Happy World Population Day!

Break Out the Birth Control and Celebrate!

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

By Alan Weisman

The United Nations began World Population Day in 1989 to call attention to global population growth. Five Billion Day on July 11, 1987, the day when the world’s population reached 5 billion, inspired it.

Currently, the world’s human population stands a hundred million or so north of 7 billion, more than a 30 percent increase in just 28 years. If that seems like a trend boding trouble for old Mother Earth, you’re not alone.

So, what can we do to slow down or even reverse the trend? Award-winning journalist Alan Weisman offers up an idea in his timely and hopeful book Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? It garnered him, among other prizes, the Population Institute’s 2014 Global Media Award.

Without balance, chaos results. And, nature will always revert to balance. That, in a nutshell, is Weisman’s message. He supports and illuminates it with a myriad of examples from different cultures from around the world. Always every chapter, though some are dense with data, will fascinate and probably educate readers who have an interest and at least a modicum of concern about the state of our globe. Many here in the U.S. will not appreciate the proposed solution to achieve the balance experts feel we must have to survive and live comfortably while doing so: free and readily available birth control.

Lest you think this level of worldwide birth control impossible, you may want to think again after reading the examples of it working in even more strictly religious societies than our own and in primitive and tradition-bound cultures, as well. Eventually, in the face of nature’s immutable need for balance and relentless pursuit of it, the wisest humans find ways to comply. The consequences of not doing so are too horrible to bear.

Weisman, while an advocate for universally available birth control as the cheapest and quickest solution to our dilemma of an overpopulated earth, presents the result of his investigations with nice balance. Included are two chapters that demonstrate both sides of limiting and of not limiting birth. One is the predicament Japan finds itself in with an expanding elderly population, a decreasing young population, and a xenophobia that restricts immigration to a trickle. The second is the city of Mumbai, in the chapter titled “Tomorrow,” a place of people on top of people with vast numbers existing in abject poverty of the kind we can’t fathom.

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? is a book worth the time of most people. However, the reality is that those who see the future written in the pronouncements of scientists and the rising natural chaos around us will read the book and take Weisman’s idea to heart. As for those who prefer holding to their traditional ideas, in particular that technology will solve our problems and that growth will continue without stopping, these people will bypass the book completely. And it’s they who should read it and weigh what Weisman lays before them.

To honor World Population Day, why not read Countdown yourself, and then recommend it to your friends. You’ll be doing everybody a huge favor. w/c

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