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Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World

Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World

4.5 12
by Jacques Cousteau, Susan Schiefelbein

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The beloved explorer Jacques Cousteau witnessed firsthand the complexity and beauty of life on earth and undersea-and watched the toll taken by human activity in the twentieth century. In this magnificent last book, now available for the first time in the United States, Cousteau describes his deeply informed philosophy about protecting our world for future


The beloved explorer Jacques Cousteau witnessed firsthand the complexity and beauty of life on earth and undersea-and watched the toll taken by human activity in the twentieth century. In this magnificent last book, now available for the first time in the United States, Cousteau describes his deeply informed philosophy about protecting our world for future generations. Weaving gripping stories of his adventures throughout, he and coauthor Susan Schiefelbein address the risks we take with human health, the overfishing and sacking of the world's oceans, the hazards of nuclear proliferation, and the environmental responsibility of scientists, politicians, and people of faith. This prescient, clear-sighted book is a remarkable testament to the life and work of one of our greatest modern adventurers.

Editorial Reviews

Completed only a year before his 1997 death, Jacques Cousteau's The Human, The Orchid, and The Octopus stands as a final testament of his environmental beliefs. Like many of his other books, this work blends the best elements of an adventure story, a tutorial on the natural world, and a passionate manifesto on sustaining life on our planet. The book, never before available in the United States, has been released to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the great ocean explorer's death. His coauthor and frequent collaborator, Susan Schiefelbein, introduces the text and provides an update on more recent ecological developments. The capstone of a momentous environmental career.
Publishers Weekly

The late Cousteau (1910-1997) is still offering remarkable tales of nature and the sea alongside coauthor Schiefelbein. Stephen Hoye delivers a solid reading complete with an astounding Cousteau impersonation that will have listeners questioning just who they are listening to during the introduction. Hoye transports the audience around the globe and under the sea, capturing the tense incidents throughout the tale in a believable manner. Though most of the tale is told from Schiefelbein's perspective, Hoye manages to capture the spirit of Cousteau without always resorting to the impersonation. His reading is underplayed and all the more realistic because of it. As Cousteau would have demanded, the conservation information included becomes the star of the show, and the story is a medium to spread the word about Mother Earth. A Bloomsbury hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 6, 2007). (Feb.)

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Library Journal

It has been ten years since Cousteau's death, but there was one book still left in the pipeline. Originally published in French in 1997 as L'homme, la pieuvre et l'orchidée, and now available for the first time in English, this is a comprehensive presentation of the conservation and preservation philosophy that inspired Cousteau to become an activist for the oceans and the earth during his lifetime. Although not by any means a biography, the book contains numerous anecdotes and an extensive introduction by coauthor and longtime Cousteau collaborator Schiefelbein that is primarily biographical. The prose is eloquent and at times almost poetical, especially in the eponymous final chapter. This worthwhile look back at the French scientist who taught us to love scuba diving and the ocean raises questions still highly relevant ten years later. Recommended for all libraries at the high school level and above.
—Margaret Rioux

Kirkus Reviews
From Oscar-winning explorer-filmmaker Cousteau (1910-1997), a final bouquet for the planet he loved. The Frenchman who enthralled millions in more than 70 books (The Silent World, 2004, etc.) and the TV series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau makes an eloquent case for conserving our natural world in these 11 essays, completed before his death and published for the first time in the United States. Following a foreword by Bill McKibben, the collection opens with a meditation on the instinctive human drive to explore and then considers aspects of the need to protect "the last remaining unexplored expanse of earth-underwater," which first attracted the author as a young midshipman on a world tour in the 1930s. In each instance, Cousteau draws on experiences and observations from his career: He examines personal risk-taking, recalling the moment in 1952 (the underwater death of a young man diving from Cousteau's ship Calypso off Marseilles) when he learned to dare without danger by minimizing risks to crews; and the day at a 1959 conference of atomic scientists held in Monaco's Oceanographic Institute (where Cousteau was director) when he heard talk about using the sea as a radioactive waste dump that prompted his lifelong protests over nuclear issues. ("Stick to steering boats!" said his critics.) Elsewhere, he urges action against overfishing, unchecked coastal development and corner-cutting by commercial interests that results in threats to public health and the environment. The author proves a trusted, familiar and knowledgeable voice as he draws on explorations in the Amazon, Antarctica, the underwater caves of the Caribbean and elsewhere to express his concern for humankind'sfuture. "We are part of Earth," he declares in explaining why we must conserve. Long-time collaborator Schiefelbein provides a useful introduction as well as an update on facts and trends since the book's completion ten years ago. A treat for Cousteau fans and conservationists alike.
From the Publisher
"[An] electrifying, many-faceted masterwork." ---Booklist

