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Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Alan Weisman
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Finalist, Books for a Better Life Award

"Urgent, eloquent, harrowing and yet hopeful. Everywhere, he finds the most fascinating person in a thousand miles, and makes a story out of what they tell us. Please read this book. You will weep and yet be cheered." -- Louise Erdrich, author of The Round House

"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

"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... 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, Countdown will generate numerous media appearances for Weisman and spur many a debate." -- Booklist (starred review)

"Provocative and sobering, this vividly reported book raises profound concerns about our future." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Winner of the Best Book Award from Population Institute

"A frenzied barnstormer of a book.... Countdown is a chaotic stew of big stories, bold ideas and conflicted characters, punctuated by moments of quiet grace--just like our people-packed planet." -- Scientific American

"A hugely impressive piece of reportage, a cacophony of voices from across the world." -- Washington Post

"Rousing, urgent.... By exploring and integrating the lessons from cultures the world over, Weisman has been able to provide a blueprint that will ultimately benefit the planet as a whole. "Countdown" is a timely, essential, and hopeful work - one that suggests compassion in place of consumption and promises a return to an equilibrium that will prove a veritable windfall for humans, non-humans, and ecosystems alike." -- The Oregonian

"Countdown is a gripping narrative by a fair-minded investigative journalist who interviewed dozens of scientists and experts in various fields in 21 countries. He also scoured the literature to deliver not so much a doomsday narrative but a warning followed by the practical solution employed by various countries to get control of their population." -- Wall Street Journal

"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 book...offers hope... 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

"Weisman's stories--from his travel to contemporary Israel and Palestine, where reproducing is a form of warfare, to histories of family planning in Asia and South America--are fascinating and often chilling." -- Slate

"Weisman reminds us that when the experts are worried, we should pay attention." -- Los Angeles Times

"Weisman's 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." -- Toronto Star

"[Weisman] found vivid, real-world portraits of what overpopulation portends." -- Men's Journal

"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 plant in search of contrasts." -- Literary Review

"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

"While it is very much an alarming assessment, it is not without some genuine hope...It's a must read for all those who are concerned about the human prospect." -- Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute

"Weisman's anecdotes and explanations...draw a clear picture.... Countdown asks the hard questions." -- Shelf Awareness

Présentation de l'éditeur

Every four days there are a million more people on the planet. More people and fewer resources.

In this timely work, Alan Weisman examines how we can shrink our collective human footprint so that we don't stomp any more species - including our own - out of existence. The answer: reducing gradually and non-violently the number of humans on the planet whose activities, industries and lifestyles are damaging the Earth.

Defining an optimum human population for the Earth is an explosive concept. Weisman, one of the most brilliant environmental writers, will travel the globe, from the settlements of Israel and the plains of Mexico to the bustling streets of Pakistan and the teeming cities of the UK. In his search for answers, he will speak to religious leaders, demographers, ecologists, economists, engineers and agriculturalists in what promises to be an international classic.

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5.0 étoiles sur 5
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
A superb book that uses very recent changes to our world to vividly illustrate the overwhelming need for the human race to control it's population or allow nature to do it altogether more brutally.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.5 étoiles sur 5  113 commentaires
46 internautes sur 50 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A worldwide perspective on population problems facing the planet. . . 29 septembre 2013
Par B. Smawley - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Different people appreciate books according to their own tastes, still, I'm puzzled by a couple of the reviews published at this time of COUNTDOWN: OUR LAST, BEST HOPE FOR A FUTURE ON EARTH. I found this book fascinating. This book isn't meant to be a story in the traditional sense; it was written to provide information, although in my opinion, the information covered is as illuminating as any story! Mr. Weisman basically covers the population explosion and the problems of feeding several billion more people. To make the point, he travels the world investigating how cultures within various countries deal with population problems. He frames this information within the historical context of that particular culture. It would appear that any meaningful discussion about population would have to place that discussion within historical, cultural, religious and other contexts. Otherwise, how can birth control, just for instance, be discussed especially since some religions forbid it. Or allow more than one wife. And it clearly matters if a family needs 10 or more children to work the fields or if the family lives in a city with both parents having an understanding that one or two children are more than manageable.

Mr. Weisman also discusses problems evident due to the number of people thriving (or not) at this time. He then points out what could happen in the future if human growth continues. He deals with both water and food issues because the question is totally valid: what will happen when the water runs out? How will we feed several billion more people. Regarding the rice/corn discussion, it takes a very long time to manipulate food to grow faster or taller or denser so that even growing enough rice will become ever more problematic (my own aside: GMOs are NOT a solution as is becoming more evident plus there is the worry about inserting substances in food that do not belong in food such as pesticides). Anyway, while I considered population to be a problem, I imagine many of us may simply think in terms of population based on where we live and how we eat. I found Mr. Weisman's two year journey around the world timely and I'm impressed with his accounts of those travels and his perceptions and ability to place that discussion in context of the culture. The Middle East/Israel discussion would obviously differ from a discussion of Europe, of China, of Africa, and all the other countries he visited.

