"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)"
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)"
Rousing." Ihsan Taylor, New York Times Book Review's "Paperback Row"
"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 and House of Rain
"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
"A frenzied barnstormer of a book.... Countdown is a chaotic stew of big stories, bold ideas and conflicted characters, punctuated by moments of quiet gracejust 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 storiesfrom his travel to contemporary Israel and Palestine, where reproducing is a form of warfare, to histories of family planning in Asia and South Americaare 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
"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
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
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.