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Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? (2013)
by Alan Weisman
No current Talk conversations about this book.
A somber yet fulfilling read that everyone ought to read. Though I suspect most would rather drive over the cliff's edge unwittingly and suffer the consequences dramatically. ( )
The main point of the book is simple: if we want to save our planet we need to get human population growth reversed and under control, which, in turn, most likely, is going to benefit all other effects on nature and resource abuse. The solutions presented are also simple and in many countries already quite successful, but of course birth control across the world is easier said than done. However, the examples of when it is not working are eye opening and when it is working are dazzling, and the evidence that individuals with a passion can make a difference is amazing. If you want to learn about different cultures around the world and how they deal with overpopulation, this is a must-read.
This primarily looks at human overpopulation of our planet. How can we survive? What do we need to do and how do we do it? Weisman looks at different countries, communities, cultures... Some are ones that have promoted large families. In some cases, some countries are reaching or have already reached their limit of what their country or area can realistically support – what have they done/are doing to help with this?
This was interesting, certainly a topic that many consider taboo, but really is one of the biggest issues when it comes to the issues with our planet’s environment (the other one being consumerism... which, of course, is amplified with a larger world population). Have to admit, though, it took a long time for me to read; it did help that a good chunk of it at the end was references.
As the title suggests, I think it's important that we strive to continue learning new things. If you read Countdown you're sure to do just that. The book's title sounds rather ominous but the topic broached within its pages isn't fictional or even "this is a scenario dreamed up by the author with enough facts to make it sound plausible". No, the notion that there are too many humans jammed onto this planet draining the limited resources is one that most of us are aware of if not actively concerned about. Homo sapiens has fairly swarmed across the globe gobbling up as much arable land as possible and watering that land through any means necessary. The problem is we're stuck in a cycle. We have so many mouths to feed so we need to grow more food which means depleting more resources and using up more space. However, the more food we put in those mouths and the more we advance medically the more bodies there are to take up space and consume more food and create more bodies and...you get where I'm going with this. I have vaguely thought about this before and wondered what the Earth could realistically sustain while we destroy habitats and cause entire species to go extinct. Where is the line? Have we crossed it already? READ THIS BOOK. I was so impressed by Weisman that I've already downloaded The World Without Us in which he conducts a thought experiment about what would happen to the planet if all of humanity were wiped out. O_O That'll be down the road because I have another title that's practically begging to be read.
Countdown is a brave and important book. Overpopulation and population control is a minefield. It's personally emotional and controversial. Yet Weisman deals humanely with an issue that is the global elephant in the room. Nearly every problem facing humanity can be solved by reducing population. And the technology is low tech, cheap and available now: voluntary family planning (condoms, access to safe abortion, education, etc). Country by country Weisman travels the world looking at how different places have dealt with population, the consequences and the predictions. He looks at shrinking countries like Japan, and expanding places like Pakistan which is predicted to have more people than the entire USA, but in an area the size of Texas - with nuclear arms.
The book has made a real change in how I view things like global warming, species loss, wars, water scarcity and other large-scale existential threats to humanity. No matter what we do to fix the problem - another green revolution, solving global warming - it kicks the can down the road because without a reduction in population new constraints will appear. Population is the #1 problem and solution. Weisman is the master of asking good questions and he doesn't always have answers but he does make you think and consider and provide the information. This hour long presentation by Weisman gives a good overview of some key points.
Weisman visits more than 20 countries and interviews countless local scientists, families and policy directors, but the problem is always the same: There are too many people. The culprits are modern medicine, which has caused life expectancy in the last two centuries to nearly double; innovations in agronomy, which have dramatically increased global food production; and a failure to provide contraception to women.
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (1)
A powerful investigation into the chances for humanity's future from the author of the bestseller The World Without Us. In his bestselling book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman considered how the Earth could heal and even refill empty niches if relieved of humanity's constant pressures. Behind that groundbreaking thought experiment was his hope that we would be inspired to find a way to add humans back to this vision of a restored, healthy planet-only in harmony, not mortal combat, with the rest of nature. But with a million more of us every 4 1/2 days on a planet that's not getting any bigger, and with our exhaust overheating the atmosphere and altering the chemistry of the oceans, prospects for a sustainable human future seem ever more in doubt. For this long awaited follow-up book, Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth -- and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth's ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth? Weisman visits an extraordinary range of the world's cultures, religions, nationalities, tribes, and political systems to learn what in their beliefs, histories, liturgies, or current circumstances might suggest that sometimes it's in their own best interest to limit their growth. The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful. By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative presence, Countdown reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance. Weisman again shows that he is one of the most provocative journalists at work today, with a book whose message is so compelling that it will change how we see our lives and our destiny.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)304.2Social sciences Social Sciences Factors affecting social behavior Human ecology
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