I must admit I put the book down for the last time with vivid images of people falling off the earth and floating around in space for surely at some point, if we don't do something, we will become too many and weigh too much for this miracle we live on!
94 internautes sur 111 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A rambling, although interesting, inchoate mess of a book. 2 septembre 2013
Par Gengler - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
(NOTE: PLEASE click on read more" to read the entire review!)

I have waited so long for Weisman's follow up to The World Without Us. I was so eager for a book that I could use with my high school juniors and seniors who opt for my Environmental Science course - a book that would explain how all of the issues that they are passionate about, i.e., global warming, climate change, air pollution, water pollution, over fishing et al are rooted in one problem: the human population explosion. If anyone could tell this story, I expected that Alan Weisman could. After all, he had held my sophomores' attention through the conjectural regeneration that followed human demise. I couldn't wait to read his synthesis of the current state of our planet. Alas - this is not the book for my students. In fact, I wonder who the audience for this book will be. I suggest a professional association of editors. I hate to say it, but Countdown is a mess.

You know when you start reading a book, you immediately get a sense of what you're in for? About 10 pages into the book, I saw the flashing yellow lights in my mind's eye. "Uh-oh. This is meandering quite a bit". Weissman starts the book by examining birth rates in that crucible of human existence, the Middle East. In the first seven pages, Weissman recites a historical litany of facts from King Solomon, the Wailing Wall, the 10 commandments, Ramadan, Yasser Arafat's "biology bomb", ultra orthodox haredi, Egyptian bondage of the Jews, miraculous plagues that related God to nature, Zionism and Jesus' miracle wit loaves and fishes. This leads up to the first of a new set of Four Questions (think Passover haggadah) which is "How many people can their land really hold?" This is a good fundamental, relevant question to ask. The problem is that the process of getting to the question (never mind the answer itself which makes references housing, food, population densities, the Diaspora, linguistics, and the Talmud, in all of 5 (!) pages) is exhausting.

And so it goes. Encyclopedic research is thrown together in a somewhat haphazard fashion that is more confusing than enlightening. Folks who have some background in environmental science, or current events, will no doubt make the connections in their mind. I imagine that others may find this book a tough slog, thinking where is this all going? History, religions, politics, NGOs, commerce - it's all interesting. And one realizes that all these ingredients, from the human marketplace, come together in a gumbo that is killing our planet, and us. What it lacks is a unifying voice, an explicitly stated narrative to hold it all together. As it stands, the individual ever changing voices, stories, historic references, and descriptions become exhausting to read after awhile. I got through the whole book, but I had to limit my reading to 20 page sections at a time.

Obviously, Weisman is trying to lead us to the realization that human population increases have increased dramatically since the mid 19th century, and that the rate of increase is pushing us past the point of sustainability. Weissman makes the point that we may not have the time required to do anything about it at this point.

One slogs through this book hoping to glean something from this eclectic assortment of facts, anecdotes, and tropes that will provide some additional insight about what we can do, or where we are heading. On and on it goes, introducing stories about Pontifical councils, Jane Goodal and oil companies, Malthus - always Malthus -and numerous NGOs. Then the reader hits paragraphs like this one:

"In the mechanics of photosynthesis, wheat and rice are known as C3 plants - which means that the intitial building-block hydrocarbon molecules they make from the CO2 they inhale (sic) have three carbon carbon atoms. Corn and sorghum, which evolved later, are C4 plants. At a CIMMYT sister institution, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, plant geneticists are trying to rearrange the cell structure in rice leaves to kick it up from C3 to C4, which could raise its photosynthetic efficiency up to 50%. If they're successful, CIMMYT hopes that the same ploy will work with wheat. But IRRI scientists expect that it will take at least twenty years to produce commercially viable C4 rice. They also have another goal: as well as increase yields, they want to hot-rod rice with enough energy to fix its own airborne nitrogen, to lower or eliminate its dependency on synthetic fertilizer's costly fossil-fuel feedstock. Adapting any technology IRRI produces to wheat could take even longer, which doesn't help the immediate problem of feeding more Pakistanis before food wars erupt".

