From the author of 1491 and 1493, an incisive portrait of the two little-known twentieth-century scientists Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, whose diametrically opposed views shaped our ideas about the environment and laid the groundwork for how people in the twenty-first century will choose to live in tomorrow's world.
In forty years, Earth's population will reach ten billion. Can our world support that? What kind of world will it be? Those answering these questions generally fall into two deeply divided groups: Wizards and Prophets, as Charles Mann calls them in this balanced, authoritative, nonpolemical new book.
The Prophets, he explains, follow William Vogt, a founding environmentalist who believed that in using more than our planet has to give, our prosperity will lead us to ruin. Cut back! was his mantra. Otherwise everyone will lose! The Wizards are the heirs of Norman Borlaug, whose research, in effect, wrangled the world in service to our species to produce modern high-yield crops that then saved millions from starvation. Innovate! was Borlaug's cry. Only in that way can everyone win! Mann delves into these diverging viewpoints to assess the four great challenges humanity faces -- food, water, energy, climate change -- grounding each in historical context and weighing the options for the future. With our civilization on the line, the author's insightful analysis is an essential addition to the urgent conversation about how our children will fare on an increasingly crowded Earth.
Joining Charles in conversation is science, culture, and future writer Annalee Newitz!
Charles C. Mann, a correspondent for The Atlantic, Science, and Wired, has also written for Fortune, The New York Times, Smithsonian, Technology Review, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, as well as the TV network HBO and the series Law & Order. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he is the recipient of writing awards from the American Bar Association, the American Institute of Physics, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation.
Annalee Newitz is the author of Autonomous (Tor, 2017) and Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (Doubleday and Anchor), which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in science. She is the founding editor of io9, was the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo, and is currently an editor-at-large for Ars Technica, as well as a freelancer for magazines and newspapers. Formerly, she was a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a lecturer in American Studies at UC Berkeley. She is the recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT, and has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from UC Berkeley.