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Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? Hardcover – September 24, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 190 ratings

New from Used from
Hardcover, September 24, 2013
$13.92 $2.49

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*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


"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

Countdownis 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." --

"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." --

"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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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Little, Brown and Company; First Edition (September 24, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 528 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0316097756
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316097758
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.8 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.38 x 1.63 x 9.63 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 190 ratings

About the author

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Author of the critically acclaimed New

York Times best seller The World

Without Us, Alan Weisman is an

award-winning journalist whose reports

have appeared in HarperÄôs, the New

York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly,

Discover, and Orion, among others,

and on National Public Radio. A former

contributing editor to the Los Angeles

Times Magazine, he is a senior radio

producer for Homelands Productions

and teaches international journalism at

the University of Arizona. He lives in

western Massachusetts.

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
190 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on August 15, 2014
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Reviewed in the United States on December 22, 2013
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Top reviews from other countries

Katherine McGrail
4.0 out of 5 stars Grim subject, entertaining, informative read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 5, 2015
3 people found this helpful
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A. Travis
5.0 out of 5 stars will give them a better life. Sounds simple and it could be
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 8, 2014
2 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 8, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars 400 Seiten Quark
Reviewed in Germany on April 7, 2022
Nelson Paul Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow - read this about population and people and pollution
Reviewed in Canada on September 7, 2018