Alan Weisman Discusses 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 his 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 ½ 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 21 countries to ask four questions that experts agreed were 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.
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