Shopping cart is empty.

Birchbark Blog


Louise Erdrich - Tuesday, November 05, 2013

As long into the night I read Alan Weisman's urgent, eloquent, harrowing and yet hopeful, story-packed COUNTDOWN, I paused often.  How did he do this?  He trekked the globe in an all-consuming effort to see if we, humanity, will survive the twin knock out clobbers of population explosion and climate change.  He writes of saints, heroes, and the self-consuming madness of greed.  Everywhere, he finds the most fascinating person in a thousand miles, and makes a story out of what they tell us. 

Somehow, after writing The World Without Us, an elegant thought experiment that imagined how earth would look without humanity, he has written an even better book.

Weisman poses questions upon which the survival of our species hinges:  How many people can our planet reasonably support?  Since we've already passed that number, how do we humanely reduce our numbers?  Because we can't reduce our numbers quickly enough to stop eradicating other species, what species can't we absolutely live without?  And lastly, how do we design a stable world and economy for a shrinking population?

COUNTDOWN answers these questions with whirling energy.  We meet mountain gorilla stewards and a San Diego teacher who teaches the answers to the questions above by describing an Iranian carpet.  We meet the great Indian poet Sugathakumari, who despairs of the rampant development of India's model state, Kerala.  Most important of all, Weisman comes up with a single thoughtful answer to all four of the questions he poses.

The fate of our species depends on how quickly and thoroughly women become educated.  Period.  Knock out answer.  Read the book and find out why.

Spoiler alert -- the book ends at Lake of the Isles, only blocks from Birchbark Books.

Yours for Alan Weisman's world changing outlook.  Please read this book.  Take your time.  You will weep and yet be cheered.  As Alan said when he was here in Minneapolis, "there are saints out there" so let's support what they are doing and gain a little grace, each one of us.


Jeff Isenhart commented on 05-Nov-2013 06:38 PM
From your description,Louise,I look forward to reading this book. These are questions, with probably hard answers, that have many of us in our circle thinking about. I am one who holds with "the earth is given for steward for future generations. I have come to the conclusion that that this can not go on. Any book written with "whiling energy" can find a place on a shelf in my den, along with those of Ed McGaa, Black Elk, Thoreau, Norton book of Nature writing, Hemingway and yours. Thank you for this critique and endorsement.
Joe Lamb commented on 20-Nov-2013 10:54 AM
I found "The World Without Us" to be one of the most hopeful environmental books I've read. Strange that a world without humans could be considered "hopeful," but when I'd worked on nuclear weapons issues, back in the '80s, many serious people thought humans capable of destroying life on earth. Alan reminds us that it's not, in the really big sense of geologic time, nature at risk, it's humanity itself. Alan ranks among the most creative thinkers of our time. "Countdown" the next book on my must-read-list.
Anonymous commented on 22-Nov-2013 09:39 PM
Hugs to you all at Birchbark Books for keeping the flame burning bright. If books are the cart, love is the horse.
Steve Anderson commented on 24-Nov-2013 10:03 PM
Thanks for the recommendation. It's an astonishing read but very disturbing and didn't leave me with much hope for our species. I agree that educating girls and women is critically important and the single most important tactic in trying to save us.
Post a Comment!

Canoe Family

Recent PostsRSS


Green Team buffalo The Blue Sky Birchbark Books devoted customers gratitude book and dinner club green Magers and Quinn coyote Wastepaper Bohumil Hrabal germany 2666 Dartmouth photography knowledge Keepers of the Trees tree books Botany Native Arts local economy Video Beth Dooley The Royal Prussian Library Small Bookstores as Commons neighborhood Philip Roth Michael Jackson birchbark house series Pembina Brown Dog The Game of Silence joy Collective Denial Nemesis bill mckibben Ojibwe Gary Clement Hillary Clinton city of books The Porcupine Year Mohamed's Ghosts Kenwood Gardens the most romantic city in the world favorite book More Remarkable Trees Chitra Divakaruni how good looking you are Easter Island Bleak House School Gardens Poetry Kate DiCamillo thanks The Round House Unnatural Disasters Love Guthrie Theater fresh water Jim Harrison mississippi E.L. Doctorow north dakota Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive Interview Nero incarnation Too Much Happiness Aza Ice peculiar touches of green and gold italy favorite tree twins Alice Munro World on the Edge favorite dog Women and Trees Up Late Again thank you friends spring monkey in a dryer Czech Writer The Transition Handbook health care reform The Farmer's Daughter Anishinabemowin S.C. Gwynne japan ireland Minnesota Let's Take the Long Way Home Minneapolis Aubrey/Maturin Stephen Salisbury anniversary Book Review Light in August Remarkable Trees Climate Change Ha Jin Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge solstice, Thomas King france The Resilient Gardener Kabul William Trevor aquifer President Obama Native People Keystone XL cafe State Troopers graphix china Islam Empire of the Summer Moon This Green World Mankato Powwow Roberto Bolano Peak Oil Makoons Zombies cafe closing The Ojibwe Population Emily Johnson Patrick O'Brian language revitalization euphoria Canada Gryphon Press Alan Weisman Peak Water Tar Sands British Navy Catalyst Vic Glover support Too Loud A Solitude gardens Wolf Hall friends trees Wendy Makoons Geniusz Rare Books Education customers H2Oil Greenland The Birchbark House National Book Award Master Butchers Singing Club pilgrims Milkweed Press Hilary Mantel adventure Anishinabe Victory Gardens plants sweden Fireworks Ojibwemowin Tree Houses leaves and snow Crushing Books Dogs post holiday reads ependent post holiday Gail Caldwell Afghanistan The Wealth of Nature Chickadee Anton Treuer ptsd NACDI:All My Relations Louise show your love Bill Moyers Journal boarding school