Book Reviews - Spring 2018

A Planet in Peril

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Can humanity engineer its way out of trouble?

By David Gessner | March 5, 2018
USDA NRCS Montana/ Flickr

The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World by Charles C. Mann; Knopf, 640 pp., $28.95

One of the pleasures of reading Charles C. Mann’s new book, The Wizard and the Prophet, is the simple pleasure of learning. Mann knows things about the world, lots of things, and if you spend time with him, you will come to know things, too. In this particular book, he introduces us to Norman Borlaug, an agricultural scientist who in 1970 won the Nobel Prize for fathering the Green Revolution that helped feed millions of people around the world, and William Vogt, who Mann claims is the “principal founder” of modern environmentalism. Mann writes about Borlaug and Vogt both as human beings and as symbols of ways of being in the world, particularly of ways of dealing with the coming crises of overpopulation, world hunger, water scarcity, and climate change.

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