June 21, 2010

LKL Exclusive: Philippe Cousteau

Posted: 04:01 PM ET

Philippe Cousteau is the CEO of EarthEcho International and the grandson of famed ocean explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau.

The sun was coming up when we drove away from the hotel in New Orleans, bound for my 5th trip to Grand Isle.  The projected low for the day was 88 degrees, a new record and a bad sign for hurricane season ahead, but by now I was getting used to the heat.  The next few days would see us retrace our steps from the weekend with a day in Grand Isle, LA, and one in Alabama.  I was asked by the producers at Larry King Live to host the field segments for a two-hour telethon that they are producing to raise money for the communities and wildlife impacted by the disaster that has spread through the Gulf for more than 50 days.  I was delighted when they informed us of their plans because while other disasters often attract huge outpourings of charity in this country, people have been slow to realize that there is tremendous suffering going on in our back yard and an equally tremendous need for the nation to unite in order to help.

We pulled into Grand Isle and boarded the small boat that would take us out into Barataria Bay. As we headed out into the Bay the now familiar smell of oil wafted over the bow and the silhouette of shrimp boats retrofitted for their job of skimming oil flashed past us.  Already their oily catch was collecting behind them as they moved in unison, a phalanx of soldiers desperately trying to collect as much oil as possible.  These are the lucky few, people who have found employment to replace a livelihood that is now out of reach for them.  Over the past 6 weeks, I have seen this disaster unfolding first hand from below the surface and the impact on the environment and the local communities at the surface.  As nature itself goes, so goes these communities, the fate of both is inextricably linked to the other.  As I thought about it over the past few days, seeing now familiar faces struggling to come to grips with this disaster I have become more and more frustrated for those fighting on the ground.

As Casi Callaway, executive director of the Mobile Baykeeper, a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance puts it “We had no budget for this, we are struggling to deal with this disaster mobilizing people on the ground to save our environment and our communities both in the short and long term.”  Incidentally, the Gulf coast Waterkeeper Alliance has a website where you can support the groups on the front lines of this disaster.

Mark Twain once wrote, “A man’s first duty is to his conscience and his honor.” As this recent expedition from the shores of Grand Isle to the beaches of Alabama reminded me, there is no honor in this catastrophe and its consequences are unconscionable, but nor is there honor in the circumstances that created it.  As one local businessman reminded me, “I hate what has happened here but I still need oil to power my boat to take people fishing.” He is right and summed up what many of us have been saying all along.  That while BP, Halliburton, MMS, and Transocean all share immediate blame, as a country we must  take the necessary steps to cut our addiction to oil.

Many claim that we cannot afford to do it…I say we cannot afford not to.

While it is true that climate change is perhaps our greatest threat, remember that NASA has reported an average decline of sea ice per decade since 1979 of almost 10% (even doubters would do well to remember the precautionary principle) we must also pay attention to the other costs to our health and our security.

From foreign wars to other environmental crisis like ocean acidification and growing droughts which are causing human crisis such as the genocide in Darfur, our addiction to fossil fuels is literally killing us.  Take for example a recent report by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; from 1980-1994, the prevalence of asthma increased 75% in the US population. Amongst children under the age of five it increased more than 160%.

There is real need on the ground in the short term for this country to support social organizations that provide financial support to families, social support to communities, fund critical research and conservation activities all of which would have to wait  months and file difficult legal claims to possibly get funding at some point in the future.  But there is also a real need for us as a nation to realize that our fast food burgers cost a lot more than 99 cents, our gas much more than the 2-3 dollars a gallon advertised at the pump, our cars and houses much more than what we pay on the for sale sign.  The cost of all these things is nothing less than a crippled economy that indebts our nation’s future, foreign policy that puts our armed forces in harm’s way and industries that poison our air and water and ultimately a world that we should be ashamed to pass on to our children.

This catastrophe is not an opportunity, there is no silver lining, to say so would be extraordinarily insensitive and naïve but I hope that it is a wake-up call, that it reminds us, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “we have no time for the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”  We must act now to support the groups on the ground who are fighting this crisis every day and then challenge ourselves to build a future that we can be proud to pass on to our children.

