The Wizard and the Prophet Summary and Reviews

The Wizard and the Prophet

Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World

by Charles C. Mann

The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann X
The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann

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Book Summary

From the best-selling, award-winning author of 1491 and 1493 - an incisive portrait of the two little-known twentieth-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, whose diametrically opposed views shaped our ideas about the environment, laying the groundwork for how people in the twenty-first century will choose to live in tomorrow's world.

In forty years, Earth's population will reach ten billion. Can our world support that? What kind of world will it be? Those answering these questions generally fall into two deeply divided groups - Wizards and Prophets, as Charles Mann calls them in this balanced, authoritative, nonpolemical new book.

The Prophets, he explains, follow William Vogt, a founding environmentalist who believed that in using more than our planet has to give, our prosperity will lead us to ruin. Cut back! was his mantra. Otherwise everyone will lose!

The Wizards are the heirs of Norman Borlaug, whose research, in effect, wrangled the world in service to our species to produce modern high-yield crops that then saved millions from starvation. Innovate! was Borlaug's cry. Only in that way can everyone win!

Mann delves into these diverging viewpoints to assess the four great challenges humanity faces - food, water, energy, climate change - grounding each in historical context and weighing the options for the future. With our civilization on the line, the author's insightful analysis is an essential addition to the urgent conversation about how our children will fare on an increasingly crowded Earth.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An insightful, highly significant account that makes no predictions but lays out the critical environmental problems already upon us." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. Without taking sides, Mann delivers a fine examination of two possible paths to a livable future." - Publishers Weekly

"The contrast is stark - technological wizardry or romantic prophecy as a lens to view the future path for the planet and humanity. Charles Mann provides a deeply corrugated, richly nuanced, and highly entertaining narrative to make sense of the most consequential decisions facing civilization. Read, think, and enjoy." - Ruth deFries, author of The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis

"Brilliantly conceived and executed, Charles Mann's The Wizard and the Prophet is the book I have long awaited - thoughtful, balanced and unbiased - to understand the  challenges that humanity will face as the twenty-first century progresses." – Gary Taubes, author of The Case Against Sugar 

"The Wizard and the Prophet is a fascinating portrait of two men who probably shaped your thinking about the future, whether you realize it or not. Charles Mann proves, once again, a masterful storyteller." – Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction

"A rich, elegant, ferociously readable study of our global quandary. Among the many excellent things Charles C. Mann does in The Wizard and the Prophet is give us a fresh, and wholly unexpected, way of understanding today's political divide." - Russell Shorto, author of Revolution Song

"Never preachy nor dogmatic, Mann asks his readers to do the most difficult thing possible: choose a path to a better world, by consulting your own conscience." - Annalee Newitz, editor, Ars Technica

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Author Information

Charles C. Mann Author Biography

Photo © J.D. Sloan

Charles C. Mann is a correspondent for Science and The Atlantic Monthly, and has co-written several previous books including Noah's Choice: The Future of Endangered Species and The Second Creation. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he has won awards from the American Bar Association, the Margaret Sanger Foundation, the American Institute of Physics, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among others. In 2005 his book 1491: New Revelation of the Americas Before Columbus was released and in 2011, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. His writing was selected for The Best American Science Writing 2003 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003. He lives with his wife and their children in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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