Susan Schiefelbein

Susan Schiefelbein is co-author, with Jacques Cousteau, of the recently published book The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus.

Recent Articles

Saccage

Learning the lessons of Jacques Cousteau.

One day in the late 1970s, the ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau joined me at a Paris café, pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket, and pushed it across the table. On it, he'd listed two dozen words with tally marks beside each. "The winner is saccage ," he said. For weeks, Cousteau had been asking colleagues to help him choose a word that could focus public attention on the environmental threats posed by the mechanical destruction of coastlines and other natural habitats. After all, he reasoned, for centuries the word "pollution" had referred to the abominable sins of desecrating churches and defiling one's self. It was no coincidence, Cousteau thought, that the environmental movement took off just when the word "pollution" entered the popular lexicon as a grim description of poisons poured into air and water. For Cousteau, the French word saccage -- meaning plunder, pillage, looting -- described the sack of the coastlines as vividly as it did the sack of Rome. This became a...