In 2007, science journalist Alan Weisman had a top-ten best-seller with his book The World without Us, which speculated on what the Earth would be like centuries or millennia after the hypothetical extinction of Homo sapiens: what traces of our passage would be left behind, and how nature would likely rebound. The provocative cautionary tale raised the question of what our home planet’s ultimate carrying capacity might be, in terms of continually expanding human population and our seemingly boundless enthusiasm for consumption of resources.
Today world population is around 7.2 billion and estimated to hit 11 billion humans by the end of the 21st century. Although the direst predictions of collapse advanced by Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich have so far failed to materialize, Weisman argues that the Green Revolution has not solved the problem – only bought our species a little time.
His newest book, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? examines current approaches around the globe to address the pressing problem of overpopulation. Although skeptical about the prospect of getting people to consume less, he finds hopeful signs in some surprising places, suggesting that our species’ hope of survival lies not so much in turning down our thermostats or driving fewer miles as in sending more women in developing countries to college.
You can learn more about what Alan Weisman has discovered in his latest research this Friday, January 10 at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. His live presentation on practical solutions to support Earth’s burgeoning population begins at 7 p.m., and admission is free. The Cary Institute auditorium is located at 2801 Sharon Turnpike (Route 44) in Millbrook. For more information, visit www.caryinstitute.org/events/countdown-our-last-best-hope-future-earth.