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The Coming Population Crash: and Our Planet's Surprising Future

28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807085837
ISBN-10: 0807085839
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Demography is destiny. But not always in the way we imagine, begins Pearce (When the Rivers Run Dry) in his fascinating analysis of how global population trends have shaped, and been shaped by, political and cultural shifts. He starts with Robert Malthus, whose concept of overpopulation—explicitly of the uneducated and poor classes—and depleted resources influenced two centuries of population and environmental theory, from early eugenicists (including Margaret Sanger) to the British colonial administrators presiding over India and Ireland. Pearce examines the roots of the incipient crash in global population in decades of mass sterilizations and such government interventions as Mao's one child program. Many nations are breeding at less then replacement numbers (including not only the well-publicized crises in Western Europe and Japan, but also Iran, Australia, South Africa, and possibly soon China and India). Highly readable and marked by first-class reportage, Pearce's book also highlights those at the helm of these vastly influential decisions—the families themselves, from working-class English families of the industrial revolution to the young women currently working in the factories of Bangladesh. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Angst about overpopulation has been a staple of apocalyptic prediction since Thomas Malthus warned in the early 1800s of too many mouths and too little food. The worry is essentially unjustified, maintains Pearce, who critiques Malthus and his successors in a work perhaps most pertinent to environmentalists. For he is one in good standing as author of many books about climate change (When the Rivers Run Dry, 2006), and he recognizes that environmentalists have been in the forefront of population-control advocacy at least since the publication of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1969). Pearce makes his case on the grounds of demography, beginning with a historical review that emphasizes promoters of controlling the number of births, namely eugenicists and contraceptive campaigners. A world traveler, Pearce visits regions of undeniably high contemporary population growth—India, Bangladesh, and Africa—and adduces anecdotes to support the statistical trends that he describes. The signs all point toward world population cresting soon, with Pearce citing declining fertility rates, aging baby boomers, and migration in this optimistic perspective. --Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807085839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807085837
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,237,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Fred Pearce, author of The New Wild, is an award-winning author and journalist based in London. He has reported on environmental, science, and development issues from eighty-five countries over the past twenty years. Environment consultant at New Scientist since 1992, he also writes regularly for the Guardian newspaper and Yale University's prestigious e360 website. Pearce was voted UK Environment Journalist of the Year in 2001 and CGIAR agricultural research journalist of the year in 2002, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the Association of British Science Writers in 2011. His many books include With Speed and Violence, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner, The Coming Population Crash, and The Land Grabbers.

Photo Copyright Photographer Name: Fred Pearce, 2012.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By toadhall2 on August 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book for readers interested in the future of the planet and how population will effect our world yet in a way it is deeply flawed. Its strength lies in the color it provides in humanizing and understanding the factors effecting population growth and birth rates and how varied different societies are. If one were to look at world population as a beach Pearce samples different grains of sand from Bombay slums to Israeli Hasidic communities providing a loving understanding of what makes them what they are. The weakness of the book is that after examining the grains of sand he doesn't discuss the beach. The author is so afraid that the reader will, like Malthus, demonize the poor that he devotes less than a page to world population forecasts and the possible consequences. Pearce is also quick to find racism in every movement that concerned itself with population growth from planned parenthood to the Sierra club.

It is interesting and well written so I recommend it but a more balanced approach to the implications of current population trends would have been nice.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Chris Bystroff on July 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fred Pearce has written a wonderfully readable and information-packed analysis of the untouchable population issue. It deserves praise for breaking the ice, allowing the ugly truth to surface. Demography is demonstrated as a powerful explanatory force, and a guide to policy making in the making, if we will only pay it attention. I can't say enough good about this book. My only criticism is of the optimistic undercurrent of the book, a property that other reviewers have lauded but which in my opinion sweeps truth at last exposed back under the rug. In several sections I cringed as Pearce time and again boarded the train of politically correct. "Multhusian doomsters" are evil eugenicists, confusing the mathematics of exponential growth with a matter of opinion. The Irish potato famine could not have been "Malthusian" says Pearce, because the blight still would have killed a smaller Ireland. A less than impartial Pearce places the blame on Britain's response to the crisis, and not on the origins and dangers of a potato monoculture. Opposition to immigration is viewed as "nasty stuff", missing the connection between Hardin's "Tragedy of the commons" and a world without effective borders. I would have loved it if Pearce had withheld judgment on the so-called Malthusians, which in my mind are just believers in math. But I admit, a storyline without a "bad guy" is not nearly as compelling.

It is true that there are reasons to be optimistic, but optimism itself, spreading like chain mail, can defuse the pessimism that has led to smaller families.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By N. Perz on July 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most of the book is a history of birth control, famine, and migration. For a book that is supposed to be about the future, most of the chapters are about the past. The last few chapters flirt with future predictions but, over all, the book is insubstantial. While the thesis is interesting--that we are headed for a population crash after the present surge--the presentation is superficial. When I bought this, I had hoped for something with more meat on the bones...

Not recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John F. Rebello on August 8, 2013
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The Coming Population Crash and Our Planet’s Surprising Future is an informative and engaging read. Pearce demonstrates a commanding awareness of the multifaceted issues involved in the population debate. He skillfully attempts to defuse potential critics, especially of the environmental ilk, by fully acknowledging many of their concerns: deforestation, decreasing levels of fresh water, etc., followed by examples or explanations of why these concerns are ill-founded or can be successfully overcome with the proper technological advancements. Pearce does project an optimistic tone throughout the book—citing a decreasing birth rate, scientific advances such as the Green Revolution, and land restoration—even as he admits that skillful decisions still need to be made if we are to avoid dire consequences as we proceed into an ever more challenging future. He writes, “humans don’t always get things right.”

Of the two generally agreed upon root issues underlying negative environmental impact, increasing population and increasing consumption, Pearce concludes that “consumption is the greater peril.” This view exposes Pearce’s bias that population is not really a problem, in part because the world birthrate has been decreasing and, in part, because of our ability to solve problems via the technological solution. (And, there is a third part that I will get to momentarily.) There is reason to doubt his assessment, though. Philip Cafaro relates in his essay, “Human Population Growth as If the Rest of Life Mattered,” “Given the difficulties of getting 300 million Americans to curb their consumption, there is no reason to think we will be able to achieve sustainability with two, three, or four times as many Americans”.
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