In his bestselling book The World Without Us, Homelands co-founder 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.
With a million more of us every 4½ days on a planet that’s not getting any bigger, 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 the 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?
By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative existence, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance. The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful.
Countdown was the winner of the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for science writing, the 2013 Paris Book Festival Prize for nonfiction, the 2014 Nautilus Gold Book Award, and the Population Institute’s 2014 Global Media Award for best book. It was a finalist for the Orion Prize and the Books for a Better Life Award.
“[Countdown] details the burgeoning effects that human population growth has on our environment. Weisman reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable way of balancing this impact.” – Mother Earth News
“Alan Weisman’s comprehensive and wide-ranging Countdown is the best, most important book on this vital topic in years and demands to be read by all.” – Edd Doerr, Secular Humanist
“[Countdown] takes the reader on an exploratory global tour with Weisman to see how different cultures, religions, nationalities and tribes view childbearing and population growth and how they are coping with increasing strains on cropland, water supply, biodiversity and public health… I’d recommend it to teachers, students, or anyone looking to learn more about our rapidly growing world while enjoying a page-turner with a diverse cast of characters.” – Population Education
“Please read this book. Take your time. You will weep and yet be cheered. As Alan said when he was here in Minneapolis, ‘there are saints out there’ so let’s support what they are doing and gain a little grace, each one of us.” – Louise Erdrich
“Alan Weisman’s Countdown is rich, subtle and elaborate. His magisterial work should be the first port of call for anyone interested in the relationship between population and the environment… It’s a tightly argued, fast-paced adventure that crosses the planet in search of contrasts.” – Literary Review
“His gift as a writer with a love of science is in drawing links for readers on how everything in our world is connected – in this case, population, consumption and the environment…The pleasure in reading Countdown is in the interplay of interviews with experts and with everyday working people around the world, all trying to figure out the size of family they want. Even the experts reveal themselves as a humane and committed lot.” – The Toronto Star
“Countdown is a gripping narrative by a fair-minded investigative journalist who interviewed dozens of scientists and experts in various fields in 21 countries. “ – Wall Street Journal
“Weisman makes a powerful case that the best way to manage the global population is by empowering women, through both education and access to contraception – so that they can make more informed choices about family size and the kind of lives they want for themselves and their children.” – Mother Jones
“He makes a strong case for slowing global population growth – and even for reducing overall population numbers – as a prerequisite for achieving a sustainable future…. Weisman’s emphasis on expanding access to contraception as the next-best strategy is both pragmatic and workable, as past efforts have shown. It is to be hoped that his message may be heeded sooner rather than later.” – Nature
“If, as Weisman posits, population growth is inextricably linked in today’s world with national security, what’s the solution? One answer on offer is through family planning development initiatives and women’s empowerment.” – US News and World Report
“A must read for all those who are concerned about the human prospect.” – The Huffington Post
“Spirited descriptions, a firm grasp of complex material, and a bomb defuser’s steady precision make for a riveting read…. Weisman’s cogent and forthright global inquiry, a major work, delineates how education, women’s equality, and family planning can curb poverty, thirst, hunger, and environmental destruction. Rigorous and provoking.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“This is not a jeremiad but a realistic, vividly detailed exploration of the greatest problem facing our species.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Provocative and sobering, this vividly reported book raises profound concerns about our future.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)