Look for the Helpers


There’s an old quote from Mister Rogers that has been circulating on Facebook since the Boston Marathon bombings.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news” Fred Rogers wrote in his book on parenting, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

That idea – look for the helpers – is a thread that ties together so many disparate stories.

It’s an uplifting perspective changer on the news that is breaking in Boston on this Friday before Earth Day.

And it is what drives our guest on CNN Profiles, who has nothing at all to do with the breaking news in Boston.

Philippe Cousteau’s family made its name running in a direction others ignored – taking risks to document a breaking news story that impacts our security every bit as much as what we see unfolding in Boston.

The Cousteau family is in the business of helping preserve the life support systems that the earth’s natural environment provides its human population.

Calling the diversity of species and habitats on earth a life support system is not an exaggeration. It's not a metaphor. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate that makes earth habitable for people – all our driven by the health of the natural environment.

Two of the most comprehensives analyses that document how healthy ecosystems support human life and broken ecosystems threaten it are The Diversity of Life by Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Edward O. Wilson, and Sustaining Life, edited by Nobel prize winner Eric Chivian and Dr. Aaron Bernstein of Boston Children's Hospital.

The world’s remaining rainforests are referred to as “the lungs of the earth” for a reason. They absorb carbon dioxide that has been dangerously warming the planet and pollutants that make so many of us sick.

The ocean, in addition to providing a vital source of protein, is also a huge sink absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Its currents help dictate weather patterns that, for example, prevent Europe from having the climate of Siberia

And it’s the diversity of underwater species, especially the vital but threatened coral reefs, which maintain the ocean’s role as a life support system.

And so, as we follow one of the most urgent "breaking news" stories of our time – the rapid extinction of vast numbers of species and their habitats – documented in Nobel prize winning biologist Edward O. Wilson’s The Diversity of Life and elsewhere, we must, as Mr. Rogers’ mother advised, look for the helpers.

On this edition of CNN Profiles we introduce you to a helper named Philippe Cousteau Jr.

Who is Philippe Cousteau?

Why, in the scary story of the depletion of our natural life support systems, has this young man become a helper?

It’s the family business.