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The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  207 ratings  ·  36 reviews
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. Wea ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published March 1st 1998)
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The book start out promisingly, like a memoir, with tales from Cousteau's fascinating life. Most of the tales are about his close brushes with death. Then the book changes course, and goes into the predations of humans on our environment. Very preachy. No positive approaches to saving the environment. A long rant against nuclear energy, but no mention of what should replace it. Toward the end of the book is a segue into philosophy. I expected better.
Michael Cummings
A little dated in parts, this was my first foray into a Jacques Cousteau book. For me, Cousteau shined best in this book when recounting his own past. If I can find an autobiography by the man I'd love to read it - his life anecdotes read like a modern day Verne character. Active in WW2, then an explorer of the deeps and all the wonders therein.
Sean Wylie
Oh I wanted to like this book SO MUCH. Jacques Cousteau was an extraordinary person. He invented modern scuba diving (my favorite past time), he defined underwater exploration, created the first underwater cameras thus bringing the Ocean onto the TV screens of the world, and it would be hard to find someone else who has done more for the environmental movement.

I came into the book expecting a posthumous retelling of his many ocean adventures, I was disappointed. While there were occasional refer
Karen Mead
Cousteau led a fascinating life, thus this is a fascinating book. I was expecting it to be all about his underwater dives, but there's actually a wealth of material here on many different subjects. Some of it deals with Cousteau's political life out of the water, as perhaps the most famous voice for ocean conservation, but it was all interesting (despite the occasional lack of sharks.)

My only criticism is that the section towards the end about the evils of nuclear waste seems to come a bit out o
Christine Crawford
Cousteau's message about conservation is interesting and important, but this book goes on a little too long. He is a really interesting guy who led an amazing life and a lot of the stories in this book are eye-opening (I now feel guilty for eating fish and am seriously concerned about a nuclear disaster), but he could have gotten his points across a lot more quickly.
This was a good book but I think the manifesto part about pollution, etc. was too long and will be preaching to the choir for most readers of a book by Cousteau. The parts about Cousteau's life and the way he thought about things were very interesting.
Important but way too preachy. This is much more like a text book on environmental science and policy than the memoir I was hoping for. It reminded me if Al Gores Earth in the Balance, for example.

Chapter 10 is a five-star must read. It's a visionary description of humanity in 1 billion years. It made me think and gave me hope.

The rest of the book was very downbeat and filled with typical environmentalist angst which in my opinion does not help the cause. While being well researched and well w
Erica Leigh
I came across this book on the bargain shelf and picked it up because I have fond memories of watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau as a child and thought it would be interesting to read more about him. Though not the autobiography I was expecting, I found the book fascinating. It is part history, part nature conservancy, part political – it is at times prophetic (fifteen years ago Cousteau projected a catastrophic nuclear event due to plants in Japan being built on fault lines) and at ...more
Michael Bradham
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 foolh
Mark Victor Young
This fascinating collection of anecdotes from the life of an amazing man takes a somber turn, as Cousteau first looks back on his life and then looks ahead to a dark future. He talks about the change he has seen in the world's oceans in the last 50 years and what's to come. He looks back on his years of opposition to nuclear energy and weaponry and all the mistakes that have been made which will be around to haunt us for 1000 years. And lastly he contemplates climate change and how that will aff ...more
Scott Taylor
Along with Marlin Perkins, Jacques Cousteau was one of the guys to spark my interest in the natural environment when I was a kid. So I cut him a little slack for this overly preachy book.

It seems to be Cousteau's answer to the question "what would you like your epitaph to read?" In that sense, it meets expectations - the book provides insight into the man as well as his message - think long-term and think of conservation of resources rather than short term gain. It is a good message, consistent
Cousteau's last book (I believe) is also an excellent introduction to his beliefs and views when it comes to things like protecting the oceans, the dangers of nuclear power, and issue of politics versus science when it comes to making public policy. Although some may find this a bit too dry, I enjoyed Cousteau's sardonic but intelligent commentary--very well supported by facts and numbers--exposing the hypocrisy and shortsightedness of politicians. He also peppers his intellectual analysis with ...more
Dakota Snyder
Favorite. Cousteau manages to both excite you with his stories while simultaneously providing large scale concepts for reflection. Thought provoking.
Saw this in the bargain bin at Book People in Austin - a great store - and thought it'd make a great read for an upcoming work trip to Puerto Rico. I was not disappointed in the least either.

