cover image Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

Alan Weisman. Little, Brown, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-09775-8

In this follow-up to The World Without Us, journalist Weisman visits more than 20 countries to explore four urgent questions. How many people can our planet hold? Is it in our own best interest to limit population growth? Which species are essential to our survival? And how can we design a prosperous economy that does not depend on endless growth and consumption? Weisman argues that this will be the century in which we must manage our population, “or nature will do it for us in the form of famine, thirst... crashing ecosystems, and wars over dwindling resources.” To seek answers, he visits some of the planet’s most overcrowded regions, including the Philippines, Niger, and India—with its “archetypal new megalopolis,” Mumbai, swollen beyond comprehension at 21 million. He also visits countries that have slowed their population growth (Iran and Thailand), and those whose populations are dwindling, such as Japan. Weisman interviews Catholic clerics; Buddhist monks; biologists, including Paul Erlich (The Population Bomb); physicists, demographers; and others. He also analyzes the repercussions of China’s one-child policy; the Haber-Bosch fertilization method that led to higher food yields; and the chronic malnourishment afflicting one billion people today. Provocative and sobering, this vividly reported book raises profound concerns about our future. (Sept.)