As a biology teacher, I take it slowly, and understand this paragraph (even the references to hot-roding, let alone the idea of fixing airborne nitrogen) but I wonder what the casual reader makes of all this? And so it goes. Acronyms - lots of acronyms - the aforementioned CIMMYT: OPT, OBE, BNP, HUGOS, CTPH, USAID, PHE, RH/FP, BMCA, CREHP, UNFPA - the list goes on and on. One brief quotation in book reads "USAID early recognized the lack of access to RH/FP services in the BMCA, and for close to a decade it funded CARE to implement CREHP in the area".

Countdown should have been mesmerizing. Instead, it's tiring. It is full of interesting, related stories. Stories about the impact of increasing populations, Mexican orphanages, forced sterilizations on women in Puerto Rico (certainly not advocated by Weisman) and their impact on the population of that island. Stories about teen prostitution in Mumbai. Stories well known to biologists, such as that of the establishment of the National Park Service, and the Kaibab plateau. This is all interesting relevant stuff. But its presentation in a haphazard, shotgun fashion makes it difficult for a reader to synthesize the meaning, and more importantly, the relevance of each story, each anecdote, and each acronym to Weissman story. The single thread that comes back to a reader's mind is this: "There are too many people. We're doomed". I get it. But when I was 300+ pages into this 400+ page book, I found myself dreading further examples of capitalist exploitation in India and mobilization against Coca Cola's exploitation of that country's groundwater.

Perhaps that's the point. Maybe Weissman wanted to write a volume that would bring it all together in order to take mankind by the shoulders and shake us until we're blue in the face while saying "Don't you get it! Wake up! Do something!"

So, finishing the book I found myself eagerly awaiting the suggestions for actions we could take. After all, the subtitle of the book refers to a "last, best hope for a future on earth". What is that best hope? What small measure we can take part in locally, regionally, nationally to get us off of what appears to be suicidal path? Countdown finishes with a whimper, a gentle and somewhat quaint admonition to "keep everything in reasonable balance" and in the epilogue, Weisman's gentle request to "leave space for our fellow species to do the same". That's it. That's how the book ends. A paragraph to say that the earth "cannot sustain our current numbers", a final warning about sea levels rising ("the only one I've found disputing Dr. Wanless's extreme predictions is a Florida real estate blogger" Weisman states) a re-assurance that "I don't want to cull anyone alive today" and after 400 plus pages, two final sentences advising us to leave more space for others. (oh yes, and birth control would be a good thing too.)

I've read the excerpts the pre-publication reviews. I recognize that Countdown has been deemed an "important" book, and I have no doubt that it is, in that it discusses an important issue. But it meanders. It lacks focus. It's pedantic. More importantly, it lacks a cohesive narrative. There's an ongoing sense of "look what else I found out while onducting my research. (Where, oh where, is the Rachel Carson for this generation who will tell this commanding story with contemporary eloquence and simple power?)

I question who the audience will be for this book. Laypersons? The lecture is too long. Scientists? Too basic. Teachers? Perhaps, in excerpts. Students? They will feel like they are being force fed a book that dulls their passion. It's too bad. There is a good story in all of this. Good stories have beginnings, middles, and ends - a narrative flow - which Countdown lacks. It's episodic, and the episodes often feel unrelated to each other. Their connection is to the big problem we face, and that's not enough to sustain it over the course of 400+ pages. As a result, Countdown becomes tedious, whereas it should have been dramatic and empowering.

Unfortunately, Countdown will not find a permanent place on my bookshelves. To paraphrase Weisman, too many books; I need to leave space for others.

(Note: my advance copy of Countdown did not contain an index, making it difficult to re-locate specific people, organizations, and events written in the text. I assume that this will be taken care of in the final copy.)
37 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A must-read 12 septembre 2013
Par David Field - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
If I see an interesting book I put it on my wish list, and I'd had Weisman's previous book, The World Without Us, on there for almost a year when I decided in August 2013, to order and read it. I'd just finished it, and was very impressed, when this book was offered to Vine reviewers.

I don't know what the other reviewers expected when they got Countdown. To me, The World Without Us leads up to this book. Yes, it has a lot of material, and yes, it appears disjointed, but that is the nature of its subject - overpopulation. Everyone in the world seems to have an opinion - should we use birth control or encourage people to have as many children as possible? Can we make people change their crops to something that produces more food?

Weisman has travelled the world for two years to interview large numbers of people. Most of them have strong feelings - the mayor of an African town who has several wives and sired over 30 children, the man who encouraged birth control over all of Thailand, and experts on the subject who appear to have little doubt that we're heading towards a crisis. The general opinion is that in 2050 we will have ten billion people - and that's on the same earth as we have now. The three billion extra people will want more food and will create more waste products that destroy the earth, but none of the world's leaders seems focused on this eventuality.

