Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review - Earth: Our Crowded Spaceship by Isaac Asimov

Short review: Overpopulation is a problem. Asimov explains why.

Too many people
Crowded onto Earth's confines
Will create problems

Full review: Asimov was always concerned about the possible overpopulation of Earth, and the negative consequences he foresaw would result. Overpopulation shows up many times in his fiction: the Robot stories, the Lucky Starr stories, numerous short stories (notably, for example, in The Winnowing). Asimov feared the consequences of an overpopulated Earth, and this volume, written for UNICEF, makes that abundantly clear.

It is difficult to argue with any of the information in the book - Asimov makes a very convincing case that the Earth will inevitably be asked to support more humans than it possibly can. In many ways, Asimov's estimates concerning how quickly population pressure will develop are too conservative: in the years since the book was published, human numbers have grown faster than he predicted.

The book loses some of its effectiveness, however, because Asimov harangues the reader at times, and gives prescriptions that are impossible to adopt in a manner that will be effective (requiring the altruistic coordination of many governments at least). While he does a good job at explaining the problem, he does a poor job at coming up with a workable solution. As a warning, the book is well written. As a guide to solving the problem, not so much. Overall, it adds up to a book worth reading, but not much more than that.

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