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Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?by Alan Weisman
Synopses & Reviews
From John Muir to David Brower, from the creation of Yellowstone National Park to the Endangered Species Act, environmentalism in America has always had close to its core a preservationist ideal. Generations have been inspired by its ethosandmdash;to encircle nature with our protection, to keep it apart, pristine, walled against the march of human development. But we have to face the facts. Accelerating climate change, rapid urbanization, agricultural and industrial devastation, metastasizing fire regimes, and other quickening anthropogenic forces all attest to the same truth: the earth is now spinning through the age of humans. After Preservation takes stock of the ways we have tried to both preserve and exploit nature to ask a direct but profound question: what is the role of preservationism in an era of seemingly unstoppable human development, in what some have called the Anthropocene?
Ben A. Minteer and Stephen J. Pyne bring together a stunning consortium of voices comprised of renowned scientists, historians, philosophers, environmental writers, activists, policy makers, and land managers to negotiate the incredible challenges that environmentalism faces. Some call for a new, post-preservationist model, one that is far more pragmatic, interventionist, and human-centered. Others push forcefully back, arguing for a more chastened and restrained vision of human action on the earth. Some try to establish a middle ground, while others ruminate more deeply on the meaning and value of wilderness. Some write on species lost, others on species saved, and yet others discuss the enduring practical challenges of managing our land, water, and air.
From spirited optimism to careful prudence to critical skepticism, the resulting range of approaches offers an inspiring contribution to the landscape of modern environmentalism, one driven by serious, sustained engagements with the critical problems we must solve if weandmdash;and the wild garden we may now keepandmdash;are going to survive the era we have ushered in. and#160;
Contributors include: Chelsea K. Batavia, F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III, Norman L. Christensen, Jamie Rappaport Clark, William Wallace Covington, Erle C. Ellis, Mark Fiege, Dave Foreman, Harry W. Greene, Emma Marris, Michelle Marvier, Bill McKibben, J. R. McNeill, Curt Meine, Ben A. Minteer, Michael Paul Nelson, Bryan Norton, Stephen J. Pyne, Andrew C. Revkin, Holmes Rolston III, Amy Seidl, Jack Ward Thomas, Diane J. Vosick, John A. Vucetich, Hazel Wong, and Donald Worster.and#160;
There are many similarities between Australia and the US. Both are vast, had similar origins, and are examples of super-consuming, over-developed rich, literate countries. There are also, of course, striking distinctions between Australia and the United States, perhaps most notable in the environmental arena. The floras and faunas are as different as koalas and grizzlies.and#160; But the use of the environments is even more distinct.and#160; Although comparable in size, the US is about ten times as densely populated as Australia, and two Americans consume the same amount of resources as three Australians.and#160; Australiaandrsquo;s more fragile environment, with high proportions of endemic species, has resulted in the highest number of recently extinct mammals compared to every other country in the world.and#160; And yet the pace of land use change in the US has been significantly higher over the last several decades.
The most fundamental of issues each of these countries is facing at present, and in the immediate future, is how to manage their environments in the face of climate change.and#160; Each country needs to extract resources, lower its energy footprint, and grapple with dynamic climate patterns that threaten even the most developed of countries.and#160; Ehrlich and Bradshaw, renowned ecologists, invite readers to join a conversation about the ways in which Australia and the US can benefit from modelling environmental decisions and actions on each otherandrsquo;s most successful policies, and learn from each countryandrsquo;s failures as well.and#160; They weave in these pages a comparative story of their two countries, and create a blueprint for what needs to change to avoid the worst environmental and political crises from invading the shores of each of these countries.
Though separated by thousands of miles, the United States and Australia have much in common. Geographically both countries are expansiveandmdash;the United States is the fourth largest in land mass and Australia the sixthandmdash;and both possess a vast amount of natural biodiversity. At the same time, both nations are on a crash course toward environmental destruction. Highly developed super consumers with enormous energy footprints and high rates of greenhouse-gas emissions, they are two of the biggest drivers of climate change per capita. As renowned ecologists Corey J. A. Bradshaw and Paul R. Ehrlich make clear in Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie, both of these countries must confront the urgent question of how to stem this devastation and turn back from the brink.
