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

( 14 )

Overview

A powerful investigation into the chances for humanity's future from the author of the bestseller The World Without Us.

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 this vision of a restored, healthy ...

See more details below
Hardcover
$19.40
BN.com price
(Save 30%)$28.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (39) from $4.83   
  • New (13) from $9.36   
  • Used (26) from $4.83   
Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

A powerful investigation into the chances for humanity's future from the author of the bestseller The World Without Us.

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 this 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 4½ 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 more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were 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?

Weisman 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. 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. 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.

Winner of the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Planet Earth needs a rest. Much of it is already over-farmed and over-fished; its exhaust gases are overheating the entire world; and one billion people already suffer chronic malnutrition. To discover how we can slow or even reverse this incremental death sentence, the author of The World Without Us traveled to twenty countries, visiting nations where progress is being made and others slipping into gradual self-destruction. A powerful standalone sequel to a book that sold nearly 350,000 copies.

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
09/01/2013
Journalist Weisman (The World Without Us) here highlights the critical connection between human population growth and ecological degradation, a subject that's not on the table at environmental summit meetings. The author takes up the issue popularized by Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb. Human proliferation (the global population presently numbers seven billion, plus 220,000 more births per day) is a major factor in resource depletion, pollution, and climate change. Even "green revolution" hybrid crops have limitations, and climate change is beginning to effect yields, so feeding a projected peak population of ten billion sustainably looks impossible. Weisman traveled widely while researching this book, investigating the religious, cultural, and political influences that produce large families and how attitudes about family size might be changing. He concludes that education and empowerment of women, along with access to reliable contraception, is beginning to limit family size and slow the global birthrate. The process is uneven: the transition has already happened in some nations, particularly as people continue to migrate from farms to cities. VERDICT The issue of human population control needs to be part of environmental collections, as it is key to the future quality of the biosphere and human lives. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]—David R. Conn, formerly with Surrey Libs., BC
Library Journal
In his best-selling The World Without Us, Weisman contemplated an Earth without humanity. In this follow-up, he considers the impact of the staggering number of people on this planet and how we can slow population growth and heal the damage already wrought. With a 12-city tour.
From the Publisher
"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

"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

Kirkus Reviews
Following up The World Without Us (2007), which explored how the Earth might heal from our depredations if humans became extinct, journalist Weisman writes a more conventional but equally astute analysis of how humans might avoid extinction. Overconsumption, not overpopulation, will destroy the planet, but no one except enthusiasts expects us to renounce our meat, cars, single-family houses and air conditioning anytime soon. After traveling the world, Weisman delivers a dozen often painful journalistic essays on efforts to answer four questions: How many people can the Earth hold at a tolerable standard of living? How much ecosystem do humans need; at what point do we eradicate an organism our existence depends on? Today every nation depends on growth for prosperity. How can we design an economy for a stable population? Is there an acceptable way to convince people of every religion, culture and political system that it's in their interest to stop having so many children? Despite the maxim that poor people yearn for huge families, that turns out to be true only for poor men. Poor women mostly yearn for birth control, and Weisman offers heart-rending portrayals of nations already suffering demographic collapse (Pakistan, the Philippines, Uganda and Niger are the worst) and admirable individuals and organizations struggling to help despite little support from national governments or American aid. "I don't want to cull anyone alive today," writes the author. "I wish every human now on the planet a long, healthy life. But either we take control ourselves, and humanely bring our numbers down by recruiting few new members of the human race to take our places, or nature's going to hand out a pile of pink slips." Some news is hopeful, and a few nations have taken action, so this is not a jeremiad but a realistic, vividly detailed exploration of the greatest problem facing our species.
The Barnes & Noble Review

After the success of his previous bestseller, The World Without Us, which rigorously imagined a planet devoid of humanity, Alan Weisman conceived of the schema for his successor book. "My hope was that readers, seduced by the gorgeous prospect of a refreshed, healthy Earth, might then ask themselves how we could add Homo sapiens back into the picture — only in harmony, not mortal combat, with the rest of earthly life. In other words, how we might have a world with us."

