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The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World Hardcover – October 30, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Written by renowned ocean explorer Cousteau in the 10 years before his death, this book strikes a note of caution as it celebrates the natural world: as the seas are plundered, the biosphere is polluted and the hazards of nuclear power are imposed upon nature, the human race is unraveling complexities it took eternity to create. As a scientist and an explorer, Cousteau laments the government's use of science as a handmaiden to profit, reproaching technocrats and military and industrial leaders who, in pursuit of power and money, make decisions and leave the rest of the world, and its ecosystems, to live with their mistakes. An informative introduction and epilogue by Schiefelbein, a former editor at the Saturday Review, updates this account with developments since Cousteau's death, including the continuing depletion of the oceans and the persistent shift of funds from scientific research to economic priorities. Cousteau's reverence for life's miracles—embodied by the evolutionary wonders of the human, the orchid and the octopus—shines through in this eloquent testimony on the importance of pursuing higher ideals, particularly the preservation of the oceans and the natural world for future generations. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

Believing that "people will protect what they love," pioneering marine explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau (1910–97) set out to make humankind fall in love with the sea, the crucible of life. A man of sangfroid, conviction, courage, ingenuity, and perception, Cousteau not only was the preeminent guide to the surpassing beauty and mystery of the deep but also became a tireless defender of the watery realm. With the help of Schiefelbein, who wrote the narration for a number of his award-winning documentaries, Cousteau completed this defining and superlative chronicle the year before his death, and although it has taken a decade for it to reach America, it is fresh and stinging, replete with an anchoring foreword by Bill McKibben and Schiefelbein's vivid introduction and informative epilogue. Cousteau seamlessly splices amazing tales of exploring undersea caves, encountering sharks, and surviving an Antarctic blizzard with bracing eyewitness accounts of the shockingly rapid and potentially catastrophic destruction of marine life. Indelible descriptions of the glory of the undersea world are matched by prescient observations and arresting analysis of humankind's paradoxical approach to risk, the roles religion and science play in defining our perception of nature, and the "moral quandaries" attendant on technology, especially nuclear weapons. Cousteau's electrifying, many-faceted masterwork at once celebrates "life's miracles " and warns us that unless we stop ransacking "nature's irreplaceables," we may go the way of the dinosaurs. Seaman, Donna

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596914173
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596914179
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #944,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harry Helmen on January 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Again and again the worlds most brilliant scientist are telling us that we are rapidly depleting the natural world that sustains us.
Cousteau explains it again a lyrical way that only he can.
If you loved Jacques Cousteau in the '70's, you will realize what a real super hero he was after you read this book!
Well written, easy and fun to read. A facinating journey with a remarkable man.
Saccage is Cousteau's term for ransacking natural resources. He believed that people would protect that which they loved, with his films he tried to show us the beauty of his undersea world, his book gives us an important lesson in conservation of the ocean, its creatures and the planet.
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Format: Hardcover
My son is a well-read, well-informed world traveler at sixteen years old. His blank look when I told him I was reading an advanced copy of a new book by Jacques Cousteau is just one of the many reasons I am excited about the long overdue publication of this book. Cousteau died in 1997, and the absence of his influence in the past decade is echoed in my son's generation's lack of recognition. From the foreword by Bill McKibben:

"For those of us who come of age in the 1960s or '70s, the picture of Jacques Cousteau is fixed forever in our minds. A slight but wiry man, yellow tank peeking over his shoulder, falling backward off the stern of the good ship Calypso as he prepared for yet another dive down among the rays or the jellyfish or the sea cows or the parrot fish - down, literally, into his world, "the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau." His voice became just as familiar, with its somehow slightly wistful but still infectious Gallic intonation. "In ze wisdom of ze dolphins lies ze test of human wisdom.""

Always passionate, frequently logical, sometimes preachy, The Human, The Orchid and The Octopus presents Mr. Cousteau's unique perspective on personal exploration, the environment and our power to influence it. It sits well on my bookshelf next to volume 1 of The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau that my father gave me years ago, a tribute to one of the world's great explorers and visionaries. The influences of Cousteau and his unique perspective on man's effect on the environment are felt in the perceived environmental calamity in my own novel, Dusk Before the Dawn.
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Format: Hardcover
This latest Cousteau/Schiefelbein book is thought-provoking, passionate, and brilliantly written. I loved it! It gives insights and little known facts about Cousteau's pioneer experiences an an oceanographic explorer. It weaves together fascinating stories, discoveries, anecdotes, and masterful writing to make you want more and more. Simply put, this is a must-read book for all of us -- especially people interested in conservation and the ocean, climate changes, the modern-day Age of Discovery, unique personalities in our time, and writing so skillful and flavorful that every page is a treat. Read this book! Tell your friends. This book is masterful.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a very hard book for me to read, and I could only read it for a while before I had to go and put my head in the sand for a while before addressing it again. The beginning of the book chronicles the interesting life of Cousteau but about a third of the way through the term saccage was introduced to describe the utter destruction in the fishing industry and then we visited the equally appalling nuclear industry and why we support such a failed method of energy production. Thise book is a dire warning that has not been answered.
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Format: Hardcover
Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997) was the quintessential undersea explorer. His films of The Silent World brought the wonders under the sea to millions in the 1960s. This book, the result of a long collaboration between Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, can serve as his memoir and his manifesto. Ranging from his discovery of a love of swimming to his long captaincy of the vessel Calypso, it gives us an overview of his travels across our water planet — and his distaste for what he termed "saccage" — wanton exploitation of the environment without regard for the consequences.

The book reflects what was important about Cousteau's life: early exaltation at the wondrous life in the seas, followed by distress (but never despair) at the ways the heedless exploitation of humanity was threatening that life. It is thus a worthy tribute to the man whose name most of us recognized, but whom we knew not well enough. An Epilogue by Susan Schiefelbein brings the reader up to date on certain developments in the ten years since Captain Cousteau left us. A Selected Bibliography contains 33 entries. There is no index, unfortunately. But the book is an invaluable glimpse into the life of a most notable figure of the twentieth century.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Potent, truth filled masterpiece from Cousteau and Schiefelbein. Contains many heavy, serious passages concerning how the world became what it is. Many personal stories of risk, along with tragedy, mixed with opinion of risk assessment. Stories of all kinds creatures from his travels. Cousteau lets us in on his ideal dream of the future (one of the wildest dreams I ever read).

“In managing those risks fearlessness helps keep our minds clear, but relying on fearlessness alone would amount to foolhardiness. As we can’t reduce the frequency of nature’s surprises, we increase the thoroughness of our preparations.”(page 65)

In depth insight into the fishing industry. Distinguishing between applied science and pure science. Also learned the history of nuclear energy and bomb use along with politics, motivations involved. Cousteau was in it, he stood and fought.

A lot of history, research, current events, future predictions, and a look back at those predictions he made.

Cousteau justified to me that exploration is necessary due to vast amounts of environmental coverups (or outright ocean dumpings). He knows because he did everything and he been everywhere. He went out there, experienced for himself, and fought to spread awareness to the world. Much respect to Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein.
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