In this book, Bradshaw and Ehrlich provide a spirited exploration of the ways in which the United States and Australia can learn from their shared problems and combine their most successful solutions in order to find and develop new resources, lower energy consumption and waste, and grapple with the dynamic effects of climate change. Peppering the book with humor, irreverence, and extensive scientific knowledge, the authors examine how residents of both countries have irrevocably altered their natural environments, detailing the most pressing ecological issues of our time, including the continuing resource depletion caused by overpopulation. They then turn their discussion to the politics behind the failures of environmental policies in both nations and offer a blueprint for what must be dramatically changed to prevent worsening the environmental crisis.
Although focused on two nations, Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie clearly has global implicationsandmdash;the problems facing the United States and Australia are not theirs alone, and the solutions to come will benefit by being crafted in coalition. This book provides a vital opportunity to learn from both countriesandrsquo; leading environmental thinkers and to heed their call for a way forward together.
A powerful investigation into the chances for humanity's future from the author of the bestseller The World Without Us.In his bestselling book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman considered how the Earth could heal and even refill empty niches if relieved of humanity's constant pressures. Behind that groundbreaking thought experiment was his hope that we would be inspired to find a way to add humans back to this vision of a restored, healthy planet-only in harmony, not mortal combat, with the rest of nature.
But with a million more of us every 4 1/2 days on a planet that's not getting any bigger, and with our exhaust overheating the atmosphere and altering the chemistry of the oceans, prospects for a sustainable human future seem ever more in doubt. For this long awaited follow-up book, Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth--and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth's ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth?
Weisman visits an extraordinary range of the world's cultures, religions, nationalities, tribes, and political systems to learn what in their beliefs, histories, liturgies, or current circumstances might suggest that sometimes it's in their own best interest to limit their growth. The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful.
By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative presence, Countdown reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance. Weisman again shows that he is one of the most provocative journalists at work today, with a book whose message is so compelling that it will change how we see our lives and our destiny.
About the Author
Alan Weisman is the author of several books, including The World Without Us: an international best-seller translated in 34 languages, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Wenjin Book Prize of the National Library of China. His work has been selected for many anthologies, including Best American Science Writing. An award-winning journalist, his reports have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Discover, Vanity Fair, Wilson Quarterly, Mother Jones, and Orion, and on NPR. A former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, he is a senior radio producer for Homelands Productions. He lives in western Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
Writing on Stone, Writing in the Wind
Ben A. Minteer and Stephen J. Pyne
Restoring the Nature of America
Andrew C. Revkin,
Nature Preservation and Political Power in the Anthropocene
J. R. McNeill
Too Big for Nature
Erle C. Ellis
After Preservation?and#160; Dynamic Nature in the Anthropocene
Holmes Rolston III
Humility in the Anthropocene
The Anthropocene and Ozymandias
The Higher Altruism
The Anthropocene: Disturbing Name, Limited Insight
John A. Vucetich, Michael Paul Nelson, and Chelsea K. Batavia
Ecology and the Human Future
A Letter to the Editors:and#160; In Defense of the Relative Wild
When Extinction Is a Virtue
Ben A. Minteer
Pleistocene Rewilding and the Future of Biodiversity
Harry W. Greene
The Democratic Promise of Nature Preservation
Green Fire Meets Red Fire
Stephen J. Pyne
Restoration, Preservation, and Conservation: An Example for Dry Forests of the West
William Wallace Covington and Diane J. Vosick
Preserving Nature on US Federal Lands: Managing Change in the Context of Change
Norman L. Christensen
After Preservationand#8212;the Case of the Northern Spotted Owl
Jack Ward Thomas
Celebrating and Shaping Nature: Conservation in a Rapidly Changing World
F. Stuart Chapin III
Move Over Grizzly Adamsand#8212;Conservation for the Rest of Us
Michelle Marvier and Hazel Wong
Endangered Species Conservation: Then and Now
Jamie Rappaport Clark
Resembling the Cosmic Rhythms: The Evolution of Nature and Stewardship in the Age of Humans
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