Simple Truths

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by Carrie Vonderhaar,Ocean Futures Society

“If people protect the ocean, they protect themselves,” says Jean-Michel Cousteau.

That one statement, related in an interview with writer Chuck Graham, gets to the heart of what conservation is all about: Planet Earth is our home, and we should have a vested interest in keeping it safe, healthy and habitable. To do otherwise puts our own well being — and that of countless other living things — at risk.

Cousteau has spent a lifetime exploring, loving and protecting the world’s oceans, as an oceanographer, filmmaker and conservationist. He’s also the son of the world-renowned Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the pioneer of marine research and conservation who introducing millions to the wonders of the deep through his TV series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.

Cousteau the younger carries on his father’s legacy. He served as executive vice president of his father’s Cousteau Society for over 20 years, and in 1999 founded his own marine conservation organization, Ocean Futures Society, with headquarters here on the Central Coast. Cousteau and OFS seek to educate people about the beauty, fragility and importance of the aquatic world. Yes, Cousteau’s family name and his adventures aboard the Calypso lend him a certain rock-star status. But what makes him truly admirable is his deep understanding of the “critical connection between humanity and nature” — and his efforts to show that to others as well.

There are many who, like Cousteau, heed the call to address the world’s ills, even if they don’t operate on a global scale. 

Erik Sternard, executive director of Camarillo-based Interface Children and Family Services, has helped the organization build a far-reaching social safety net to support some of the most vulnerable members of Ventura County. From parenting classes to mental health services to domestic violence intervention and emergency shelters, Interface has helped thousands of people break the cycle of violence, poverty and homelessness, strengthening families and communities along the way.

Step Up Ventura’s mission is to serve homeless children age 5 and younger by providing early childhood care and education. The uncertainty and trauma of homelessness can be damaging to young minds, but with the help of Step Up’s specially trained teachers, counselors and caregivers, many of these risks can be overcome, helping these children enjoy later success in school, and in life.

There’s power in individual actions as well, and this month we spotlight two Ventura County residents who organized large collections for hurricane victims in Texas. Aaron Steed and Luanne Wullaert went the extra mile (or, rather, the extra 1,500 miles) – by trucking the goods out to Houston themselves. 

From big dreams to small gestures, these stories show that there are many ways to make the world a better place. And these acts of compassion come back to us in the end, through a cleaner environment, happier and healthier children, stronger families and communities — and the brighter future made possible through all of these things. When we help others, we truly are helping ourselves as well. It really is as simple as that.


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