September 2013 Hardcover
Alan Weisman, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?
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 4½ 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 four questions that experts agreed were the probably the most important on Earth — and also the hardest. Yet, he figured, we must try to answer them, if we want to have a world with us.
In Countdown, Weisman explores the complexity of calculating how many humans this planet can hold without capsizing. He 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. He asks if we can determine how robust the Earth’s ecosystem must be to assure our continued existence, and whether we can know which other species are essential to our survival. And, he inquires how we might design an economy for a shrinking and finally stable population, to have genuine prosperity without endless 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. Alan 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alan Weisman is the best-selling author of The World Without Us, and an award-winning journalist whose reports have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Discover, and on NPR, among others. 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. His essay “Earth Without People” (Discover magazine, February 2005), on which The World Without Us expands, was selected for Best American Science Writing 2006, and he is interviewed frequently about how humans exist on the planet.
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