on 21 August 2013
I was compelled to write a review for this book for two reasons:
1) The topic should be hugely relevant and important to every single human being on the planet
2) To counter some of the poor reviews left by others regarding the size of font and usage of space
I have always had an interest in the climate change debate and generally worry about the future of our planet. This book succinctly spells out the main problems, backed up with graphical evidence and offers various solutions that may or may not be feasible. I think those that are criticising the book for using too many pages or writing with too large a font are missing the point. Cutting some pages out of the millions of books printed would save some trees, maybe... but its just a drop in the ocean compared to the real problems. Take the example of how much energy and real cost is involved with making a car. Then work out how many cars are being produced. Do you really think cutting some pages from the book is even in the same league?
All those little actions you've been told you can do to save the world - taking a 2 minute shower instead of a 3 minute shower, turning lights off, driving a hybrid car - none of it actually matters unless the entire world collaborates together to tackle the problems at hand. The message I got from the book was one of pure pessimism, and I think he's probably right. People can pretend that everything is going to be ok because that's the easiest thing to do, but we need to be preparing ourselves for what happens if everything doesn't turn out ok.
I think he has deliberately styled the book the way he has to make the message STAND OUT. Clear, simple, short sentences make an incredibly easy to read book and leave you with distinct memorable points. He's not here to get in to the big debate, you can read other books or discuss online if you want to do that. This book is just here to get a message across....
on 18 November 2014
Some books on the subject of climate change and other man-made ills are expanded, size-wise, out of all proportion to the subject material, but Emmott's work is best described as a pamphlet expanded into a book, (you'll get through it inside an hour) each page displaying a salient point on every turn, each hard-hitting and unequivocal (often deeply disturbing). The language is plain, unadorned and to the point. It covers subjects such as rapidly approaching water and land shortages, potential crop failures, pollution (industrial and agricultural) and the general over -usage of our planet's natural resources; all hinging on our unrelenting population growth.
Emmott has been accused of using `unverified facts' and distorting certain data to sex up his arguments, and that may (or may not) be the case, at least to some degree. Maybe some of the points he makes are exaggerated, but sometimes you have to shout louder to get noticed. God knows the UN and the world at large can only manage a self-conscious whisper, and there's little doubt that we're living on borrowed time.
Even if Emmott is only half-right, the world as a community needs to realise that matters are becoming dangerous. The current situation, as announced by the 2014 IPCC meeting , states that we need to cut out the use of ALL fossil fuels by 2100 otherwise we are very probably going to go beyond a maximum global temperature rise of 2 degrees C and towards 4C, causing perhaps a runaway greenhouse scenario that has the potential to end much of life on Earth. Note: Year 2100 - letting the political community off the hook for many more years. So you can bet your right arm that it'll be `business as usual'. It's the common man that needs to wake up and insist that radical change is implemented NOW, but so long as Joe Public can get hold of a new ipod, or have a new shape of BMW to salivate over (etc etc) every six months (and media-puffed ‘celebs’ to ‘follow’ on ‘social media’ - chief among these currently being a certain J Clarkson, a celebrity idiot who appears to burn petrol for a living) he doesn't give a toss. I lost all hope a few days ago, while discussing climate problems with a (not unintelligent) bloke in my local pub. To my opinion that nobody will take a blind bit of notice of the probability of food shortages until bread doesn't appear on Tesco's shelves, he replied "well we'll just have to bake our own" (he was serious!).
This is Planet Earth that Emmott is talking about, the only planet we've got, and all he is trying to do is shake people out of their indifference to a monumental tragedy that's unfolding before our eyes. Emmott is saying that Earth can't support its current human population of seven billion, and he's right. The scenario he predicts for the longer term; well I hope he's wrong.
PS: There is evidence that a government-sponsored assessment was carried out some years ago, into the maximum number of people the UK could comfortably hold. The answer was 36 million. UK population in 2015 – 65 million and rising steadily. The report was supressed.