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.74(w) x 9.11(h) x 1.12(d)

Meet the Author

Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997) was world renowned as an ocean explorer, filmmaker, educator, and environmental activist.

Susan Schiefelbein, a former editor at the Saturday Review, has won the National Magazine Award and the Front Page Award for her cover stories on social issues.

Actor Stephen Hoye is a graduate of London's Guildhall and a veteran of London's West End. An award-winning audiobook narrator, he has won thirteen AudioFile Earphones Awards and two prestigious APA Audie Awards.

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Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have just started reading Jacques Cousteau and it already has me wanting more. You loose all track of time and I felt I was there with him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Informative I loved this book, i would recommend this to anyone who is interested in helping prevent the depletion of the oceans and for all mankind in general. Along with exciting moments as it's a bit of a novel as well. To know what world leaders do for power and wealth, and then expect the rest of us and the ecosystem to deal with it and fix it for them in their pursuit of wealth and power so they dont have to live with their mistakes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Redeemed-by-Grace More than 1 year ago
I loved this book by Jacques Cousteau.
fishbucket More than 1 year ago
This is a well written book and a very exciting adventure in to the history of the diving industry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and researched by premier authority on marine life and declining water quality in our oceans and tributaries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a remarkable book. One adventure follows another. The writing is outstanding -- savory, skillful, and so thoroughly engaging that I couldn't put down the book! This is a compendium of exploration and adventure stories that simply make you stop, breathe in deeply, and think about the world around you. And all the while you do so, you are conscious of how a master writer can make a book sing.' Bottom line: this is the best book I've read in the past twelve months.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus may be the most worthwhile gift I¿ve received. It accomplishes a rare feat: It manages to be profoundly touching and highly informative at the same time. In part, Cousteau and his coauthor have written an environmental thriller. They tell spinetingling tales of Cousteau¿s adventures: getting caught in an undersea avalanche, being tracked through the jungle by murderous indians, posing as a WW2 German officer to burglarize a safe in enemy headquarters. Yet even in this page-turner, they still manage to make readers come away a lot smarter about such ¿inconvenient truths¿ as the perils of selling nuclear goods for politics and profit, pollution, and the fishing industry¿s irreversible eradication of fish species that most of us have wrongly assumed would continue to appear on the plates of our grandchildren. In short, the book tellls the story of a life well lived, Cousteau¿s, and provides a guideline for how to live productively ourselves. The writing is eloquent, at times heartbreaking, and eerily prescient. Many of the coauthors¿ predictions, based on a bibliography of distinguished government sources and think-tanks, are already coming true. This book is poetic and prophetic and will serve as a reference for years to come. I¿m glad I own it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is thought-provoking, passionate, and brilliantly written. It is one of those books so well crafted that you can't put it down -- you just want more and more. It fuses the adventures and insights of 'wave-making' Jacques Costeau with Susan Schiefelbein's exceptional writing talents. What riveting experiences! And what consumate writing! If you are interested in ecology and global warming, want to become better acquainted with one of the planet's great maritime explorers, and are appreciative of writing beyond comare -- this book is sure to please! I cannot praise it enough.