With our species — our sheer numbers, our ineluctable and our optional demands, the "cumulative human presence" — at the center of this book, Weisman charts both the history of our impact on the planet and the current burdens we impose in voluminous, fascinating detail, all before offering some redemptive and sustainable paths we might tread. If you could combine the gravitas and depth of John McPhee's essays with the timeliness brio of Ron Rosenbaum's reporting and the moral urgency of Bill McKibben's work, you might end up with something just as stirring, compelling, and insightful as this book.

Weisman's fluid, elegant reportage is marked by his personally indefatigable global travels and by his immersion as keen-eyed, objective observer in many cultures, all of which exhibit various manifestations of the overpopulation phenomenon. A partial list of the places he visits to extract his insights would include Israel, Mexico, the UK, Italy, Uganda, Niger, China, Libya, the Philippines, Pakistan, Japan, India, Nepal, Singapore, and the USA. This book does not make the mistake of extrapolating broadly from a small, idiosyncratic sample, but rather amalgamates many unique instances into a universal synthesis and diagnosis.

Weisman first defines and illustrates the various scientific realities associated with our "cumulative human presence." He speaks of the carrying capacity of the planet, humanity's drawing down of dwindling resources such as fresh water and marine life, the mysteries of biodiversity, and the way in which we have barely escaped past catastrophes by such (non-extendable) techno-fixes as the Green Revolution in agriculture. One important thread connects the exigencies of capitalism and its need for a perpetual economic growth with trends in the developed world where population is actually falling. Another vital narrative concerns the positive effects of disseminating birth control technology of all sorts.

Weisman does not hesitate to label certain worldviews and policies as counterproductive for a safer, cleaner, healthier, less stressed world. Whether it be religious or ideological or cultural blindness, such destructive Weltanschauungs as the polygamous culture of Niger, which produces the highest fertility rate on the planet, receive their just disapprobation. But Weisman is always the soul of understanding. Nothing human is alien to him. He is never cruel or polemical, but the essence of a caring rationality motivated by the pursuit of a better condition for all mankind, as well as the salvation of other species. For instance, although he credits the Chinese one-child policy with doing immense good, he realizes it does not provide a model that can be extended globally, however effective such a ukase might prove.

Blended with Weisman's trenchant cultural analyses and sometimes frightening ecological observations are intimate portraits of both exemplary average folks and the experts who are fighting to put mankind's numbers in line with the planet's needs. Chief among these is Paul R. Ehrlich, famed author of The Population Bomb. Too long in the forgotten shadows since the initial splash of that tome, Ehrlich is lovingly portrayed here as a prescient scientist who, in his eighties, still has much to offer. Likewise, ecologist Gretchen Daily, Ehrlich's former student and protégée, emerges as the vibrant voice of a new generation concerned with these issues.

Weisman keeps converging on a seemingly impossible figure: two billion people, the population of the planet circa the 1920s. That seems the experts' best guess for a sustainable number of humans. How can we possibly get from today's seven billion souls to that smaller number without mass carnage or coercion? And what if we hit ten billion or more hungry mouths in the next few decades? Given the desirability of shrinking our numbers — as Sir David Attenborough says, "I've never seen a problem that wouldn't be easier to solve with fewer people, and utterly impossible if there were more" — what steps can we take to reach our goals? Weisman concludes with several prescriptions, the first of which is acknowledgment of the realities and a general will to do something. What alternative do we have?

"I don't want to cull anyone alive today. I wish every human now on the planet a long, healthy life. But either we take control ourselves, and humanely bring our numbers down by recruiting fewer new members of the human race to take our places, or nature is going to hand out a pile of pink slips. When you see survival of the fittest portrayed on the National Geographic Channel, it's entertaining. When it happens to your own species, it's not pretty."

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316097758
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 9/24/2013
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 445,245
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Weisman is the author of several books, including The World Without Us: an international best-seller translated in 34 languages, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Wenjin Book Prize of the National Library of China. His work has been selected for many anthologies, including Best American Science Writing. An award-winning journalist, his reports have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Discover, Vanity Fair, Wilson Quarterly, Mother Jones, and Orion, and on NPR. A former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, he is a senior radio producer for Homelands Productions. He lives in western Massachusetts.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Countdown

Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?