That's why so many voices need to be heard - every one of us has the power to change the amount of population in the world, but of course we only see our immediate society. We used to breed to have enough survivors to work in agriculture, but now far more children are growing up without so many of the diseases that killed them off in the past. Many people want a male heir, but this means that there is sex-specific abortion. Even with several sons, some men are worried that their boys will die young.

There's some hope. One of the by-products of more reliable health care and the education of daughters is that the family size drops from six or more to a sustainable one or two. Also. we're aware of the inter-connection of species. Their are plenty of examples of whole species dying out, simply because we eliminated their prey.

You should read this book. As you do, you'll realize that you're hearing the voices of billions of people all over the world. Weisman cleverly brings out the important points in everybody's arguments, and while his own bias is toward population stabilization or reduction, he quotes those who are in opposition to his views.

We have to face this issue. With present-day attitudes and legislation, the population will increase by around a third by 2050. Even though there are successes in increasing crop yields, creating the amount of food needed for ten billion will need a miracle.

And that's why this book is a must-read. It needs action from whoever is concerned to convince world leaders to contain population growth. Weisman makes that very clear.
12 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Essential, Thought-provoking, and well-written 15 octobre 2013
Par R. Schwenk - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I thoroughly loved this book, which is not how one normally describes one's feelings about a work of non-fiction. However, it was just what I needed in my exploration of the big issues facing our species in this century.

Who would appreciate this book? If you belong to two or more of the following:

o Those who've read books by Paul and Anne Ehrlich (e.g., Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future or The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment)
o Those who've read books by Herman Daly and his co-authors (e.g., Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development)
o Those familiar with the work of the Planetary Boundaries Working Group ([...]
o People aware of the damage being done to the planet and the genuine risk to human civilization, as well as the loss of species
o People who recognize that, whatever solutions or fixes we come up with, they would be much more likely to work if there were fewer humans on the planet

This book is not a polemic appeal. It does not attempt to convince readers that our situation is dire, nor does it propose a lot of unsatisfying or unworkable solutions. The author's basic point of reference is that we need to compute a carrying capacity for the planet: How many people can Earth support at what range of living standards and resource usage consistent with preserving quality of life and as many of our fellow species as possible? Weisman provides no answer, but the entire book addresses this question from a variety of angles. And, given the seriousness of the problems we face, the book is enjoyable to read.

Many of the book's chapters visit a spot on the front line of the struggle between too many people and resource shortages or imperiled species. The style resembles "Letter from ... " articles in Harper's magazine: Intimate, in-depth reportage written in an engaging style. We meet a wide range of people, all of whom the author treats with empathy and respect. The places he visits include Israel, Italy, Uganda, China, the Philippines, Niger, Iran, the Indian subcontinent, Thailand, and Japan. Each has its unique problems as well as people dedicated to dealing with these problems.

Despite the diversity of places covered, the author finds some common themes:

o Fertility reduction seems to follow quickly when women are empowered and educated.

o We are reaching the limit of our ability to grow enough food, and another Green Revolution is unlikely to make a big difference.

o Access to fresh water is going to be a big problem in the coming decades.

I cannot recommend this book too highly. It deserves to be read by all politicians and policy-makers, and, in fact, anyone who cares about the future.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Forthright in its statement of the problem, however... 19 décembre 2013
Par Bucky - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
wimps out on the solution.

AlanWeisman is the author of the excellent, The World Without Us, a work which examines what would happen if every single human being disappeared from the face of the Earth. So naturally, I wanted to have a look at his take on the problem of the human population explosion and what, if anything, can be done to keep us from breeding ourselves into catastrophe. I had hopes that he might actually have something substantive to offer in the way of a solution. I came away disappointed.

After spending a few hundred pages spelling out the urgency of the problem facing us, that by the middle of this century, there will be roughly 10 billion people on this planet, all of them competing for a slice of an ever shrinking pie, he offers us little but platitudes in the way of solutions to the problem. Yes, we can avert disaster if we simply decide, as a species, to voluntarily follow for a hundred years or so, a policy of having one child per family. If all of humanity wakes up tomorrow, takes a good look around and says, "My goodness! Let there be fewer babies on Earth and let it begin with me."

It is as if he has never heard of the tragedy of the commons. The Earth is a shared resource that humanity holds in common, but relatively few of us are willing to curb our usage of its resources in order to preserve it. And the issues bound up in curbing human reproduction are so fraught with political, racial, religious,and human rights perils that very few people are willing to take the risks involved in a frank discussion of the steps necessary to head off this impending disaster.

And a disaster there will be, indeed, if we don't begin to take the steps needed to lower the burden the human species imposes on the Earth. Give this book a read if you want to know what our children and grandchildren will be facing. It's not a pretty picture Mr. Weisman paints, but the solution he suggests is just laughable and Pollyannaish at best.
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