Jean-Michel Cousteau interacts with school children and their parents in Dubai. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

Dubai: The next time you drink a glass of water, remember the ocean and remember that it’s your responsibility to protect it so you can in turn protect yourself, a renowned French oceanographic explorer told more than a 100 schoolchildren in Dubai on Wednesday.

Celebrated environmentalist and educator Jean-Michel Cousteau is in his first visit to the region to share his lifelong mission to collectively protect fragile underwater ecosystems that are so intricately tied to all life on earth.

Speaking to a young audience, many of whom were of the same age as he was when he started scuba diving at age seven, and their parents, Cousteau inspired the kids through various documentaries that are part of his life’s work to protect the ocean.

The initiative is part of the global Ritz Kids programme under The Ritz-Carlton’s Community Footprints programme, which aligns the brand around the issues that are important to the communities in which hotels operate.

“It is my privilege to see all of you young people who are the decision-makers of tomorrow. I know you will make much much much better decisions than we [adults] have made,” Cousteau, an official Ambassador of the Environment, said.

“Water is critical. When you drink a glass of water, remember the ocean. There’s only one water system in the planet, we need to take care of it. Everything is connected.”

Having explored the ocean for 73 years, Cousteau has seen it all and how one mindless act of throwing rubbish irresponsibly can have a domino effect on marine life, climate, and, ultimately, on humans.

One example of this damaging effect is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans. An island of plastic composed of 1.8 trillion plastic pieces spanning 1.6 million square kilometres, the GPGP is twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.

It is no wonder why marine animals are dying due to years of plastic ingestion or sea turtles getting sick due to straws or getting stuck on plastic fishing nets has become a common sight nowadays.

The good news, however, is it’s not yet too late. Cousteau believes that by exposing this young generation to the reality of ocean pollution, they too will join in the battle to protect the ocean. This is what he and his family — from his father, pioneering sea adventurer Jacques Cousteau, up to the fourth generation — are trying to do.

“My children are now divers and they’re following the mission I started when my father died: if you protect the ocean, you protect yourself.”

Candice D’Cruz, Vice President Luxury Brand Marketing and Management at Marriott International Middle East and Africa, agreed. She said: “Children are the future ambassadors for our planet and environment and we are incredibly proud to be encouraging their education and enthusiasm on such important topics including preservation and sustainability.”