Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?
By Alan Weisman
Back Bay Books, Paperback, 9780316097741, 528pp.
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
A powerful investigation into the chances for humanity's future from the author of the bestseller The World Without Us.
In his bestselling book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman considered how the Earth could heal and even refill empty niches if relieved of humanity's constant pressures. Behind that groundbreaking thought experiment was his hope that we would be inspired to find a way to add humans back to this vision of a restored, healthy planet-only in harmony, not mortal combat, with the rest of nature.
But with a million more of us every 4 1/2 days on a planet that's not getting any bigger, and with our exhaust overheating the atmosphere and altering the chemistry of the oceans, prospects for a sustainable human future seem ever more in doubt. For this long awaited follow-up book, Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth--and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth's ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth?
Weisman visits an extraordinary range of the world's cultures, religions, nationalities, tribes, and political systems to learn what in their beliefs, histories, liturgies, or current circumstances might suggest that sometimes it's in their own best interest to limit their growth. The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful.
By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative presence, Countdown reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance. Weisman again shows that he is one of the most provocative journalists at work today, with a book whose message is so compelling that it will change how we see our lives and our destiny.
Praise for Countdown
"Spirited descriptions, a firm grasp of complex material, and a bomb defuser's steady precision make for a riveting read... Weisman's cogent and forthright global inquiry, a major work, delineates how education, women's equality, and family planning can curb poverty, thirst, hunger, and environmental destruction. Rigorous and provoking, Countdown will generate numerous media appearances for Weisman and spur many a debate." -- Booklist (starred review)
"Provocative and sobering, this vividly reported book raises profound concerns about our future." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Weisman offers heart-rending portrayals of nations already suffering demographic collapse... A realistic, vividly detailed exploration of the greatest problem facing our species." -- Kirkus (starred review)
"Unflinching and ready for anything, Weisman's Countdown tackles the biggest question facing not only us, but every other living thing on earth. How many people can there be on the earth? Written with extraordinary clarity, without all the arm-waving and doomsaying that seems to kill the conversation, his firsthand tour of the globe offers both worst case scenarios and the most hopeful futures we can imagine." -- Craig Childs, author of Apocalyptic Planet and House of Rain
"[Weisman] found vivid, real-world portraits of what overpopulation portends." -- Men's Journal
"Countdown converts globetrotting research into flowing journalism, highlighting a simple truth: there are, quite plainly, too many of us. A world that understands Weisman's words will understand the pressing need for change." -- Bill Streever, author of Cold and Heat
Praise for The World Without Us
"Prodigious and impressive." -- Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Alan Weisman has produced, if not a bible, at least a Book of Revelation." -- Newsweek
"Extraordinarily farsighted. A beautiful and passionate jeremiad against deforestation, climate change, and pollution." -- Boston Globe
"I don't think I've read a better non-fiction book this year." -- Lev Grossman, TIME Book Critic
"Brilliantly creative. An audacious intellectual adventure. His thought experiment is so intellectually fascinating, so oddly playful, that it escapes categorizing and clichés. It sucks us in with a vision of what is, what has been and what is yet to come. The book is addictive...By appealing not just to our fear and guilt but to our love for our planetary home, The World Without Us makes saving the world as intimate an act as helping a child. It's a trumpet call that sounds from the other end of the universe and from inside us all." -- Salon