It was full of great little stories and insights into Cousteau's thoughts on managing people, risk, environmentalism, and surprisingly, his antinuclear advocacy. As a kid I remember his awesome underwater specials and Nat Geo spreads but did not know anything about his stance against nuclear waste, energy a
Jessi Witt
Oof, I came in looking for musings on exploration and the living world but things got off track somewhere amidst nuclear disarmament and bible quotations.
I have never been this moved by a book about conservation. Even though he was discussed tangentially here and there, I never really knew who Cousteau was during the course of my marine science education. This book showed the magnitude of his life, his work and his passion but more importantly it showed how big of an impact politics, economics and innovation have on the ocean and the publics perception.

This book was written to open eyes, touch hearts, and promote conservation on all levels. For
Isabella Burke
I am not a diver, couldn't put this one down. To sum it up - Jacques Cousteau invented underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA to me and you) - the sea is an incredibly hostile place and he is one of the greatest adventurers that ever lived. To be honest I think I was mostly jealous of what an amazing life he had led, the stories he had to tell and the amount of influence that he has had in conservation and diving politics, right up until the end of life! What a legend.
I'm a big admirer of Cousteau. The book is a testament to the way an older generation went out into the world on behalf of humanity, for service instead of for personal gain. His own stories are fantastic and I wish there were more of them - I wasn't so taken with his more general discussions of things like nuclear power, for example. But still obviously such an inspirational man. Well worth looking at.
Jacques Cousteau was born in what he called "a lucky place in time," the dawning of a technological age in which lone explorers, scientists and researchers were limited only by their own imaginations.

Anything seemed possible then, and Cousteau himself was driven by relentless curiosity about everything around him.

read more ...
Lee at All Ears
This memoir by the legendary scientist, explorer and environmental advocate speaks to both his passions. He captivates with stores of his pioneering exploration of the underworld, and he shocks with his accounts of the destructive impact humans have had on the once virgin seas. Both amazing and disturbing. The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus by Jacques Cousteau

I loved this book. I was a little upset that it didn't end up being more like "Silent World", jam packed with crazy adventures, but it ended up being a very eye opening experience. Now I just need to figure out what has happened in all the areas spoken about in this book since it was finished over twenty five years ago.
closer to 4.5--almost perfect
fascinating insight into the character and thoughts of Jacques Cousteau. thought-provoking material. Interesting, though, to see mentions of God, creation, the miracle of life in one breath and all life coming from the sea through evolution in the next, "an orchestration of accidents".
Ok, I admit this caught my eye because it has octopus in the title, but that's not the only reason. Besides, everyone knows that Jacques Cousteau is a total bad-ass, and we seriously could use some of his wisdom around here lately...Especially at that damn press conference. Where is the Captain when we need him?!
I am listening to it. The reader is fabulous. The book, so far, fascinating. Amazing person this Mr Cousteau !
I'm now finished, and I enjoyed every minutes...the stories, the facts, the thought provoking messages... I recommend it even though it is somewhat old.
one time, my brother did a project on jacques cousteau, meaning i had to do a project on jacques cousteau (because i am only slightly more focused than he and my mom made me), but i didn't mind this one because jacques cousteau is really really cool.
Really good chapters on the fishing industry, "Catch as Catch Can" and the nuclear industry, "The Hot Peace."
We should have listened to Jacques Cousteau decades ago.
Very good - depressing as all get out but an interesting read. It is a bit dry at points which made it hard to read but that's my only quibble.
Denise Main
The foreword was really good. The anecdotes from Cousteau throughout the book were fascinating, but the book wasn't very well organized.
Right now, this book is really fascinating to me, it is the first solid book about marine biology that I have considered reading
Interesting anecdotes...a very intimidating look at pollution and destruction of sea life.
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Born in 1910, was a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, and filmmaker, who studied the sea. Although he is most famous to us from his television programmes, he also co-developed the aqua-lung, and pioneered marine conservation as a political and scientific priority.
In the Calypso, an ex-Royal Navy minesweeper, Cousteau visited the most interesting waters of the planet. During these trips he
More about Jacques-Yves Cousteau...
The Silent World The Ocean World (Abradale) The Living Sea Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence (Undersea Discoveries of Jacques-Yves Cousteau) The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea

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