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Publisher's Summary

From the best-selling, award-winning author of 1491 and 1493 - an incisive portrait of the two little-known 20th-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, whose diametrically opposed views shaped our ideas about the environment, laying the groundwork for how people in the 21st century will choose to live in tomorrow's world.

In 40 years, Earth's population will reach 10 billion. Can our world support that? What kind of world will it be? Those answering these questions generally fall into two deeply divided groups - Wizards and Prophets, as Charles Mann calls them in this balanced, authoritative, nonpolemical new book. The Prophets, he explains, follow William Vogt, a founding environmentalist who believed that in using more than our planet has to give, our prosperity will lead us to ruin. Cut back! was his mantra. Otherwise everyone will lose! The Wizards are the heirs of Norman Borlaug, whose research, in effect, wrangled the world in service to our species to produce modern high-yield crops that then saved millions from starvation. Innovate! was Borlaug's cry. Only in that way can everyone win! Mann delves into these diverging viewpoints to assess the four great challenges humanity faces - food, water, energy, climate change - grounding each in historical context and weighing the options for the future. With our civilization on the line, the author's insightful analysis is an essential addition to the urgent conversation about how our children will fare on an increasingly crowded Earth.

©2018 Charles C. Mann (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A fascinating story of two forgotten men whose ideas changed our understanding of humanity's place in nature. The Wizard and the Prophet is an intellectual history of the clash between techno-optimists and environmentalists, but it's also the very personal story of two thinkers, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt. 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? This book showcases an important new kind of futurism, which looks to the past to understand how we'll survive. Never preachy nor dogmatic, Mann asks his readers to do the most difficult thing possible: choose a path to a better world, by consulting your own conscience." (Annalee Newitz, editor, Ars Technica )

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balanced and deep

much more than a biography, this volume presents some of the major issues of our times with thought provoking stories.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • BKATX
  • DFW, TX, United States
  • 01-26-18

Fantastic

Charles C. Mann delivers again, he is one of the best science writers going. Bronson Pinchot is fantastic as well (as always).

If you have an interest in ecology, agronomy, energy, poverty, overpopulation, climatology and global warming you will find this book interesting.

The author does a good job of not picking sides and highlights both the pros and cons of each argument.

Highly recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating look at our future and our choices

What did you love best about The Wizard and the Prophet?

Charles Mann does an excellent job of pulling all the various complicated and apposing viewpoints on climate change together and making them understandable for the average guy, like me. His book pulls them together into one interconnected framework and put it on a calm blank canvas where the reader is allowed the room to draw their own conclusion about what might be our best path forward into the future. The story, full of real world scientists and politicians with their brilliant discovery's (and frequent missteps) was not only fascinating to listen to as it unfolded but also forced me to abandon my preconceived biases about conservation and our technical advancements and realize a much broader viewpoint. It was well worth the read and has me still thinking about it's concepts weeks later. Highly recommended!

What other book might you compare The Wizard and the Prophet to and why?

Cosmos. Its ability to make complex and impossible large and slow scientific issues accessible and understandable.I suspect this book will be one of those efforts that 30 years from now will still resonate and will see translations into dozens of languages as countries grapple with these escalating issues.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant piece of work!

i enjoyed this book so much that i bought the hard copy to re-read and annotate. It will be a lifetime reference.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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An odd but interesting mix of ideas

This book explores The creation of the modern world through a look at the green revolution in college and in eclectic mix of other things. However, it’s well written and enjoyable.

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a Straight Forward Discussion of a Complex Subject

Mann has brought us a fascinating story about these two men, the science beneath it all, and it's impact on our lives today.

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  • L
  • 08-19-18

Excellent philosophical approach to modernity

Through the stories of two pivotal individuals, it gives you a blueprint for see the modern world through competing world views and what the future holds: techno-optimism versus you-can't-fool-Mother-Nature. The frames of reference the book leaves you with are even better than the book itself.

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Interesting Idea, Well Written

This is a well-written description of two ecological philosophies: let nature rule or let people rule. It applies to climate change and a lot of other things. It was well researchedy, educational and an interesting and fun read.

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as high quality as 1491

skeptical and thourough scientific thinking together with equal consideration for two groups of opposite ideas make thins book a well worth reading

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Competing and complimenting views.

This book title makes a strong thesis statement the author has no problem sticking with through every chapter. Mann is no stranger to this sort of research and writing as his previous volumes, 1491 and 1493 have also demonstrated. All of his work present clear notions of our collective past, present, and possible futures. There are more than a few driveway moments here!