Now, Alexandra—along with her brother, Phillippe Jr., and cousin Fabien—is part of the third generation of Cousteaus fighting to protect our oceans and rivers. And at 33, Alexandra is a prolific advocate. Among other projects, she has founded Blue Legacy International, which explores human interactions with water; has been honored by the National Geographic Society and the United Nations; is on the board of directors of the Mother Nature Network; co-hosted the Discovery Channel's Blue August; was the global water adviser for LiveEarth 2010's Run for Water; and will publish her first book, This Blue Planet, in 2011.
Alexandra Cousteau: My parents put me in swim lessons when I was 3 months old and took me on an expedition for the first time when I was 4 months old. And my grandfather taught me to dive when I was 7 years old. So water has always been a huge part of my life. My earliest meaningful memory would have to be playing in tide pools in Hawaii. We spent part of a summer in Maui, and my brother and I would spend all day in the tide pools looking at little creatures and putting them in our buckets and then letting them go.
FL: Have you always been passionate about protecting water?
AC: When you're a child, you don't really realize the threats that face the environment, and certainly 30 years ago, 25 years ago we didn't have the same level of threat that we have now. So I knew that we needed to protect the oceans because there were a lot of threats facing them, that it was an incredibly important thing to do. But it wasn't until I started seeing places disappear.
FL: Like where?
AC: Like those tide pools that I played in—they're gone now. And a lot of other places throughout the Caribbean and in Florida and the Mediterranean too. There are places that I spent a lot of time in as a child disappearing. I guess I was always convinced that environmental conservation was incredibly important, but by the time I was in college, I was already witnessing the end of places that were very important to me. If there was ever a moment when it became personal, that was really it.
Cousteau's legacy: taking environmental activism to the next level