand, bagging, dragging, and bringing back everything from Styrofoam and plastic bags to mangled lobster traps, buoys, broken toys and bits and pieces of nearly every lost and discarded object imaginable.
Jean-Michel was interested in everything – their finds, their observations, their excitement about what they were all learning. Joined by Holly Lohuis, his field producer and executive coordinator, Cousteau answered every question and challenged them to come up with actionable ideas about how we humans can lessen our impact on what is, in Jean-Michel’s words, “our life support system”, the ocean environment we depend on for life on this planet.
When the collection was finished, Jean-Michel and his Ambassadors of the Environment posed for pictures in front of the small mountain of garbage they’d collected – a mountain the participants knew was only the first tiny step in answering Cousteau’s challenge to become a lifelong Ambassador of the Environment.
Capt. Dave is dedicated to helping dolphins and whales and children. Half the profits of his book and film are donated to feed hungry children and help dolphins and whales.
He formed the rescue group that worked to disentangleLily and was hands on during the disentanglement. He believes the first step in helping to protect whales and dolphins and other sea creatures is by creating an awareness of how beautifully alive the ocean is, and then giving people an intimate look into the lives and problems these animals face.
Lily, A Gray Whale’s Odyssey
Imagine if a whale could talk and tell you about their life, about their incredible journey on one of the longest migrations of any mammal on earth. Imagine that journey is an odyssey filled with horrific dangers and a beauty that harkens back to creation. And what if you could see all of this through hundreds of real life photographs. Foreword by Jean-Michel Cousteau
Have a look inside the book!
Available now for $45.00
Follow the links below for further information about Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, the Ambassadors of the Environment program, and the programs offered by the Ritz Carlton at Laguna Niguel.
Photography: Tom Wright