Filed under: Celebrities Telethon • Gulf Oil Spill • LKL Web Exclusive

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JIM CARROLL   June 21st, 2010 4:39 pm ET


saw   June 21st, 2010 4:47 pm ET

Dear Larry,

Maybe the gulf they are looking at roman catholic church, spanish, and BP isd looking at anglican or church of England. Whose bible? yours or mine.? The CEO does not seem to care about the oil spill. Too many "I don't recall".

Oil rigs have poor safety records.

saw   June 21st, 2010 4:51 pm ET

Dear Larry,

Shrimp fisheries have come a long way. There are jumbo, large, medium and small shrimp sizes. The technology to freeze the shrimp is developed. Shrimp in market is fresh and good. Mexican cantinas serve shrimp cocktail. Thai restaurants serve crystal shrimp dish and chinese have shrimp noodle soup. I bought medium shrimp from Ecuador at $2.00/ib. from asian market.

Smith in Oregon   June 21st, 2010 5:53 pm ET

Crude Oil Spills = Ecocide, there is no positive spin on that. Poisonous to breathe, Poisonous to eat, Poisonous to drink, Poisonous to swim in, Poisonous to your skin. Poisonous to aquatic life, Poisonous to mammals, Poisonous to birds, Poisonous to the water table.

If these 'Gulf Keepers' and Environmental Keepers of the Gulf of Mexico want to actually 'save' the Dead and Dieing Gulf of Mexico region, they would in Force, Demand a Moratorium to Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. There is no safe Oil Well in the Ocean, there is no impossibility of another enormous Oil Spill. The Only question is 'WHEN' the next immense Oil Spill is going to occur.

Veronica McNamara   June 21st, 2010 6:00 pm ET

Philippe's father Jacques was, and is, one of my heroes. The oceans were his life and love and he took us to places we could never possibly visit and showed us the beauty and teeming life below the surface. I am a tallship sailor and have long appreciated the ocean. Humans gather on beaches to watch sunsets or simply to look out and let thoughts roam free. The sight of the oil soaked Pelicans is heartbreaking, their lifespan is 35 years and they are defenseless against oil spills, dying slowly and painfully. Each and every one of us can do something to help.

Linda Morris   June 21st, 2010 8:35 pm ET

Thank you Larry King, Thank you Anderson Cooper, Thank you CNN, Thank you Soledad Obrien, Thank you Kira Phillips for bringin this truth home to all of us across the nation – if not for you, we would not see, we would not know.

Lawrence Curtis   June 21st, 2010 8:39 pm ET

We've discovered where the dolphins are

Bobette Rousseau   June 21st, 2010 8:47 pm ET

God help us all if this disaster does not awaken us to what is going on in this greedy world. The pain and suffering of the animals, the environment and humanity will never be the same. We must all start conserving, and call for the shut down of all oil rigs offshore immediately before this can happen again. We have to get on our bikes, make fewer trips in the car, start walking, visit with neighbors by foot. Go green right now. No more excuses.

Thank you for helping to safeguard the ocean "trails" that Jacques blazed and for blazing new ones now for the world's sake.

Gil   June 21st, 2010 9:42 pm ET

I have donated to Global Green USA to help the Gulf Coast build a strong Green economy. Long after all victims have been paid what will be left for people there? A strong Green economy based on alternative clean energy is a good long range plan for the region.

They have been trying to develop alternative energy like wind farms and water turbines but federal funding was not there for them. Help Global Green USA secure that funding for the region and continue their good works there for a responsible and sustainable future.

Please join me in supporting Global Green USA;

Jenni Veal   June 21st, 2010 10:00 pm ET

It seems that our main concern should be how to get the oil to STOP spilling into the Gulf of Mexico... does anyone know who is in charge of making this happen and what options are being considered on a daily basis? I hear reports that it is chaos! It seems to me that it needs to be decared a national disaster area and our military and the best American engineers and geologists need to be making these decisions – not BP. How can we clean up anything if the oil is still spilling???

