a review by Edd Doerr
Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? by Alan Weisman. Little, Brown & Co, 2013, 528 pp, $28.00.
Over the last 60 years in which I have been involved with the matter, world population has tripled to over 7 billion. Without the increasing access to contraception and the over 50 million abortions per year, world population would now easily top a totally unsustainable 10 billion people.
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. Not only does the author -- an experienced journalist who spent time in 21 countries on 5 continents to write the book -- thoroughly explore the complexities of population growth but he details how this growth in numbers is related to what is happening to our world, what we collectively are doing to the environment that sustains us and all life on our planet. In short, population growth is fueling climate change and global warming, rising sea levels, environmental degradation, resource depletion, topsoil erosion, waste accumulation, deforestation, desertification, fresh water shortages, food crop disturbances, droughts, biodiversity shrinkage, overcrowding, increased pollution, and a rise in sociopolitical disorganization and violence.
Our numbers will be reined in, either humanely and intelligently by us or harshly and brutally by nature.
Weisman makes all this comprehensible, leaving no stone unturned. And he does not spare the conservative religious leaders who have obstructed efforts to deal with overpopulation and/or been indifferent to what we are doing to our environment. He recommends solutions, including equalizing educational and political opportunities for women, which leads to family size reduction and to freedom from patriarchalism and misogyny.
This book is "must reading" for 2014.
(Edd Doerr is president of Americans for Religious Liberty, a columnist in Free Inquiry, and a widely published writer.)