Few, if any, successful social movements have launched without the engagement of awakened young people. This fact wasn’t lost on Philippe Cousteau 19 years ago, when he and his sister began EarthEcho, their environmental foundation, which encourages young people to act now to achieve a sustainable future. The company’s resources are designed to equip new generations of leaders to identify and tackle environmental challenges in their own communities and beyond. If the surname sounds familiar, it should. Philippe is the grandson of legendary underwater explorer Jacques and the son of second-generation diver Philippe-Pierre, so the company is merely carrying on the family tradition. That family now includes Philippe’s wife, Ashlan, who works as an adviser with EarthEcho on its outreach and education efforts.
“I realized that one of the failings of the environmental movement was a lack of a robust youth strategy,” reveals Philippe, who has delivered keynote addresses at Harvard and the UN. “When we wanted to start an organization in honor of my father, Philippe Cousteau Sr., we looked around and saw that not a lot of groups were focused on youth empowerment in the environmental sector.” Rectifying this, Cousteau’s company has become one of the leading environmental education organizations in the world.
Fortunately for Cousteau, who was nominated for an Emmy for his popular Hulu series Xploration Awesome Planet, young people were already fired up about making a positive difference for the environment. “Our goal at EarthEcho is to provide them with tools and support to recognize their power to change the world,” he says.
Since millennials are overwhelmingly concerned about these issues, they just need a little help to recognize how to take action and be effective change agents in their community, which is where EarthEcho comes in. “We provide tools and resources in classrooms and community groups around the world,” Cousteau says. “Our Water Challenge is one of the largest citizen-science water quality–monitoring programs in the world; our StemExplore program examines how young people can get engaged in science and sustainability as a career; our Expeditions program explores critical environmental issues and then provides content to schools around the world to educate young people about these issues and provide them tools to take action; and, finally, our Youth Leadership Council works with established youth community leaders in countries around the world to amplify their voices and allow them to reach a global audience.”
Although its global presence is significant, the foundation also connects locally, having worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District to train teachers and provide content. “Our last global education EarthEcho Expedition program, Water by Design, brought over a dozen teachers from the L.A. area on an expedition exploring water scarcity in the region,” Philippe shares. “We featured L.A. as our case study about how to develop solutions to the water crisis that plagues communities around the world.”
As for the legacy of his famed grandfather and father, it’s something of which he’s proud and works to honor. “I was raised to believe everyone has a responsibility to take action to make this world a better place,” he states. “We are all in this together, and it will take all of us to build the healthy, vibrant planet we need to survive and thrive. This is a legacy we share with the whole world and will be excited to share with our own baby.”