Helen Nordo   June 22nd, 2010 11:29 am ET

Here's the reason I watch Fox News, your station is THE most biased news media on the air lately, your portrayal of General Petraius as being against the President if offending; that man begged for help from Obama months ago, while our men were being slaughtered, he has every reason to be upset and, probably sarcastic. I can understand why he passed out during a congressional hearing. Why is it that the people who are trying to HELP our country are being blackballed? This President is not doing his best to help our country, yet he takes the time to have a beer with a police officer (who did the right thing) and one of his (I say lightly, Professor friends). We are not stupid, we watch and we analyze. Cnn is off limits and will always be, as far as I am concerned. Keep on doing a lousy job by protecting the wrong people and you will all find yourselves out of a you did with Lou Dobbs!! What happened to real journalism, instead of predjudicial views!! Helen Nordo P.

Jill Williams   June 22nd, 2010 11:43 am ET

Dear Phillipe, You interviewed and aired footage of my 20 year son
Capt. Ben Williams who is a Charter fisherman in the summer , trying to work his way thru college. It was heart breaking to see the saddness in his face as you asked him questions, his 18 year-old passion for fishing has been halted and his spirit crushed to witness all the destruction. thanks for allowing him to express a voice.

Jill Williams

Helen Nordo   June 22nd, 2010 1:35 pm ET

OK I have to give credit to CNN for covering the oil spill, good work; however, I made a comment earlier concerning your handling of the "scandalous" remarks made by General McChrystal at a time when he, obviously, was feeling despondent over events in Afghanistan; this is not an ordinary war, although perhaps that is the wrong term, the country is not helping, it seems our soldiers are doing all the work and losing their lives to a failing system. We are replacing Generals one after the other, so something is not right, perhaps the white house should respond to Generals when they state they are in need of more troops, the President keeps changing his mind as to how many troops to send, whether they should send "financial aid" to the "GOVERNMENT" money, money, money does not always get us out of a mess. Russia could not do it, it is rough terrain and I feel sorry for those men, who obviously are told "Please be gentle with the population, do not shoot unless necessary.." No wonder the Generals are fainting and shooting off their mouths, they are obviously under pressure. If the President keeps unloading our generals, what will the bad guys think? The worst thing this general could have done was apologize, and the President should not have expected him to..This isn't the President's war, these men aren't dying for the President, they are, actually, fighting a losing war..and putting pressure on the generals certainly is a bad maneuver. Let these remarks go, be a man and don't ask for an apology...The President is a man, not a God, we have watered down the CIA, we are giving rights to terrorists and we are taking away the power from important men that protect our country...look, we can't even handle an oil spill (which should have been anticipated in such deep water) I feel the President is shaming this man to draw attention away from his recent poor handling of the Presidency. This man will go down in history for the mishandling and endangerment of our country, economically and logistically. God Bless America, we need his blessing!! Helen Nordo P.

Candy°°   June 23rd, 2010 6:43 pm ET

Philipp, you said it all; but I wonder how many DO hear you out there ...
And how many do realize the real dimension of all that's going on, "oil spill" (or whatever it is) included.

Sandra Levin   June 23rd, 2010 10:02 pm ET

All the money in the world – whether from BP or telethons – will not heal this ongoing disaster in the Gulf.

PLUG THE DAMN LEAK. I can't BELIEVE there is no plan in place. We don't need more laws, we need to enforce the ones we have. There are more controls in place for my menial, unimportant job. Could there be politics behind not capping the well???

The Gulf area will be a dead zone for years to come and it makes me angry and sad to think of the animal and human suffering, to see the marshes and formerly beautiful beaches saturated with oil. In addition to the enviro-disaster, it will wreak havoc on our nations' already shaky economy, not just in the location of the spill, but throughout the US.

"Green Energy" sounds like a great (although idealistic) solution, but is nothing we can transition to easily. Since the world isn't going to get over its' oil "addiction" any time soon, without effecting so many peoples livlihoods, we'd better figure out a way to make it safe.

Lexi Adams   July 11th, 2010 8:28 am ET

actually it is not that hard to setup wind farms, the only problem is that it requires lots of capital investment.`,:

John Clark   August 3rd, 2010 12:23 pm ET

wind farms are great but they also take up a large land area'–

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