This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

If You Want to Save the Planet, Read This Book (and it's free)

I have recently blogged about the Anthropocene and demography and we have just been gifted with a huge contribution to the discussion. My SDSU colleague, Professor Stuart Hurlbert, today linked me to a new book--Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot, published by Global Population Speakout, which is a project of the Population Media Center, The Population Institute, and the Foundation for Deep Ecology. I am not familiar with the latter organization, but the first two have William Ryerson in common. He has been working on population-related issues all of his life, and he wrote the introduction to the book. 
If you care about people, you must care about what we are doing to the planet. If you care about what we are doing to the planet, you must also care about human numbers. Given a planet with infinite space and resources, population growth could, arguably, be a blessing. We do not live on such a planet. However, there was a time when the Earth and its resources appeared boundless. Some people still adhere to that anachronistic belief. If nothing else, the photographs in this book should shatter that illusion.
Given the central role that population dynamics will play in determining the welfare of future generations, what the world needs today is a wake-up call. This book is that wake-up call. The photographs to follow are emotionally jarring; they are deeply provocative. But that is the nature of wake-up calls. The way that human numbers and behavior are transforming the Earth, undermining its ability to support the human family and the rest of life, is apparent for all to see. The reality of this urgent moment calls us to think, to care, and to act.
The photographs are, to be sure, truly amazing and disturbing. But the story is exactly the same one that I have been telling in my book (see especially Chapter 11) for a long time. Indeed, this book--either the published version (coffee table style) or the free online version (slide show style)--should be required reading not only for every student reading my Population text, but for every human now alive.

1 comment:

  1. Prof Weeks - indeed. It is a "numbers problem". And yet oddly enough, the message does not sink in. Perhaps it is because human beings cannot grasp the numbers. For example, we say that there are 7.2 billion people in the world today. But who can really comprehend the number "7.2 billion". These numbers are unthinkable. And so because people cannot grasp the numbers, they simply do not think about them at all.

    The same goes for the financial debt of the USA. At the time that I write this reply - the debt of the USA is $18,154,686,590,658.28 WHY on Earth doesn't the US Congress take immediate action to stop the accumulation of this debt? It is still growing, and it cannot possibly be paid back by the Baby Boomers in our generation. And furthermore, unless the next generation of Americans are the most brilliant business people who ever lived, it probably cannot be paid by them either. BUT one of the essential problems is that the number is so big - that we just simply cannot understand it. And most of our Congressmen and Congresswomen have such a poor understanding of economics, that they will never grasp the size of the problem.

    Apparently as human beings - we only grasp the CONSEQUENCES of our actions. Therefore, to speak simply about demographics and population overshoots - doesn't convey a message that the normal person can understand.

    Perhaps ... what we need to do - is to spell out the consequences of the Population Overshoot in clear details. Perhaps when people realize that we are talking about EVENTS that make WW2 look like a "birthday party" ... maybe the enormity of the problem will begin to sink in?

    Pete Pollock, Redondo Beach, CA