A book that offers an engaging and sometimes-frightening dose of overpopulation reality.




Tucker argues for the benefits of decreasing Earth’s population in this debut work on sustainability.

Earth has a carrying capacity, according to the author, and it’s less than half the number of human beings that it currently has: “In effect, humanity has been on a century-long binge,” he says, “featuring exponential population growth, continuous growth in industrial output and individual consumption, and the ecological devastation that goes with it.” He argues that the ideal population is 3 billion people—approximately the number that were alive on Earth in the mid-20th century. This may sound like a low number, but Tucker’s method of calculating it sounds quite reasonable. The population is not only growing, but becoming increasingly “middle class,” he asserts, meaning that each person is able to consume more things and generate more waste. Even if the population were to stabilize and humanity found new, hyperefficient ways to recycle its trash, the author argues that we’ve already passed the point of sustainability given the size of the planet and its amount of resources. The author presents and analyzes many different population-sustainability hypotheses and also examines historical trends from humanity’s first 200,000 years, which had relatively minuscule population growth. Tucker then lays out his case for why estimates above 3 billion are, in his opinion, starry-eyed. So what, then, do we do with all the extra people? The author has a long-term plan—and it’s actually much simpler, and less sinister, than one might think. In the second half of the book, the author provides a strategy for getting back to a sustainable civilization—an act that he characterizes not as a retreat or decline but as a chance for a new beginning. This book has a premise that’s likely to alarm the vast majority of readers at first glance, but Tucker executes his argument in a tone that’s calm and even cordial. Although he admits that his target number might be wrong—and encourages others to attempt to raise it, based on the available data—he shows a deep familiarity with the issue of overpopulation and comes to his argument armed with information. Indeed, many readers may find themselves marveling at the complexity of Earth’s resource cycle, as he lays it out. Even those who finish the book unconvinced of the necessity of curbing Earth’s population will get a better understanding of the factors that go into human sustainability—and of how easily they can become imbalanced. In the end, Tucker’s primary theme seems to be that humankind needs to start thinking about its problems in a geographic framework: “Without a shared geographical understanding of our planet, our species, and the civilizations we have created, we will soon find ourselves unable to deal with the unfortunate consequences of ignoring certain realities about our planet.” This is a book that may initially inspire fear, but ideally, it will also be one that engenders discussion.

A book that offers an engaging and sometimes-frightening dose of overpopulation reality.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-51530-4

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Atlas Observatory Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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