- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books (May 6, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316097748
- ISBN-13: 978-0316097741
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #240,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? Paperback – May 6, 2014
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*Starred Review* Intrepid planetary journalist Weisman put our minds in a whirl with his best-selling The World without Us (2007), a vivid projection of what would happen if humankind suddenly vanished. Here he asks a really tough question: What will happen on the warming earth if our population continues to grow? Aware that population control is a treacherous subject, Weisman boldly traveled to more than 20 diverse countries, from India to Italy to Japan, instigating remarkably candid conversations with religious leaders, scientists, and public-health experts. Spirited descriptions, a firm grasp of complex material, and a bomb defuser’s steady precision make for a riveting read as Weisman takes a close look at China’s one-child policy and the religious and political imperatives responsible for large Palestinian and ultra-Orthodox Jewish families in Jerusalem in spite of scarce resources. In stricken Niger, he talks with two brothers, both imams. One says “man cannot hold back doomsday”; the other actively supports the use of contraception. In Uganda, he discovers the connection between family planning, wildlife protection, and economy-boosting ecotourism. 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. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"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)
"Rousing." -- Ihsan Taylor, New York Times Book Review's "Paperback Row"
"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
"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
"A frenzied barnstormer of a book.... Countdown is a chaotic stew of big stories, bold ideas and conflicted characters, punctuated by moments of quiet grace--just like our people-packed planet." -- Scientific American
"A hugely impressive piece of reportage, a cacophony of voices from across the world." -- Washington Post
"Rousing, urgent.... By exploring and integrating the lessons from cultures the world over, Weisman has been able to provide a blueprint that will ultimately benefit the planet as a whole. "Countdown" is a timely, essential, and hopeful work - one that suggests compassion in place of consumption and promises a return to an equilibrium that will prove a veritable windfall for humans, non-humans, and ecosystems alike." -- The Oregonian
"Countdown is a gripping narrative by a fair-minded investigative journalist who interviewed dozens of scientists and experts in various fields in 21 countries. He also scoured the literature to deliver not so much a doomsday narrative but a warning followed by the practical solution employed by various countries to get control of their population." -- Wall Street Journal
"He makes a strong case for slowing global population growth-and even for reducing overall population numbers-as a prerequisite for achieving a sustainable future...Weisman's book...offers hope... Weisman's emphasis on expanding access to contraception as the next-best strategy is both pragmatic and workable, as past efforts have shown. It is to be hoped that his message may be heeded sooner rather than later." -- Nature
"Weisman's stories--from his travel to contemporary Israel and Palestine, where reproducing is a form of warfare, to histories of family planning in Asia and South America--are fascinating and often chilling." -- Slate
"Weisman reminds us that when the experts are worried, we should pay attention." -- Los Angeles Times
"Weisman's gift as a writer with a love of science is in drawing links for readers on how everything in our world is connected - in this case, population, consumption and the environment.... The pleasure in reading Countdown is in the interplay of interviews with experts and with everyday working people around the world, all trying to figure out the size of family they want." -- Toronto Star
"[Weisman] found vivid, real-world portraits of what overpopulation portends." -- Men's Journal
"Alan Weisman's Countdown is rich, subtle and elaborate. His magisterial work should be the first port of call for anyone interested in the relationship between population and the environment...It's a tightly argued, fast-paced adventure that crosses the plant in search of contrasts." -- Literary Review
"While it is very much an alarming assessment, it is not without some genuine hope...It's a must read for all those who are concerned about the human prospect." -- Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute
"Weisman's anecdotes and explanations...draw a clear picture.... Countdown asks the hard questions." -- Shelf Awareness
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Weisman also explains the futile cycle whereby the successes of science lead to population growth that ultimately saturate the availability of food & water, which propels further advances in science which leads to further population growth… And science leads to its own unique problems: Some of the world’s most important crops depend on a single seed type. But recall Ireland’s potato famine—a single seed type leaves the crop vulnerable to widespread infestation. Also, modern day soil management can lead to a depletion in fertility, as has occurred in the Indian Punjab. But these are just a few of the examples Weisman covers in this book. The point is that controlling carbon emissions will not by itself save the planet: Environmental problems are much more complicated, and a full appreciation of the problems requires a more comprehensive discussion.
Readers will find much this book illuminating, along with much that can be disputed. I recommend further reading:
The Ecology of Commerce Revised Edition: A Declaration of Sustainability by Paul Hawken
Cadillac Desert, the American West and its Disappearing Water, by Marc Reisner.
Though Scorned by Colleagues, a Climate-Change Skeptic Is Unbowed by Michael Wines July 15, 2014, the New York Times
How to Talk about Climate Change so People Will Listen, by Charles C. Mann, September 2014, The Atlantic, page 86.
He doesn't just cover the environmental and social disasters. He also shows the solutions that have been tried and are still being worked on, from family planning to conservation, plant genetics to education.
Read this book and finally see what's around you. Or else wait for the reality version of a zombie apocalypse.
He also presented our ultimate challenge: How can we motivate people to care about future generations enough to act responsibly in the present?
Do the world a favor, breed responsibly. Stop at one. Two if you must.