By Antonia Keddell
For The Diamondback 

Jean-Michel Cousteau's relationship with the ocean began when his father threw him overboard at age 7.

Cousteau, a world renowned French explorer and environmentalist, visited the University of Maryland Tuesday to discuss the importance of preserving the Earth's natural resources.

"Let's never forget that there's only one water system, and although the planet is covered by the ocean — 70 percent ­­— the quantity of that water compared to the size of the planet is very small, and the fresh water, which we all depend upon, is a minuscule little piece of that," said Cousteau, who is also the founder, president and board chairman of the Ocean Futures Society.

About 75 students listened to Cousteau's experiences during this installment of the Voices of Social Change lecture series, which was also the featured Drury Bagwell Omicron Delta Kappa Lecture. During the event, students had the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and waste.

"For years, our ocean was treated simultaneously as a limitless supplier of goods, as well as a garbage can," said senior Samantha Bingaman, an environmental science and policy major and ODK president.

Cousteau has pushed for legislation to preserve the world's oceans, and his work led to both former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama increasing the size of protected oceans.

In addition to defending the world's oceans, Cousteau has produced made more than 80 films on the conservation and preservation of the oceans over the years, and has won awards including an Emmy and a Peabody.

He recently directed a film titled, "Wonders of the Sea 3D," that focuses on informing individuals how they can help and protect the world's oceans. The film, which is co-narrated by Arnold Schwarzenegger and features three years worth of marine life footage from across the globe, will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

"Unless we make major decisions to take care of it, we need to realize and understand that we are the only species on the planet that has the privilege not to disappear," Cousteau said.

Shivani Krishnamurthy, a freshman information systems and finance major, attended the event as one of her required excursions for the Science, Discovery and the Universe Scholars program.

"Sustainability is one thing that's becoming more of a pressing issue, and just how we as humans live and the amount of waste that we produce is sometimes a bit shocking to think about," Krishnamurthy said. "I was just interested in that aspect of it and what we can do to be greener and take steps to help our planet."

Actions must be taken now in order to protect future generations and the planet, said Cousteau.

"I have the privilege of speaking to the decision makers of tomorrow," Cousteau said. "Protect the ocean, and you protect yourself."