PPS: For a more in-depth and detailed approach to the subject of climate change (though broadly similar conclusions to those of SE are reached) I would recommend James Hansen’s ‘Storms of My Grandchildren’ and Mark Lynas’s ‘Six Degrees’.
on 4 April 2014
Much has been said critising the unusal layout of this punchy polemic - but it was intended to have impact and it does. The tone is so fatalistic it detracts from the message - it's so pessimistic that it makes it easy for climate change deniers to ignore it as "hysterical". It makes you think, and should provoke debate, but I would like to have seen some more positive suggestions for action. Several possible solutions are teasingly mentioned, then cynically dismissed as "that won't happen". Tell us more, maybe we can make change happen even if you've given up Stephen. In the meanwhile I've no intention of enroling my daughter in a gun club. But I'm none the wiser as to what to teach her instead.
on 16 December 2014
Yes, it is frightening. And yes, there doesn't seem to be a way out of the mess homo sapiens have created for themselves.
Dr. Emmott speaks with authority and lays fact over the instinctive fears sensitive people have had for many decades about the downward spiral we're in. The book puts the flesh on the bones of our anxiety and joins the dots. Everything is interconnected and, before we interfered, was in balance. This book doesn't lie. It's not fiction. As the title suggests, everything points to overpopulation as being the largest nail in our coffin. And yet, what government would dare go near the question? Even environmental groups like Friends of the Earth steer clear of it. Unless we stop reproducing like there was no tomorrow,there will be no tomorrow. This book should be mandatory reading in every school, in every country in the world.
on 21 June 2015
When I started this book I thought it was just more politically motivated bias and opinionated rhetoric; but the evidence presented demonstrates this view as simplistic and convincingly argues that runaway human population and consumption is more deeply entwined in all the problems facing the biosphere than most of us ever imagined.
Before reading this book I was sceptical of the role humans play in climate change, and now accept that it would be short-sighted to believe we do not make a significant contribution. However, regardless of the root cause of climate change, whether that be fluctuations in solar energy output or direct human cause & affect, the primary concern must be to acknowledge the climate is changing and that failure to adapt will be catastrophic for life on the planet. The author, who is a credible UK scientist and academic, does a good job of showing that human population is integral to the problems faced by the biosphere and that if we stand any chance to reverse the bleak path we are on, then we must radically change our behaviour. After a summary of the futile efforts that governments and green energy campaigns have come up with, the blunt truth is we either all need to take our head out the sand NOW and grasp a last slim chance to avert a disaster for our species and life on the planet; or continue oblivious and face the consequences.
This is a short book that can be read in one sitting, with sometimes only a short paragraph on each page. However, it does the job admirably, conveying all necessary information in a straight-forward and concise manner - any more would just be superfluous. While I wasn't too happy with the layout at first, thinking it a bit odd, in hindsight I think it was a good choice.
Yes, this is doom & gloom, probably won't cheer you up after reading it, and may well follow the lead of some contemporary pessimists and politically motivated doom-mongers like Al Gore; but only an idiot could completely deny that the detrimental human impact on the health of the planet is not sustainable for much longer.
on 3 August 2013
Who would buy a book like this? Presumably anyone who thinks it is important that there will be at least 10 billion human beings on our planet by the second half of the 21st century. This book is not amusing or exciting (not in a good way, at least), and it is certainly not escapist literature. Indeed, it is the exact opposite. If you want to have fun, enjoy your life, and not be worried, don't even think of opening this book - you won't like what you find inside. It's short, pungent, and stuffed with hard facts and figures and their logical implications, leading inexorably to the most unpleasant conclusions. For instance, Dr Emmott points out that, if the current rate of growth continues, by 2100 there will not be 10 billion of us. There will be 28 billion.
