Real Leaders

Leaders of Hope: Fabien Cousteau

Fabien Cousteau’s hope for our planet lies in a revolutionary underwater research station and habitat where the world’s best thinkers can address humanity’s most pressing concerns.

As a renowned third-generation ocean explorer and environmentalist, Cousteau’s PROTEUS™ project, in conjunction with his non-profit, the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center, will work on viruses and cancers, examining chemical compositions that might deliver results in weeks rather than years. PROTEUS™ will also tackle food sustainability and climate change.

 Cousteau likens PROTEUS™ to an underwater version of the International Space Station, a platform for global collaboration among the world’s leading researchers, academics, government agencies and corporations. At a time when humanity is still reeling from the COVID pandemic, Cousteau believes PROTEUS™ — and the promise of the ocean — hold critical answers for the future.

 “I’m continuously inspired and impressed by the young creators I meet through the FCOLC’s programs — artists, activists, scientists — and what they are speaking up about,” Cousteau tells Real Leaders. “Creating a planet where our younger generations can grow up to live more sustainably and in balance with, versus against, the environment and each other remains a constant motivator.”

 PROTEUS™ will be located off the coast of Curaçao in a biodiverse Marine Protected Area, about 60 feet deep (equivalent to three atmospheres). Equipped with state-of-the-art labs and the latest in freezers, microscopes, and other technologies, Cousteau says PROTEUS™ will host scientists, private companies, and NGOs who need to complete years’ worth of research in days. He expects the lab’s biggest impacts to come in ocean conservation; renewable clean energy including solar, wind, and ocean thermal energy conversion; and food advancements such as hydroponics and aquaculture. The findings will be transmitted to land via daily live video streams, social media, and news stories.

  “We are living in extreme, complicated, difficult times,” he says. “We are witnessing daily the need for disruptive solutions.” Cousteau believes this is our chance to refill the Earth’s capital.

 “We can and should be innovative, disruptive, and bolster new industries creating a just, fair, and vibrant economy based on valuing all life and the lifeblood — the ocean — that sustains it,” he says. “Much like this pandemic, climate change is indeed personal. It impacts each of us daily and in our own homes.”

The role of real leaders in all of this is to lead by example and practice what they preach, he continues, explaining that this type of leadership is what perpetuates hope in companies and communities. “I was raised with an understanding of the importance of the ocean — that ocean health is human health,” Cousteau says. “This awareness consciously guides so many of my actions, from recycling to being aware of the foods that I put in my body that are low-impact to the environment. As a real leader, it is my responsibility to put my values into action and hopefully inspire others to do the same.”

To function as a real leader requires tenacity, inquisitiveness, and inclusivity, he says. “A real leader must push boundaries but do so in a manner that inspires and motivates others,” Cousteau says. 

What does he want our world’s real leaders to understand about his work? That the ocean is our life support system and is indispensable to solving the planet’s biggest problems. 

“Challenges created by climate change, rising sea levels, extreme storms, and viruses represent a multi-trillion-dollar risk to the global economy,” says Cousteau. “The knowledge that will be uncovered underwater will forever change the way generations of humans live up above.”