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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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

I have been an Alan Weisman fan since he released The World Without Us many years ago. Soooo when I found out his latest, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? was coming out I almost peed my pants with utter excitement. (Ok, maybe that's a bit hyperbolic, but I was super excited nonetheless.)

What are the chances for the future of humanity if we continue populating the world without focused regard to the resources available to us? This question is at the heart of Weisman's diverse exploration of how much the earth and its ecosystems can sustain before collapsing under the sheer obesity of human existence. Weisman leaves no stone unturned; he visits more than 20 countries and explores a multitude of cultures, religions, governments, and the like in order to explore what are belief systems, lifestyles, and underlying politics of population and how these affect both our current life and our future on this planet. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I am madly in love with Alan Weisman. No, I have never met the man, but I am so floored and in complete awe of what he does that I find it impossible not to fall head over heels. He takes a subject that could be so incredibly boring if put in the wrong hands and spins it into a tale of horror, greed, and disregard that ultimately ends with a glimmer of hope. Who does that??? Alan Weisman does.

I read The World Without Us long before I had this gem of a blog so there is no review of it here, but I felt the same way after putting down his first book. After closing the book after each section of Countdown I read (because it's a long one!), I just had to sit for a bit. I had to mull over what I just read, think about it, chew on it, and come to a conclusion about how I felt. Weisman has such pathos for his subjects while still being gut-wrenchingly honest, and I had to think after each section how I felt about what he just portrayed. He writes as though you are reading a novel, and it's hard to walk away to do things that you need to do in everyday life. Like laundry or eating food. I love his portrayal of his subjects, never judging but always putting forth honesty and care.

Weisman's books frighten me, but they frighten me into action. They make me ask myself hard questions, such as, "What is my responsibility in repopulating the earth?" I am still thinking long and hard on children, and his argument has a hand in my thought process. I understand the reason that 100+ years ago people had six, seven, ten children; you needed to birth that many in order to have just 2 to 3 live to adulthood. But what does that mean today, in 2013, with an unquestioned increase in quality healthcare (regardless of how you currently feel about our system) and a life expectancy that continues to increase every year. How do I feel about a million children being added to this earth every four days? How does this affect me and what is my responsibility in this? How does all of this affect our ecosystems and in turn, my world? These are all questions that I am still mulling over, and I will be for a while.

I rarely re-read books because I am always wanting to see what's next. I can honest say that I intend to come back to Countdown at least once more before next summer. It deserves an additional go and more thought. It's not just enough to think about it for a week. This book deserves a lifetime of contemplation.

I can only offer you this in a hard copy...but I can also give you the link to his first book in a hard copy! Go ahead and treat yourself. Buy both. xxoo

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