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Rainforest Project in Coralville Adds Cousteau to Board

Perry Beeman

Des Moines Register

August 11, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]

Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the late oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, has been elected to the board of the Coralville rainforest project in Iowa.

The Environmental Project board announced the election this week. Cousteau, 25, spent part of this week in Des Moines meeting with rainforest project founder Ted Townsend and other staffers.

In an interview Wednesday with The Des Moines Register, Cousteau said he had not discussed a financial role with the project, which is still well short of its fundraising goal. Instead, he sees his role as helping make the $180 million rainforest - to be built under a huge enclosure along Interstate Highway 80 - appeal to his generation and be a model of getting people to live in ways that preserve the Earth and its creatures.

"It's the right time," Cousteau said of the Iowa Environmental Project, which will include education programs and research projects. "The status quo isn't working. The environmental movement, in various forms, has been around more than 100 years, and we are still destroying the world that sustains us.

"How can we create a facility that is different than the traditional interactive or wild areas like a zoo?" Cousteau asked.

Cousteau said he is confident that the much-questioned project will succeed, as another Townsend project, the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, has. Cousteau toured the Des Moines ape-research facility Wednesday.

Cousteau, who like many in his family has studied ocean issues with leading scientists, also has a master's degree in history from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is co-founder and president of EarthEcho International, a nonprofit group dedicated to environmental and conservation education. He also runs a consulting and media development group.

"We're very interested in literacy that leads to action," said Cousteau.

"For a lot of people, environmentalism and conservation mean protecting animals and nature for the sake of protecting animals and nature," he said. But conservation "is really about all living creatures. It's about us as much as it's about apes and beetles."