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The Wizard and the Prophet tackles the biggest question we humans are facing: can the earth sustain our growing population? Our very existence is reliant on finding an answer to this one big question.
In forty years, the population of the Earth will reach ten billion. Can our world support so many people? What kind of world will it be? In this unique, original and important book, Charles C. Mann illuminates the four great challenges we face – food, water, energy, climate change – through an exploration of the crucial work and wide-ranging influence of two little-known twentieth-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt.
Vogt (the proverbial Prophet) was the intellectual forefather of the environmental movement, and believed that in our using more than the planet has to give, our prosperity will bring us to ruin. Borlaug's research in the 1950s led to the development of modern high-yield crops that have saved millions from starvation. The proverbial Wizard of Mann's title, he believed that science will continue to rise to the challenges we face.
Mann tells the stories of these scientists and their crucial influence on today's debates as his story ranges from Mexico to India, across continents and oceans and from the past and the present to the future. Brilliantly original in concept, wryly observant and deeply researched, The Wizard and the Prophet is essential reading for readers of Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens or Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, for anyone interested in how we got here and in the future of our species.
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.
"A fascinating story of two forgotten men whose ideas changed our understanding of humanity's place in nature [...] Mann offers a sympathetic, nuanced way to understand one of the fundamental debates of our time: How will 10 billion humans live sustainably on Earth, when our demands for energy and food are growing?"
– Annalee Newitz, editor, Ars Technica
"This unique, encompassing, clarifying, engrossing, inquisitive, and caring work of multifaceted research, synthesis and analysis humanizes the challenges and contradictions of modern environmentalism and and our struggle towards a viable future."
– Booklist starred review
"Masterful [...] Mann's most spectacular accomplishment is to take no sides [...] An insightful, highly significant account that makes no predictions but lays out the critical environmental problems already us."
– Kirkus starred review
"Does the earth's finite carrying capacity mean economic growth has to stop? That momentous question is the subject of Charles Mann's brilliant book The Wizard and the Prophet [...] A treasure house of knowledge [...] Indispensable."
– Wall Street Journal
"Mann's storytelling skills are unmatched – the sprightly tempo with which this book unfolds, each question answered as it comes to mind, makes for pure pleasure reading [...] The great virtue of Mann's book [...] is that raises very large questions [...] that are usually either ignored or answered in slogans. [Mann] provides detail enough, and simplicity enough, that anyone who is struggling with these puzzles will be enlightened and informed. And entertained, which, given the subject matter, is no small feat."
– New York Times