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  • Writer's pictureJulian Cribb

Surviving the 21st Century: our ten great challenges and how we can overcome them

Updated: May 9, 2021

Surviving the 21st Century explores the central question facing humanity today: how can we best survive the ten great existential challenges that are now coming together to confront us? Besides describing these challenges from the latest scientific perspectives, it also outlines and integrates the solutions, both at global and individual level and concludes optimistically. This book brings together in one easy-to-read work the principal issues facing humanity. It is written for the two next generations who will have to deal with the compounding risks they inherit, and which flow from overpopulation, resource pressures and human nature.

The author examines ten intersecting areas of activity (mass extinction, resource depletion, WMD, climate change, universal toxicity, food crises, population and urban expansion, pandemic disease, dangerous new technologies and self-delusion) which pose manifest risks to civilization and, potentially, to our species’ long-term future. This isn’t a book just about problems. It is also about solutions. Every chapter concludes with clear conclusions and consensus advice on what needs to be done at global level —but it also empowers individuals with what they can do for themselves to make a difference.

Unlike other books, it offers integrated solutions across the areas of greatest risk. It explains why Homo sapiens is no longer an appropriate name for our species, and what should be done about it.

Published by Springer International, 2017


“Julian Cribb brilliantly introduced the general public to the gigantic threat of global toxification in Poisoned Planet. Now he’s done it again, taking on the entire existential threat to civilization. Absolutely everyone with an interest in humanity should read this clear, authoritative, scary book.” - Emeritus Professor Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of ‘The Annihilation of Nature’. Bing Professor of Population Studies Emeritus; President, Center for Conservation Biology; Department of Biology, Stanford University

“With astonishing breadth of knowledge and acute observational skills, Julian Cribb has given us a book that is a kind of report on the state of life on the planet. At the centre of life on earth, he tell us, is the creature known as homo sapiens – self-deceiver, degrader, destroyer, anything it seems but sapiens. And yet, if we peer through the gloom is that a spark we can just make out, the spark of wisdom? - Professor Clive Hamilton, author Requiem for a Species and Earthmasters

“We've come a long way from our hunter/gatherer past, but how assured is our future? In this book, Julian Cribb argues that the continuation of the human story depends on what we do now and in the immediate future.” - Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, University of Melbourne

“Cribb has delivered another clear-eyed and expansive look over the problems we face, inspiring in both its scope and scholarship, and again has tempered the sense of doom with well-defined, positive actions for us all, both as a society and as individuals. It is a systemic problem, and he provides the necessary systemic solutions – may they be widely read and acted upon!” - Dr Mark Stafford Smith, Chair, Science Committee, Future Earth

“An overpopulated, resource depleted and environmentally wounded planet needs our urgent help. Julian Cribb provides timely and thoughtful answers.”

- Major General the Hon. Michael Jeffery AO AC, former Governor-General of Australia

“Only rarely does someone write a “must read” book. This is one of them. Nothing is more important than to truly tackle to massive challenges facing the Earth and humanity itself.” - Professor David Lindenmayer AO, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow

“This could be one of the most important books of the 21stC, particularly if enough people read it, understand the message embedded in the content and then act accordingly. This well-written and researched book is more than a catalogue of despair but rather it points out some very obvious actions that could take humanity on a more sustainable journey.” - Professor Graham Durant, Director, Australian National Science and Technology Centre

“This is the guide for our times, the overlapping hazards we prefer not to think about but must. Here is a magisterial summary that spares no comfort zones but does show what we need to do and, at last, how to do it.” - Dr Robyn Williams, Science Broadcaster, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

“In his latest book, Surviving the 21st Century, Julian Cribb provides a masterful evidence-based account of the ten greatest threats to humanity – and importantly, how to beat them. This ground-breaking and timely treatise goes far beyond simply documenting gloom-and-doom to show how we can collectively achieve solutions to the world’s major challenges.” - Distinguished Professor Terry Hughes, coral reef scientist, James Cook University

“The structure of this book provides a fascinating device for exploring the great crises of our time, and for facing up to the biggest question: are we capable of dealing with them?”

- Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature (1989) and Earth (2010)

“Today we appear to be facing an increasingly uncertain future and are probably more confused than ever. Julian Cribb’s book adds to these feelings but also provides glimmers of hope as he articulates with clarity what our challenges are and how we might confront them.” - Maj. Gen John Hartley AO, former Australian Army Land Commander and Director of Defence Intelligence

“This book concisely summarises the critical challenges facing human society in the twenty-first century, as well as providing helpful advice about the most useful steps individuals can take. It is comprehensive, accurate and measured in its assessments. It is an essential guidebook to help thoughtful people act responsibly.”

- Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, Environmental scientist, Griffith University

“The material in the book is exceptionally thoroughly researched and referenced; the author is a very distinguished science writer. The book is encyclopedic in scale. Everyone who wishes to be well-informed on the ills of civilization and how they might be solved should read this book - particularly those in public office.” - Emeritus Professor Adrian Gibbs, Virologist, Australian National University

“This erudite and highly readable analysis of the interlinked threats to the future of the human species is absolutely essential reading for all politicians and policy makers, voters and young people everywhere. Cribb shows with absolute clarity that humanity in the 21st-century now faces the greatest test of our collective wisdom in our relatively short history. Grandparents should read the book with particular care.” - Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas, Epidemiologist, Australian National University

“This is an important book. Few others deal with so many confronting problems in an integrated way. Hopefully it will fulfill its aim of helping build the discussion about survival that we have to have.” -Jenny Goldie, past president, Sustainable Population Australia

“An honest, frank discussion around the greatest existential risks confronting humanity today and the sensible solutions. A splendid book to be read by every member of our political and corporate incumbency, who continue to ignore these unpalatable truths; and by the community who now have to force them into action.” - Ian Dunlop, Member the Club of Rome, formerly Chair Australian Coal Association & CEO Australian Institute of Company Directors

“This book exposes the fragility of humanity. It offers a sobering, yet compelling, explanation of the threats and why they are so pervasive. However, it also offers solutions. It is a “must-read” because essentially, this book is about our survival.” - Professor Tim Smith PhD, Director, Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

“It had me from the first paragraph. A great guide for grandkids – and the wise decisions required by their grandparents.” - Peter R Day, CEO, Resource Strategies Pty Ltd “This is a book that is not for the faint-hearted! Avoid this book if you wish to ignore the challenges of our species and our changing world. On the other hand, if you wish for an honest and well researched account amply sprinkled with hope and solutions, then this is the book for you!” - Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg FAA, Director, Global Change Institute, University of Queensland.

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