Alan Weisman, COUNTDOWN

Alan Weisman
Alan Weisman

9780316097758Journalist Alan Weisman talks about his important and riveting new book, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? It’s about the overpopulation crisis and how we can solve it. 

Alan Weisman

The population bomb is already exploding. If current trends continue, the Earth’s population will be somewhere around 11 billion people by the end of this century.

In his new book Countdown, journalist Alan Weisman says overpopulation already underlies much of the conflict we see in the world today, including Israel/Palestine and Pakistan. And the population crisis means we’re going to have to produce more food in the next 50 years than has been consumed in all of human history.

World Population Growth to 2050But scientists estimate our planet’s carrying capacity is only about 2 billion people — and arable land, water, fertilizer and topsoil are all shrinking. Global warming is cutting them further; each degree of warming is estimated to cut food production by 10 percent — and we’re headed straight for four to five degrees of global temperature rise.

And just to close the circle:  overpopulation is a major — perhaps the major — contributor to climate change.

Weisman tells us that either we will voluntarily bring our global birthrate down or nature will do it for us, with a lot more pain and suffering. That may sound hard, but Weisman lays out a convincing argument that it isn’t. In fact, could it be, as the subtitle of Countdown asks, that restricting family size to just under replacement rate is “our last, best hope for a future on Earth?”

Weisman traveled all over the globe to find the answer — and what he discovered might surprise you. Religious extremism is not always the barrier we think; and family planning is popular even in poor countries, especially when paired with cheap contraception and education of girls. Weisman says, we know how to do this, it’s not expensive — and our survival depends on it.

WV last spoke with Alan Weisman about his New York Times bestseller, The World Without Us. He is also author of three other books and has written for Harpers, the New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Discover, and Orion, among others. 



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About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.