Philippe Cousteau and a team of marine conservationists dive off the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, featured in CNN’s portfolio of environmental programming, 'Going Green: Oceans'. Photo: CNN

By Philippe Cousteau, Special to CNN
27 March 2013

(CNN) – My grandfather Jacques Cousteau and my father Philippe dedicated their lives to revealing the ocean's wonders and helping us understand our connection to this vast expanse of water. Their work inspired generations and filled people with awe.

Times have changed and so have circumstances and perceptions about the ocean. In recent years, the focus has been on the very serious challenges the ocean faces and the impact these challenges are already having on our daily lives.

The effects of climate change, pollution, and overfishing should be making headlines because the ocean and all of us -- and I literally mean all humankind -- who depend on its resources are facing the very real prospect of the catastrophic collapse of ocean ecosystems if we continue on our current course.

Despite the challenges our ocean faces, I believe it's time to recapture the sense of wonder and inspiration my grandfather and father felt when they gazed on its surface. In fact, the ocean can and should be a source of hope and solutions for a brighter future.

Before you accuse of me of eschewing cold hard reality for a world view through rose-colored glasses, hear me out. What I'm proposing is that we step back and look at the potential a healthy ocean has to provide us with a prosperous and sustainable future.

Just take a moment to think about what the ocean does for us on a daily basis: it produces half of the world's oxygen; it provides more than one billion people with their primary source of protein; its natural eco-systems like coral reefs, mangroves, and wetlands provide protection against coastal erosion and natural disasters such as tsunamis; it regulates our climate; and a healthy ocean fuels sustainable businesses and a strong economy in industries such as seafood, tourism, pharmaceuticals and shipping.

That's really only the beginning. Check out Ocean Conservancy's "Why the Ocean Matters" feature if you want to be truly amazed. My point is the answers to many of our greatest environmental and social challenges literally surrounds us.

For the ocean to continue to do what's it's done for millions of years and serve the needs of a rapidly expanding human population, it needs to be healthy. Biodiversity, coral reefs, wetlands and trash-free seas aren't just terms on a page they are environmental imperatives that dictate the future of the planet.

We have the know-how and resources to conserve and restore the aquatic and marine systems that keep the ocean and us healthy. As my grandfather once said, "The technology that we use to abuse the planet is the same technology that can help us to heal it." [more]

Oceans: Environmental victim or savior?



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