As Dr Emmott notes, he leads a team of scientists dedicated to studying complex systems, such as climate and ecosystems. So he is as well equipped as anyone, probably, to make sense of the waterfall of raw data about population, pollution, resource demand, global warming, and other interlocking problems that face humanity. Nevertheless, the overall complexity of our environment and the changes it is undergoing are so great that no one seems able to comprehend them fully. These problems need to be faced with respect - not ignored, belittled, or explained away with superficial, short-term, sticking-plaster "solutions". Some facts stand out starkly: for example, when I was at school there were about 3 billion people in the world, whereas today there are over 7 billion. The salient trends, perhaps, are increasing population - a trend that apparently no one can do anything about - and industrialisation driven by (and dependent on) ever-rising energy consumption. Industrialisation, in turn, theoretically drives up standards of living and resource consumption. These trends interact in vitally important ways, which it is easy to ignore if you want to paint a rosy picture. The famous "demographic transition", for example (based on a theory published in 1919) supposedly causes birth rates to fall as industrialisation and higher standards of living spread. Unfortunately, to maintain everyone in the world even today at the average US standard of living would require at least 2.5 planets the size of Earth. Moreover Peak Oil, Peak Gas, and other hard limits to the energy we can extract mean that industrialisation and standards of living are bound to fall in the future.
This is a very short book, which does look rather as if it arose from a slide presentation filled out by some notes. It is none the worse for that; at least it can be read very quickly, and will not be abandoned a third of the way through in favour of something more stimulating. It does suffer, in my opinion, from the lack of contents or index; but one can quickly find any particular topic by skimming through. It is not true to say that Dr Emmott does not offer any answers; he analyses two possible responses: "technologizing our way out of it", and "radical behaviour change". Unfortunately, he concludes that neither will work, so we are all in for it. (At least, those of us born after about 1970).
There are many intelligent and well-educated people around these days, and (largely thanks to the Web) a lot of them say their piece about topics like population growth - early and often. I have just read a typical article recently published in The Guardian, entitled "Stephen Emmott's population book is unscientific and misanthropic" by Chris Goodall. Mr Goodall is described as a "businessman and author", and stood (unsuccessfully) for parliament as a Green Party candidate in 2010. The Guardian headline criticizes "10 Billion" as being "unscientific and misanthropic". However Dr Emmott, head of Microsoft's Computational Science research team, has a BSc in biology and a PhD in computational neuroscience plus a very distinguished scientific track record. Mr Goodall is a graduate of Harvard Business School. Which, do you think, is better qualified to judge or conduct good science? As for "misanthropic", like several Amazon reviewers, Mr Goodall seems to think that is a valid criticism. But a book about science and engineering should not be judged on whether it presents the human race in a good light, or a bad one. The only valid criterion is correctness, and - to my regret - I couldn't find anything in this book that looks untrue or inaccurate.
on 16 February 2014
This book does not make pleasent reading but it is not intended to be a slushy novel with a happy ending. It gives a scientific analysis of all the world's problems and places the blame exactly where it belongs, inthe hands of the human race. Those who breed like animals will live like animals and die like animals.
on 25 October 2013
Anyone who's ever pondered the impact of our addiction to high consumption in the western world needs to read this book. We all feel we're doing our bit by recycling our milk cartons and driving electric cars. This book spells it out, in laymans terms, a bit of recycling and turning off the toilet light is nor going to help, the problem is bigger than that. We need change, radical change, if our children and grandchildren are to enjoy this planet as we know it now.
If you do one thing today, buy this book and educate everyone you know on the scale of the epidemic.
10 Billion is incredibly frank - to the point of being blunt - but when faced with facts like these, this style is the perfect vehicle. You get the feeling that the time has passed to worry about being patronising - those who can make a difference aren't listening, and the hand-held, step-by-step, plain and simple layout of the book drives that home with no room for doubt.
It's a shocking, overwhelming and desperate message, and (to risk a spoiler), the ending isn't exactly a happy one. But somewhere in that desperation, there's a tiny hope that people in power might actually listen to what is being said here. Stephen Emmott should know, being at the helm of some exciting new projects which might be part of the solution, if there is one.
An important book - read it, tell people about it, pass it on - and maybe, just maybe, the nightmare won't come true.
on 22 April 2014
My best friends' husband suggested this read and so I was intrigued in reading it. This book is written in a really easy manner accessible to all. Read it in one day.
It's extremeley informative,pessimistic, realistic and depressing, but worth a read to open our eyes to the world we live in. Did you know that we needed 4 litres of water to produce a plastic bottle? and that we use water to make mobile phones and basically everything we use?
It's pretty scary, but a must read to open our eyes.