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Let us count the people
on August 15, 2014
Being totally confused by the climate debate, I’ve found this book by Weisman a very refreshing and comprehensive survey of the earth’s environmental problems. It’s always been a puzzle to me that the climate debate fixates on the use of fossil fuels, which are after all, are a secondary or dependent process. Its people that create greenhouse gases, and fossil fuels are just one issue. Weisman understands this dynamic very well and explores it fully in Countdown. Population growth leads to depletion of resources and pollution: The more people that populate the earth, the bigger the problem.
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.