By Alan Weisman, Adam Grupper

Hachette Audio

Copyright © 2013 Alan Weisman Adam Grupper
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-09775-8



CHAPTER 1

A Weary Land of Four Questions


i. Battle of the Babies

A cold January afternoon in Jerusalem, late Friday before the Jewish Sabbath. The winter sun, nearing the horizon, turns the gilded Dome of the Rock atop the Temple Mount to blood-orange. From the east, where the muezzin's afternoon call to Muslim prayer has just ended on the Mount of Olives, the golden Dome is suffused in a smudged pinkish corona of dust and traffic fumes.

At this hour, the Temple Mount itself, the holiest site in Judaism, is one of the quieter spots in this ancient city, empty but for a few scholars in overcoats, hurrying with their books across a chilly, cypress-shaded plaza. Once, King Solomon's original tabernacle stood here. It held the Ark of the Covenant, containing stone tablets on which Moses was believed to have incised the Ten Commandments. In 586 BCE, invading Babylonians destroyed it all and took the Jewish people captive. A half-century later, Cyrus the Great, emperor of Persia, liberated them to return and rebuild their temple.

Around 19 CE, the Temple Mount was renovated and fortified with a surrounding wall by King Herod, only to be demolished again by the Romans within ninety years. Although exile from the Holy Land occurred both before and after, this Roman destruction of Jerusalem's Second Temple most famously symbolizes the Diaspora that scattered Jews across Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East.

Today, a remaining fragment of the Second Temple's sixty-foot-high perimeter in Jerusalem's Old City, known as the Western (or "Wailing") Wall, is an obligatory pilgrimage for Jews visiting Israel. Yet, lest they inadvertently tread where the Holy of Holies once stood, an official rabbinical decree prohibits Jews from ascending to the Temple Mount itself. Although it is at times defied, and exceptions can be arranged, this explains why the Temple Mount is administered by Muslims, who also hold it sacred. From here, the Prophet Muhammad is said to have journeyed one night upon a winged steed all the way to Seventh Heaven and back. Only Mecca and Medina, Muhammad's birthplace and burial site, are considered holier. In a rare agreement between Israel and Islam, Muslims alone may pray on this hallowed ground, which they call al-Haram al-Sharif.

But not as many Muslims come here as they once did. Before September 2000, they flocked by the thousands, lining up at a fountain ringed by stone benches to perform purification ablutions before entering the crimson-carpeted, marbled al- Aqsa Mosque across the plaza from the Dome of the Rock. Especially, they came on Friday at noon for the imam's weekly sermon, a discourse on current events as well as the Qur'an.

One frequent topic back then, recalls Khalil Toufakji, people jokingly called "Yasser Arafat's biology bomb." Except it was no joke. As Toufakji, today a Palestinian demographer with Jerusalem's Arab Studies Society, remembers: "We were taught in the mosque, in school, and at home to have lots of children, for lots of reasons. In America or Europe, if there's a problem, you can call the police. In a place with no laws to safeguard you, you rely on your family."

He sighs, stroking his neat gray moustache; his own father was a policeman. "Here, you need a big family to feel protected." It's even worse in Gaza, he adds. One Hamas leader there had fourteen children and four wives. "Our mentality goes back to the Bedouins. If you have a big enough tribe, everyone's afraid of you."

Another reason for the large families, Toufakji agrees, is definitely no joke to Israelis. The Palestine Liberation Organization's best weapon, its leader Arafat liked to say, was the Palestinian womb.

During Ramadan, Toufakji and some of his own thirteen siblings would be among the half-million worshippers overflowing al-Aqsa Mosque, spilling onto al-Haram al-Sharif's stone plaza. That was before the day in September 2000 when former Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon paid a visit to the Temple Mount, escorted by a thousand Israeli riot police. At the time, Sharon was a candidate for prime minister. He had once been found willfully negligent by an Israeli commission for not protecting more than a thousand Palestinian civilian refugees massacred by Christian Phalangists during Lebanon's 1982 civil war, while his occupying Israeli forces stood by. Sharon's trip to the Temple Mount, intended to assert Israelis' historical right to it, ignited demonstrations and rock throwing, which were met by tear gas and rubber bullets. When stones from the Temple Mount were hurled at Jews worshipping at the Western Wall below, the ammunition turned live.

The mayhem soon spiraled into hundreds of deaths in Jerusalem and beyond, in what became known as the Second Intifada. Eventually came suicide bombings—and then, especially after Sharon was elected prime minister, years of mutual retaliation for shootings, massacres, rocket attacks, and more suicide bombs, until Israel began walling itself in.

