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Jacques Cousteau’s Grandson: Latin America to Face Mass Climate Migration

LOS ANGELES – One of the grandsons of famed French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997) says he expects a sharp rise in migration in Latin America due to the worsening climate crisis.

In an interview with EFE in Los Angeles, his birthplace and place of residence, 40-year-old ocean explorer and researcher and conservation activist Philippe Cousteau Jr. lamented the “massive” environmental destruction of the past half-century and cited as one example the large-scale deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

How has the environmental situation changed from the time of your late grandfather’s oceanic studies to the present day?

We have indeed seen a massive destruction of the environment over the last 50 or 60 years. So, unfortunately, there’s some bad news happening with the rainforest in Brazil. But there’s also good news. I’ve also seen places in Mexico like Cabo Pulmo that is one of the most, if not the healthiest, ocean reef ecosystems in this part of the world. It’s a marine protected area that was established by the local community. It’s enforced by the local community, and it’s become a model for ocean conservation globally … What’s interesting as well is that Chile, Argentina, as Antarctic nations, have a considerable amount of influence on the rest of the world in the establishment of the marine protected areas that at Antarctica 2020 we’re advocating for.

Tell us what Antarctica 2020 is all about.

Antarctica 2020 is a coalition of politicians, businessmen and women, environmental advocates from around the world, who have come together to advocate for the establishment of three new marine protected areas in Antarctica, which combined would represent the single largest act of conservation in human history. It would be four million square kilometers in a part of the world that is suffering because of climate change. The ice is melting faster than ever predicted, and yet Antarctica is vital to the literal survival of all living creatures on Earth, so protecting these specific areas that have been identified around Antarctica would be a critical step in ensuring that we have a healthy ocean and a healthy planet.

Let’s return to Latin America. What impact is the climate crisis having there?

When we talk about climate change, we’re talking not just about coral reefs and forests. We’re talking about people. As we see our climate continue to become more erratic, more unpredictable, more extreme, it’s mostly people in areas that are impoverished or with lower income who are going to suffer … And that’s going to drive mass migrations. People are going to start moving from where it’s too hot or too cold, where there’s not enough rainfall and not enough food. People are going to move, and that’s affecting already places throughout Central and South America. We’re starting to see environmental refugees because their natural resources are being degraded. That creates destabilization. It creates political problems. It creates economic problems.

So what can we do about it?

A younger generation recognizes this in a way that I think an older generation doesn’t appreciate. They’re connecting the dots. When we talk about environmental conservation, we’re talking about human conservation, and they’re very worried, young people around the world. There’s a high degree of anxiety and fear about what the future will hold for them, but there’s also a recognition that they have power and that when we come together as a community and amplify our voice we can change the world.


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