Alexandra Cousteau (C'98) has continued her family's legacy of environmental advocacy through storytelling. (Photo courtesy Alexandra Cousteau)
The College also sat down for a Q & A with Alexandra this week, covering her most exciting trips, favorite buildings at Georgetown and more. Read it here.
May 17, 2016—Accomplished filmmaker, author and activist Alexandra Cousteau (C’98) has had a passion for environmental advocacy since childhood. Her father Philippe brought her on an expedition to Easter Island as an infant; at seven, she learned how to scuba dive from her grandfather, the legendary explorer Jacques-Yves.
As a college student, Cousteau sought a way to channel her passion for the environment into meaningful, productive advocacy work: She earned a degree in political science from Georgetown College in 1998.
Cousteau will receive another Georgetown degree—honorary, this time—when she delivers the commencement address to the College Class of 2016 this Saturday, May 21.
Cousteau has enjoyed a fascinating career since leaving the Hilltop. Two years after graduating, she and her brother Philippe Jr. founded EarthEcho International, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth to solve environmental problems on a local level. It’s a grassroots approach not often seen in a field where macro-level discussions about human impact on the environment often dominate headlines.
The grassroots approach has paid dividends: EarthEcho has provided extensive online resources for science teachers and sponsored three expeditions to investigate and solve environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest, South Florida and the Chesapeake Bay.
Philippe Cousteau, Jr. still serves on the Board of Directors for EarthEcho, but the last decade has seen Alexandra find new and even more innovative ways to further her goals. In 2008, she founded another nonprofit: Blue Legacy International, which aimed to raise awareness of water conservation through creative storytelling.
Blue Legacy produced more than 100 award-winning short films, helping promote awareness and preservation of water habitats worldwide. In 2010, Cousteau took a modified campaign bus more than 17,000 miles across North America to tell stories of local environmental issues through social media and short film.
“We want to tell the stories about why we’re degrading our water resources and who’s trying to stop it, and how people can get involved and be part of the solution,” she told the Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove in 2010.
Leading environmental and media organizations have taken notice of Cousteau’s work, bestowing Cousteau with a litany of honorary titles. The National Geographic Society named her an Emerging Explorer in 2008. The World Economic Forum named her a Young Global Leader in 2010. She has been published in the Woodrow Wilson Center, Elle, The Huffington Post and other outlets, as well as hosted programs on the Discovery Channel. Most recently, she joined leading ocean preservation group Oceana as a senior advisor.
For all her titles and honors, Cousteau has kept her eye on the ball when it comes to her vocation. She’s carried on her family’s legacy of environmental storytelling in an age in which social media campaigns and grassroots organizing can drive more meaningful change than large-scale documentaries.
“My father left me an incredible legacy,” she told Groves. “More than that, he left me his example and he left me the memory that people have of him. I think that was his greatest gift—and it certainly pushes me to ask hard questions, challenge old thinking, and try to engage people to re-imagine their world.”
In many ways, Cousteau is an embodiment of the values Georgetown College seeks to instill in its students—the idea that service to others, study of effective public policy and passion for discovery of the natural world are not exclusive, but complementary pursuits.
— Patrick Curran