A barrier of towering concrete and wire more than two hundred kilometers long now nearly encircles the West Bank—except for where it thrusts deeply across the Green Line that delineates captured territories Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War with its surrounding Arab adversaries. In places it zigzags through cities like Bethlehem and Greater Jerusalem, curling back on itself to isolate individual neighborhoods, cutting Palestinians off not just from Israel but from each other and from their fields and orchards, and prompting charges that its purpose is to annex territory and seize wells as much as to guarantee security.

It also stops most Palestinians from reaching the al-Aqsa Mosque, except if they live in Israel or the parts of East Jerusalem within the security barrier. Yet of those, often only Palestinian men over age forty-five are allowed by Israeli police past the metal detectors at Temple Mount gates. Officially, this is to forestall any Arab youths tempted again to stone worshipping Jews—especially foreign Jewish tourists, as they tuck written prayers into crevices between the Western Wall's massive blocks of pale limestone rising above the adjacent plaza.

That custom is particularly popular as Sabbath begins, but in recent years, getting anywhere near the Western Wall on Friday at sundown has become a challenge even for Jews. Unless you're a haredi, and a male.

The Hebrew word haredi means, literally, "fear and trembling." In today's Israel, it refers to ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose dour dress and fervid quaking before God hearken to bygone centuries and distant lands where their ancestors lived during two millennia of Diaspora. To the alarm of non-haredi Jews, the Western Wall has been effectively usurped and converted into a haredi synagogue. On Shabbat, tens of thousands of bowing, trembling, rejoicing, chanting, praising, praying black-frocked men in broad- rimmed hats and ritual fringes engulf it, save for a small fenced section reserved for women—that is, for women who dare approach it. Females who insist on a Jewish woman's right to don prayer shawls and phylacteries—or the ultimate haredi horror: to actually touch and read from a Torah scroll—may be spat upon by haredi men, who have flung chairs at the brazen blasphemers, and be called whores by screaming rabbis who try to drown out their Sabbath songs.

Women, extremist haredim believe, should be home readying the Shabbat meal for their pious men and their burgeoning families. Although still a minority, Israel's haredim are relentlessly bent on changing that status. Their simple tactic: procreation. Haredi families average nearly seven children, and frequently hit double digits. Their multiplying offspring are considered both the solution to modern Jews, who defile their religion, and as the best defense against Palestinians, who threaten to outproliferate Jews in their historic homeland.

The Jerusalem daily Haaretz reports a haredi man who boasts 450 descendents. Their soaring numbers force Israeli politicians to include haredi parties in coalitions that rule Israeli governments. Such clout has won the ultra-Orthodox privileges that elicit howls from other Israelis: exemption from military service (supposedly, they defend Judaism by incessant study of Torah) and a government allowance for each Israeli child brought into the world. Until 2009, this subsidy actually rose for each new birth, until the cost of the escalating demographics shocked even conservative Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who modified it to a flat rate. Any dampening effect on haredi reproduction is not yet evident at the Western Wall, where thousands of young boys with black yarmulkes and bouncing sidelocks swirl around their dancing, bearded fathers.

A waxing moon, yellow as Jerusalem limestone, climbs high above the walled Old City, and haredim begin to stream homeward—on foot; no motorized conveyance allowed on Shabbat—to their pregnant wives and their daughters. Most head into Mea She'arim, one of Jerusalem's biggest neighborhoods, which is visibly deteriorating under the pressure of so many people. Torah scholarship pays little or nothing; haredi wives mostly work at whatever jobs they can sandwich between child-rearing, and more than one-third of the families are below the poverty line. Vestibules and staircases of shabby high-rises are jammed with baby strollers. The air whiffs of overflowing garbage, overstressed sewers, and—surprising for a place where no vehicles can circulate on Shabbat—diesel exhaust. Because many haredim insist that the Israel Electric Corporation's nonstop coal-fired plants commit a sacrilege by working through Sabbath, before sundown they crank up hundreds of portable generators in Mea She'arim basements to keep the lights on. The traditional z'mirot heard around Sabbath tables are sung over their dull roar.

