Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation Paperback – December 1, 2012
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
The desire for families is built into our genes; and since people have a right to reproduce, more people living a more abundant life is a perennial hope. But seven billion and escalating to ten or twelve? Too many people is arguably the most serious problem on the world agenda―for the adverse effects on human flourishing, on land health, and on biodiversity. . . . Cafaro and Crist have gathered much of the best recent work analyzing these daunting issues. In the new millennium no one can claim to be well educated, or moral, without facing ‘life on the brink.’(Holmes Rolston III Colorado State University)
For decades, overpopulation deniers have claimed that those who advocate population stabilization or reduction do so to retain privileges; are motivated by racist, sexist, or colonialist views; or do not understand economics. Life on the Brink courageously argues that intelligent and compassionate action in our world demands that we reduce our numbers as quickly and humanely as possible. Its urgent message should be widely read and acted upon.(Bron Taylor author of Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future)
In this challenging anthology, coeditors Philip Cafaro and Eileen Crist, together with some two dozen contributors, resolutely confront what until quite recently has been the 'toxic third rail' in far too many discussions of humanity's environmental past, present, and future. The book's principal concern and recurrent theme is how 'wild nature,' the totality of life's biological diversity, ecological complexity, and evolutionary dynamism, will survive and flourish in the face of a rapidly expanding global human enterprise (i.e., modern agricultural/industrial/technological civilization). As the title suggests, confronting ongoing population growth is of critical importance. Simply stated, the authors persuasively argue that global human numbers―along with excessive per capita consumption―must initially be slowed, then stabilized, and subsequently reduced as rapidly and as humanely possible to levels consistent with the earth's longer-term sustainable carrying capacity, a number that may well turn out to be in the one to three billion range.(J. Kenneth Smail professor emeritus of anthropology, Kenyon College)
Life on the Brink is a timely and valuable volume, bringing together an impressive set of cutting-edge essays by leading scholars from a wide range of disciplines. The essays address human population growth and issues associated with it from a variety of important (and all-too-often overlooked) perspectives. The work here is empirically well grounded and goes well beyond tired claims that overconsumption is the problem of the wealthy nations, while overpopulation is the problem of those that are developing, or that 'business-as-usual' development alone will inevitably lead to a desirable outcome for the human population. Cafaro and Crist have brought together a volume that will be of great interest for any scholars working on development, population, and environmental issues; indeed, most all of the essays would also be very useful in advanced undergraduate or graduate courses in these areas.(Jason Kawall associate professor of philosophy and environmental studies, Colgate University)
[Life on the Brink] provides evidence that the world’s populations must listen to its scientists/researchers and take action to save Earth. Its poignant message makes it an important resource for all students.(Choice)
Any environmental science or social issues collection will find Life on the Brink packs in much food for classroom discussion, debate, and thought.(Midwest Book Review)
All of the diverse threats to biological diversity are ultimately caused by an increasing human population and a rising standard of living. In Life on the Brink, the authors ask us to consider that the major environmental, social, and economic problems of the world could be dealt with more easily if the human population stabilized or even began to shrink. This is a bold statement by leaders who are not afraid of speaking the truth about how to protect nature.(Richard B. Primack author of Essentials of Conservation Biology)
About the Author
Philip Cafaro is a professor of philosophy at Colorado State University. His books include "Virtue Ethics and the Environment" and "Thoreau s Living Ethics: Walden and the Pursuit of Virtue" (Georgia). Eileen Crist is an associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society at Virginia Tech. Her books include "Gaia in Turmoil: Climate Change, Biodepletion, and Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis.""
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Editors Philip Cafaro and Eileen Crist have gathered together essays from virtually everyone who is anyone in the population movement today, not least the above-mentioned Paul (with Anne) Ehrlich as well as William Catton Jnr. But we hear also from the great Al Bartlett, Lester Brown, William Ryerson, Leon Kolankiewicz, Martha Campbell, Dave Forman, Bob Engelman and a host of others. Every contribution is worth reading.
Cafaro is a philosopher and it is reflected in his own beautifully written contributions including the epilogue where he considers whether humanity is a cancer on the earth. Perhaps it prompted the recent comment by British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough that humans are a plague upon the Earth. Whether it did or not, reading this book will leave you concluding that indeed we, with our excessive numbers, are a cancer or a plague. As the editors themselves and many contributors point out, population growth is a major driver of ecological destruction. This not only affects other species, it affects us for we are wholly dependent on the planet's natural processes for providing us with life's necessities: clean air and water, food, pollination and a liveable climate.
But that is not to say it is all depressing. Amy Gulick in a wonderful essay called 'Salmon in the Trees' describes the pristine wilderness of Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska where salmon have come to spawn and die, bears gather to feed on the salmon and bald eagles fly overhead. 'When the cycle of life is whole, so are we,' she writes. 'If we can change our relationship with Earth, we can change our population so as not to damage our life-support systems.'
It may be too late, of course, to turn the population ship Titanic around before we lose thousands of species in this, the sixth great mass extinction. Let's hope not. Certainly, this excellent book will help inform the public and decision-makers that we need to act to end population growth, and we need to do it now.
Philip Cafaro is a diamond in the rough of academics who don't know a pen from a microphone. It too bad he still doesn't know what proper marketing is.
In one popular version of Chief Seattle's letter it says:
This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
With the increasing urbanization and technological gadgetry that occupies our lives, it is easy to forget this simple truth. The rich biodiversity and wildness of the world is disappearing at an alarming rate. It high time to move beyond the political correctness so often associated with social justice movements such as now found in the current immigration debate and speak to how population, combined with consumption, is affecting our world. While the authors of the various essays that comprise this book are compassionate towards the plight of others, they present a clear-sighted recognition of the necessity to take action against a mindless wave of increasing population within the borders of the United States as well as the daunting challenges faced by an ever increasing global population.
Birth rates may be dropping but worldwide population numbers are still rising by 70 to 80 million people annually. We have already done sufficient damage to the planet to alter the climate with current population levels, just imagine what we could do with several billion more people in the foreseeable future.
The earth is not just a resource to feed our insatiable economy. Beyond an anthropocentric point of view, beyond a liberal egalitarian social justice point of view, the denizens of the earth have an inherent right to life and our lives are the richer for it.
This book makes the case for a viable population level that secures and enhances the diversity of life on the earth--a diversity that not only makes all life possible, but allows the human citizens of the Earth to experience the wonder and awe that can be found in nature and, with it, an experience of Mystery.