This is the first of a six part series that follows Blue Planet, Alexandra Cousteau’s hundred day expedition across five continents to study the interconnectivity of water.
Granddaughter of legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, travel and exploration has always been second nature to Alexandra Cousteau who was recognized as a member of National Geographic’s “Emerging Explorers” Class of 2008. Her most recent piece of travel involves a five continent expedition called “Blue Planet” that chronicles the interconnectivity of water. Currently in progress, a key aspect of the project will be its ability to show how individual stories are part of the larger, universal story of an interdependent, global water ecosystem.
The Blue Planet project is part of Cousteau’s most recent venture, “Blue Legacy,” whose mission is to tell the story of our water planet to the world, to inspire people to take action on critical water issues in meaningful ways, and to help shape society’s dialogue to include water as one of the defining issues of our century and the primary vehicle through which climate change will be felt.
Cousteau started her journey in later February, upon the banks of India’s River Ganges. Her purpose was to investigate the impact of climate change, pollution, population growth and a proposed superhighway, on India’s holiest river. The river’s forecasted seasonal disappearance due to melting Himalayan glaciers, poses a huge question not just for the millions of people who depend on it for survival but also for Hindus who consider it sacred.
The next part of her journey took Cousteau to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where she studied the impact of competing interests; including wildlife, diamond mines, tourism, cattle industry, and nearby villages on the miraculous freshwater refuge the Okavango wetland provides. Cousteau uses this part of the expedition as a tool for examining how to allocate this scarce resource to the various stakeholders.
After a short break in Istanbul for the World Water Forum, Cousteau will journey on to the Jordan River, Dead sea basin to investigate the role that fresh water access has played in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the West Bank. Then on to the Mekong River in Cambodia, where she will examine how the mismanagement of water resources doomed the ancient city of Angkor Wat and to extrapolate how a similar fate might meet modern mega-cities.
In April, Cousteau will return to U.S. shores to explore the destructive effects of toxic agricultural chemicals and nutrient pollution on the waters of the Mississippi River. Finally, her expedition will culminate at the pristine Shab Rumi reef in the Red Sea where her grandfather, Jacques-Yves Cousteau created the Precontinent 2 project, an underwater living experiment, nearly half a century ago. Cousteau will assess how the reef has changed over the past 60 years since Precontinent 2 and expose the fragile, critical state of coral reefs across the globe.
Cousteau is only two-fifths of her way through, but already the expedition has revealed that across the globe, we are all connected by this resource. Its scarcity then, becomes a question of survival for us all.
“The issue of water scarcity plays into the global disc of green, and is as great as the economic crisis we are facing now,” says Cousteau. “Water is the is next critical issue. No one has reliable access. And this is the single thing that everyone has in common: whether it is the woman who walks 30 miles everyday with a jug on her head to get water for personal and family needs; or whether it is you and I, living in a wealthy nation. We are all stakeholders and we all need to collectively address the issue.”
Cousteau would like Expedition Blue Planet to create a new universal vision for what it means to live in a world where water is our most precious resource, and a plan for what we must all collectively do to protect it. Watch this introduction to her expedition:
The next part of this series will focus on the first part of the Blue Planet expedition at India’s River Ganges.
Image credit: www.alexandracousteau.com