Four kilometers north of Mea She'arim, the land rises into limestone ridges. A hill just across the Green Line, Ramat Shlomo, is the site of an ancient quarry that provided the nearly thirty-foot foundation slabs Herod used to build the Second Temple's wall. In 1970, not long after the area was captured, Israel planted a forest there. Unlike the early Jewish National Fund forests—regimental rows of Australian eucalyptus or monocultured Aleppo pines, financed with coins saved by Jewish children worldwide in blue JNF collection tins—this was a mixed woodland that included some native oaks, conifers, and terebinths. The young forest was declared a nature preserve, a designation that Palestinians protested, claiming the real intention was to prevent a nearby Arab village, Shuafat, from growing. Their suspicion was confirmed when, in 1990, the forest was bulldozed to make way for a new haredi Jerusalem neighborhood—or new West Bank settlement, depending on who's describing it.

"Shaved the whole hill," admits Ramat Shlomo settler and Hasidic rabbi Dudi Zilbershlag. A founder of Haredim for the Environment, a nonprofit organization whose name also translates as Fear for the Environment, he regrets that. "But then," he adds, brightening, "we replanted."

In his living room, Zilbershlag sips rose hip tea, surrounded by glass-fronted hardwood bookshelves that hold rows of leather-bound Kabbalah and Talmudic literature. One case is devoted to silver menorahs, Shabbat candlesticks, and kiddush cups. A robust man in his fifties with a wide smile, thick gray payos curling out from either side of his black skullcap, and a gray beard reaching the black vest he wears over his white shirt and ritual fringes, he is also the founder of Israel's largest charity: Meir Panim, a soup kitchen network. His ultra-Orthodox environmental group mainly focuses on urban issues: noise, air pollution, congested roads, open burning of trash, and ubiquitous junk food wrappers strewn through packed haredi neighborhoods. But his own interest goes beyond, to the preservation of nature.

"According to Gematria," he explains—Kabbalist numerology—"the words God and nature are equivalents. So nature is the same as God."

You don't need miracles, he says, to know that God exists. "I see God in nature's details: trees, valleys, sky, and sun." Yet in a mystery that perhaps only a Kabbalist can resolve, he notes that Jewish survival has depended on miracles involving God's dominion over, and even suspension of, natural law. "A classic example is when Israel left Egypt, He made the seas part."

That act was preceded by other unnatural miracles: water turning to blood, swarms of frogs in the desert, night that lasted for three days, hail that selectively battered Egyptian crops, and death that slaughtered only Egyptian livestock and Egyptian firstborn children. All these divine interventions are commemorated in the Passover seder, which begins with Jewish children asking four traditional questions about the evening's symbolism. The answers, given over the course of the meal, recount Israel's miraculous deliverance from slavery.

In each corner of Dudi Zilbershlag's home is a reminder—a stroller, a playpen, a crib—of children who have asked these questions: he and his wife, Rivka, had eleven themselves, and they expect to be grandparents many times over. Yet nothing is ever certain in this mythic land, where tension between two peoples who claim it crackles the atmosphere. As pressures and stakes rise daily—and sheer numbers, with each trying to outpopulate the other—so does a reality that has begun to dawn on Jews and Arabs alike, spanning both sides' political and religious spectra:

In historic Palestine—that is, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in the disputed lands of Israel and Palestine, a distance of barely fifty miles—there are now nearly 12 million people.

In the aftermath of World War I, the British, who governed Palestine under an international mandate, believed that this land, much of it desert, could sustain 2.5 million at most. During the 1930s, to persuade a doubtful Crown that it should be a homeland for Jews, Zionist David Ben-Gurion argued that Jewish determination and ingenuity to transform what the British considered a backwater should not be discounted.

"No square inch of land shall we neglect; not one source of water shall we fail to tap; not a swamp that we shall not drain; not a sand dune that we shall not fructify; not a barren hill that we shall not cover with trees; nothing shall we leave untouched," wrote Israel's future first prime minister. Ben-Gurion was referring to the carrying capacity of Palestine's soil and water resources to support human beings—both Jew and Arab, who in early writings he imagined coexisting.

He was convinced that the land could support 6 million people. Later, as prime minister, Ben-Gurion would offer prizes to Israeli "heroines" who had ten or more children (an offer eventually discontinued because so many winners were Arab women). Today, Israel's haredi population doubles every seventeen years. At the same time, with half of all Palestinians just entering or nearing their reproductive years, the Arab population of historic Palestine—Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip—could surpass that of Israeli Jews by 2016.

