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’s future. “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.