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

4.5 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316097756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316097758
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Smawley VINE VOICE on September 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Different people appreciate books according to their own tastes, still, I'm puzzled by a couple of the reviews published at this time of COUNTDOWN: OUR LAST, BEST HOPE FOR A FUTURE ON EARTH. I found this book fascinating. This book isn't meant to be a story in the traditional sense; it was written to provide information, although in my opinion, the information covered is as illuminating as any story! Mr. Weisman basically covers the population explosion and the problems of feeding several billion more people. To make the point, he travels the world investigating how cultures within various countries deal with population problems. He frames this information within the historical context of that particular culture. It would appear that any meaningful discussion about population would have to place that discussion within historical, cultural, religious and other contexts. Otherwise, how can birth control, just for instance, be discussed especially since some religions forbid it. Or allow more than one wife. And it clearly matters if a family needs 10 or more children to work the fields or if the family lives in a city with both parents having an understanding that one or two children are more than manageable.

Mr. Weisman also discusses problems evident due to the number of people thriving (or not) at this time. He then points out what could happen in the future if human growth continues. He deals with both water and food issues because the question is totally valid: what will happen when the water runs out? How will we feed several billion more people.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
(NOTE: PLEASE click on read more" to read the entire review!)

I have waited so long for Weisman's follow up to The World Without Us. I was so eager for a book that I could use with my high school juniors and seniors who opt for my Environmental Science course - a book that would explain how all of the issues that they are passionate about, i.e., global warming, climate change, air pollution, water pollution, over fishing et al are rooted in one problem: the human population explosion. If anyone could tell this story, I expected that Alan Weisman could. After all, he had held my sophomores' attention through the conjectural regeneration that followed human demise. I couldn't wait to read his synthesis of the current state of our planet. Alas - this is not the book for my students. In fact, I wonder who the audience for this book will be. I suggest a professional association of editors. I hate to say it, but Countdown is a mess.

You know when you start reading a book, you immediately get a sense of what you're in for? About 10 pages into the book, I saw the flashing yellow lights in my mind's eye. "Uh-oh. This is meandering quite a bit". Weissman starts the book by examining birth rates in that crucible of human existence, the Middle East. In the first seven pages, Weissman recites a historical litany of facts from King Solomon, the Wailing Wall, the 10 commandments, Ramadan, Yasser Arafat's "biology bomb", ultra orthodox haredi, Egyptian bondage of the Jews, miraculous plagues that related God to nature, Zionism and Jesus' miracle wit loaves and fishes. This leads up to the first of a new set of Four Questions (think Passover haggadah) which is "How many people can their land really hold?" This is a good fundamental, relevant question to ask.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If I see an interesting book I put it on my wish list, and I'd had Weisman's previous book, The World Without Us, on there for almost a year when I decided in August 2013, to order and read it. I'd just finished it, and was very impressed, when this book was offered to Vine reviewers.

I don't know what the other reviewers expected when they got Countdown. To me, The World Without Us leads up to this book. Yes, it has a lot of material, and yes, it appears disjointed, but that is the nature of its subject - overpopulation. Everyone in the world seems to have an opinion - should we use birth control or encourage people to have as many children as possible? Can we make people change their crops to something that produces more food?

Weisman has travelled the world for two years to interview large numbers of people. Most of them have strong feelings - the mayor of an African town who has several wives and sired over 30 children, the man who encouraged birth control over all of Thailand, and experts on the subject who appear to have little doubt that we're heading towards a crisis. The general opinion is that in 2050 we will have ten billion people - and that's on the same earth as we have now. The three billion extra people will want more food and will create more waste products that destroy the earth, but none of the world's leaders seems focused on this eventuality.

That's why so many voices need to be heard - every one of us has the power to change the amount of population in the world, but of course we only see our immediate society.
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