At that point, projections of which side will win this demographic derby—or lose, depending on point of view—get hazy. Historically, much of Israel's growth has depended on immigration of Jews from elsewhere. More than a million Russians arrived after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet the trend of Jews making aliyah to Israel has slowed dramatically. Far more Jews now move from Israel to the United States than vice versa. Nevertheless, as the birthrate of haredim increases exponentially, Jews may retake the majority in the 2020s. At least for a while.

Even more important than who's leading is something neither Jewish nor Arab demographers deny: If things continue as they're headed, by the middle of this century the number of humans jammed between the sea and the Jordan will nearly double, to at least 21 million.

Even Jesus's miracle with loaves and fishes might not come close to slaking their needs. Such relentless arithmetic begs a new set of four questions:


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Countdown by Alan Weisman, Adam Grupper. Copyright © 2013 Alan Weisman Adam Grupper. Excerpted by permission of Hachette Audio.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2013

    This compelling book asks the most important question, How many

    This compelling book asks the most important question, How many people can this country/earth hold? and answers it by taking the reader on an in depth journey to 21 countries. Even though the answer is that we need about 5 billion less of us to survive, there are bright spots in the book, Iran and Thailand have done what others need to do.. have a campaign to humanely drastically reduce birthrates. In a not so subtle but fair way Weisman depicts those who are insisting on ONLY working to reduce our consumption as playing a fool's game with our future.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2014

    A

    More fear mongering by enviromentalists who think they are God.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite Countdown by Ala

    Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite

    Countdown by Alan Weisman is a cogent, thorough, impeccably researched wake up call to our human race, teetering on the brink of impending extinction due to overpopulation and over-consumption. Apart from presenting a compelling argument that we must curb our natural instinct to proliferate or face a planet too exhausted to support us all, Weisman takes his audience on a virtual world tour of overpopulated, over-consuming nations and simultaneously explains a complex, multi-layered problem in common sense modules that even the non-scientifically minded can understand. 

    The text, read by veteran stage and television actor Adam Grupper in a steady voice that is appropriately solemn but never dull, is written in an armchair tourist style that fascinates even as it educates. In examining the myriad cultural and philosophical barriers to replacement-level reproduction, Alan Weisman offers many valuable insights into the path that led us to our present dilemma and even goes so far as to point out some possible courses of action which might allow humanity to survive for thousands of years more in total harmony with the natural world which sustains us.

    The current situation is grave: at present, the human race is adding an additional one million people to its ranks every four and one-half days. We are already well past the projected number of inhabitants the earth can comfortably sustain and growing so fast that, without custom-tailored hybridization of crops and artificial fertilizers engineered to increase yield, we would already be a species in decline. There are a number of possible solutions, some very easy but none of them popular - it seems that the intelligence which distinguishes us from other animals also prevents us from being able to fully comprehend the extent or urgency of the problems facing our survival.

    Countdown is a very real glimpse of a planet crumbling under the sheer weight of the mass of humanity currently consuming resources faster than nature can replenish them. In Countdown, Alan Weisman has crafted a rousing call to action in the face of a dire prophecy we may yet outrun if only we are willing to listen and to act responsibly so that future generations may live in abundance.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    BLOOD CLAN IS WEAK

    AND PUNY AND SO MANY OTHER THINGS

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    Darkstar

    He ran in, "I forgot! I forgot, it slipped my mind! Blazeclan doesn't usually do Gatherings! We are sorry!" He dipped his head.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    Eyes

    Watched the gathering and blinked nervously.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    Redstripe

    No problem nether does boulderclan

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Lilywolf ORGINAL PACT CLANS

    Ahh good to know someone likes my idea. But never forget I made the original pact clans. I find it a little annoying that you didn't ask if it was okay but whatever. I figured Blazeclan would start something like this anyway. ~ Lilywolf, PACT CLAN CREATOR AND ORGANIZER

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    Heathertail

    Tell me about your self

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Scarletfang

    Waited.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Res 12

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Icestorm

    He sat.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Starynight

    Waited

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Skystar & Co.

    "Oh, you were just looking sad at camp." Jaguarflare meowed, running his tail down her spine.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)