Five things Jacques Cousteau and Sir David Attenborough have in common


Five things Jacques Cousteau and Sir David Attenborough have in common are:-

  1. Their long careers as explorers and naturalists – Cousteau in the oceans and Attenborough on land and water.
  2. Due to their intense curiosity to go further and see more of nature’s wonders, they helped advance photography and exploration techniques.
  3. They both featured in popular long running television series, influencing millions.
  4. They both became passionate environmental advocates in later life.
  5. Both made animated addresses at international climate conferences. Cousteau addressed the first climate conference fifty years ago in Rio de Janiero the Earth Summit, 1992 . Nearly fifty years later Attenborough addressed COP26 in November 2021 in Glasgow at the age of 95.

Both naturalists emphasised the gravity of the problem facing humankind. Both spoke of the stupidity of short term thinking. But whereas Attenborough called for the extraction of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air, Cousteau was the more realistic. He didn’t seem to have much hope, or, according to the movie he didn’t.

The release of the Cousteau documentary in cinemas this year has made us appreciate again the wisdom of the explorer.

“If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed and if we are not willing to change, we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.”

― Jacques Cousteau


“You have an extraordinary opportunity to change the course of the world . . . but only if you decide to challenge the huge problems with radical solutions,” he said.

“We are living in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic of short-term thinking,” Cousteau said.

However, although David Attenborough agreed with the size of the climate issue, was more hopeful about human nature. But is he techno-optimist? He wants billions of tons of carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere.

Is this realistic? On 26 Jan 2021 it was reported that “Currently, some 40 megatonnes of CO2 are captured and stored annually, equivalent to about 0.1 per cent of our current emissions. Carbon capture must increase at least 100-fold by 2050 to meet the scenarios laid out by the IPCC.”

Science Direct published an article in October, 2021 which said “Using current rates of deployment, CO2 storage capacity by 2050 is projected to be around 700 million tons per year, just 10% of what is required.”

“Is this how our story is due to end? A tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?”

Sir David Attenborough, speech to COP26 Glasgow, November 2021.