PROFILE : Undersea Legacy Continues : Jean-Michel Cousteau is a filmmaker and explorer. But above all, he is an environmental advocate like his father.

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Jean-Michel Cousteau is partial to Fiji, New Guinea, parts of Indonesia, and several places in the Indian Ocean and Asia. But he now hangs his hat in Santa Barbara.

"I've lived in Santa Barbara for the last year and a half, and I opened my office last June," he said. "I've had my eye on Santa Barbara for the last 20 years. We have the Channel Islands that have been virtually untouched except by the military. They have survived the rather formidable demographic process, and also, it's a great place to dive."

Tonight, the son of eminent environmentalist and ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau will host an evening of short films and a discussion titled "Legacy of the Living Sea," at Campbell Hall on the campus of UCSB.

Cousteau will screen three short films: "The Tribal Sea: Dolphins and Whales," "Relics of the Sea," and "Wonders of the Nocturnal Sea," the latest releases from his company, Jean-Michel Cousteau Productions.

Born in 1938, Cousteau toured with his father for more than 40 years, exploring places most of us haven't heard of, couldn't spell or afford to visit.

And the younger Cousteau knows a thing or two about film, having been a prime organizer of the award-winning television series, "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau." He has produced "Jacques Cousteau: The First 75 Years," the Peabody award-winning series, "Cousteau's Amazon" and the Emmy-winning "Cousteau/Mississippi." His company makes educational films, cartoons and environmentally oriented children's programs.

Between filmmaking assignments and exploration trips, Cousteau spends as much time on the road as a blues musician. He has lectured to as many as 100,000 students a year. A co-founder of the Cousteau Society, he served as executive vice president from 1979 to 1993, although today he is no longer affiliated with that group.

A trained architect, he is much in demand internationally as a consultant on marine environmental issues.

Everyday, we are faced with news about the degradation of the environment. According to Cousteau, at least some of those responsible for the problem are doing something to rectify it.

"Just 20 years ago, corporations didn't want anything to do with us unless they could see Jacques Cousteau's pretty little fishes," he said.

"But now, improving the environmental quality is actually in their self-interest because it improves their public image. The bottom line is, of course, money, but that's fine with us. We have to find ways to counter these dangers and at the same time seek compromise."

Yet the sheer magnitude of some of the plant's environmental woes, tends to create a certain apathy and a we-can't-change-the-inevitable attitude.

Then again, that which hasn't happened yet isn't inevitable, and individuals, according to Cousteau, can make a difference.

"On an individual level, it has to begin with awareness, like not dumping. Even if you live inland or on the coast, everything ends up in the ocean. Every time you flush the toilet, it goes to the ocean."

Details

* WHAT: "Legacy of the Living Sea," an evening of short films and a lecture by Jean-Michel Cousteau.

* WHERE: Campbell Hall, UCSB.

* WHEN: Tonight, 8 p.m.

* HOW MUCH: $10, General, $7, student.

* FYI: 893-3535.

* ETC: Cousteau will preside over a second presentation Saturday night at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by the Channel Islands Underwater Photographic Society, the subject will be "Underwater '94," a presentation of photos, films and videos. For more information: 486-2424.

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