Stu­dents meet en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Cousteau

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

Twenty stu­dents from North Point High School’s Ocean Guardians pro­gram had an op­por­tu­nity last week to meet one of the world’s pre­mier “ocean guardians” — en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and oceanog­ra­pher Jean-Michel Cousteau.

North Point High School is the first school in Mary­land to be des­ig­nated an Ocean Guardian School — a pro­gram by the Na­tional Ocean and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Na­tional Marine Sanc­tu­ar­ies.

“Mr. Cousteau was very im­pressed that we were the first Ocean Guardian school in Mary­land that that the stu­dents wanted to come and speak with him about these is­sues,” said North Point en­vi­ron­men­tal sciences teacher Lolita Kior­pes. “It was won­der­ful meet­ing with him and it was re­ally an honor.”

To be­come an Ocean Guardian School, a school must make a com­mit­ment to the pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion of its lo­cal wa­ter­sheds, the ocean and spe­cial ocean ar­eas, such as na­tional marine sanc­tu­ar­ies. The school must pro­pose and im­ple­ment hands-on school- and com­mu­nity-based con­ser­va­tion projects, ac­cord­ing to the Ocean Guardian School web­site.

“At Mal­lows Bay, we’ve been learn­ing how to help marine life and how to make the en­vi­ron­ment a bet­ter place,” said Arieanna Meyer, a North Point Ocean Guardian stu­dent who met with Cousteau.

North Point’s Ocean Guardians stu­dent group is spon­sored by Kior­pes, who is a re­cip­i­ent of a 2016 Pres­i­den­tial In­no­va­tion Award for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tors.

Kior­pes, North Point teacher Ce­cilia Arce-Munoz and 20 stu­dents were in­vited to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., last Wed­nes­day morn­ing to meet with Cousteau, the son of famed oceanog­ra­pher Jac­ques Cousteau and a world-renowned en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, film pro­ducer, ed­u­ca­tor and diver in his own right.

“For me it was a very hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence to meet some­one’s who’s ded­i­cated his life to the work we’re just start­ing to learn more about,” said Jeremiah Skeete, one of the North Point stu­dents who met with Cousteau last week.

Cousteau is the founder and spokesman of the Santa Bar­bara, Calif.-based Ocean Fu­tures So­ci­ety, a non­profit marine con­ser­va­tion and ed­u­ca­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion, and is the re­cip­i­ent of the Knight of the Le­gion of Honor, France’s high­est civil­ian or­der of dis­tinc­tion, ac­cord­ing to his biog­ra­phy on the Ocean Fu­tures So­ci­ety web­site.

The meet­ing with Cousteau was ar­ranged by the Ac­co­keek-based en­vi­ron­men­tal non­profit Alice Fer­gu­son Foun­da­tion, through its Bridg­ing the Wa­ter­shed ini­tia­tive, a pro­gram to in­spire per­sonal con­nec­tions with the nat­u­ral world through hands-on out­door stud­ies in na­tional parks and pub­lic lands.

“We are the only species which can de­cide for our­selves not to dis­ap­pear,” Cousteau said af­ter­ward in a phone in­ter­view. “It’s the young peo­ple, they’re the ones that re­ally can make a dif­fer­ence.”

Cousteau spoke with stu­dents re­gard­ing his own ex­pe­ri­ences as an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and a diver and the ways in which he has seen trash and pol­lu­tion cause degra­da­tion to the world’s oceans.

“I started div­ing 71 years ago, and I’ve never stopped. I’ve seen a lot of changes tak­ing place. There’s a lot more trash in the oceans now than there used to be. In the same places, there are less crea­tures, and more garbage. It was shock­ing,” Cousteau said.

Cousteau also worked with stu­dents on a project to see how much trash could be picked up around the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment in 20 min­utes, Skeet said.

Stu­dents also ex­plored the ways in which trash breaks down, or doesn’t break down, through the Alice Fer­gu­son Foun­da­tion’s in­ter­ac­tive Trash Time­line, Kior­pes said.

“Lis­ten­ing to Jean-Michel Cousteau dis­cuss his ex­pe­ri­ences from around the world was-eye open­ing,” Abigail Se­marge, an­other North Point stu­dent, said. “He gave us new in­sights about na­ture and the day was highly en­joy­able.”

Se­marge said Cousteau ex­plained how plas­tics in par­tic­u­lar can be harm­ful to wildlife.

“He showed us some garbage from the ocean and how wildlife, fish and birds, eat this and then die in­stantly from all the chem­i­cals,” Se­marge said.

Kior­pes said Cousteau ex­plained that the plas­tics re­main in the an­i­mals that are then eaten by other an­i­mals.

An­other stu­dent, Daniel Gon­za­les, said the ex­pe­ri­ence gave him new in­sights into the work of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.

“The meet­ing made me re­al­ize that world-fa­mous en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are just or­di­nary peo­ple try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in our world; they’re not su­per­heroes or peo­ple with spe­cial pow­ers,” Gon­za­les said.

Cousteau said he finds it in­spir­ing to meet with stu­dents who care so much about the world’s oceans and wa­ter­ways.

“I was im­pressed; they were very en­gaged, ded­i­cated and they sin­cerely want to make a dif­fer­ence,” Cousteau said of the North Point stu­dents. “It was a very great plea­sure to meet these young peo­ple who are the de­ci­sion mak­ers of to­mor­row.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Jean-Michel Cousteau speaks with North Point High School stu­dents from the Ocean Guardians pro­gram in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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