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

“Whether we accept it or not, this will likely be the century that determines what the optimal human population is for our planet. It will come about in one of two ways:
Either we decide to manage our own numbers, to avoid a collision of every line on civilization’s graph – or nature will do it for us, in the form of famines, thirst, climate chaos, crashing ecosystems, opportunistic disease, and wars over dwindling resources that finally cut us down to size.”
― Alan Weisman, Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

Tick tock. 10 years ago Alan Weisman wrote a book called ‘A World Without Us’. Basically, the message of the book was that without us, our planet would heal.  In  2013, Weisman wrote another book called Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth? (which was brilliantly translated as ‘A World Full Of Us’ in Finnish. Countdown is another thought experiment. What if the world would go on with us?

Countdown starts with four questions and some scary facts. First question is, How many people can the Holy Land support? In some regions in Israel, there were 740 persons per km2. What will happen when Israel’s population will double by 2050? Second question, if population must remain under 10 billion, is there an acceptable way to convince all the representatives of different religions, cultures, political systems, nationalities, and tribes that decreasing the population is in their best interests? Third question, what kind of an ecosystem can support human life? What other life forms can we not live without?

In 1960’s, Israel released 50 000 strychnine chickens to nature in order to fight rabies epidemic. It worked incredibly well against rabies. Unfortunately, it likely also lead to near extinction of Arabian Leopard. Fourth question, how do we create an economic system that is not dependent on economic growth? And those scary questions and multiple examples were in just 50 first pages of the book.

“In the 1950s, Chinese people didn’t know about environment. To the Chinese Way of thinking, we are a huge country rich in resources, so we don’t need to worry about that. Until, of course, 1958. The Great Leap Forward, you know. We did many silly things. We cut trees in the mountains until they were bald. We tried to smelt iron in poor ovens. ” ― Alan Weisman, Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

 Next, Weisman takes us to different countries across the world, across Europe, Africa, USA, Asia and Middle-East. Many more scaring facts that explain how people will soon face struggle to find something to eat. Or worse, how there won’t be enough of water for everyone.

I really liked A World Without Us and this seemed even better (probably should re-read AWWU again). I love thought-provoking books and this was one of the most informative book I’ve read in a long time. Moreover,  I admire people who try to make us see these unpleasant and inconvenient truths and change our ways.
5/5 stars

How-To Read Countdown
1. I think you should start with A World Without Us if you haven’t read it yet. You’ll perfectly get this without reading that one but together they make a fascinating combination.
2. You can take a look inside at http://bit.ly/1kNW3GG 
3. Read this before having kids.
4. It’s a quite a heavy book and probably will take you some time to read it. Perhaps, you’ll need some light fiction after you’ve read this.

Countdown shots from https://vimeo.com/50872925, a recreation of an SMPTE Universal Leader that would appear at the beginning of old films. Really loved this one. Featured image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/laurenmanning/2979574719