Countdown: Book summary and reviews of Countdown by Alan Weisman

Countdown

Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

By Alan Weisman

Countdown
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    528 pages.

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Book Summary

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 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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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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. Spirited descriptions, a firm grasp of complex material, and a bomb defuser's steady precision make for a riveting read." - Booklist

"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

"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

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Author Information

Alan Weisman Author Biography

Alan Weisman is 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. His books include The World Without Us, An Echo in My Blood: The Search for a Family's Hidden Past, Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, and La Frontera: The United States Border with Mexico.

Alan Weisman lives with his wife, sculptor Beckie Kravetz, in ...

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