The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann

The Wizard and the Prophet

From the best-selling, award-winning author of 1491 and 1493--an incisive portrait of the two little-known twentieth-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 twenty-first century will choose to live in tomorrow's world.In forty years, Earth's population will reach ten billion. Can our world support that? What kind of w...

Details The Wizard and the Prophet

TitleThe Wizard and the Prophet
Release DateJan 23rd, 2018
PublisherBooks on Tape
GenreScience, Nonfiction, History, Environment, Biography, Nature

Reviews The Wizard and the Prophet

  • David
    Charles Mann has written some wonderful books. I read two of them, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, and they are both excellent. And, this book follows in the same vein; while it is about a completely different subject (the twentieth century rise of environmentalism), it is equal in quality to his previous books.Humans grab between 25% and 40% of the entire world's output o...
  • Hadrian
    Dual biography which compares and contrasts two main currents of thought in the environmentalist movement. "The Wizard" is the Iowan scientist Norman Borlaug, who believed that scientific advancement would solve problems of food scarcity. He is best remembered as a champion of the "Green Revolution", which led to increasing crop yields in South Asia and other parts of the developing world. "The Prophet" is the ornithologist William Vogt, who firs...
  • Peter Tillman
    A pretty good, if overlong, book about technical progress (Wizards) vs. environmental activism (Prophets). More or less. Mann does a good job of remaining even-handed in this long-running debate, which became prominent (in the US) with John Muir vs. Gifford Pinchot in the early 20th century. Mann picked William Vogt as his Prophet poster-boy. I’d never heard of Vogt, an ornithologist who studied the guano islands off Peru in the 1940s, and went...
  • Dave
    I really didn't think I'd ever waste my time reading another new book by Charles Mann. After he came out with his article claiming that fossil fuel supplies are infinite, I lost all respect for him. I had actually liked 1491 and 1493, finding some ideas to be a bit questionable but for the most part being pretty good books. At first I couldn't even believe that the article could have been written by the same guy who wrote those. Looking around fo...
  • Jim
    I've read about both Borlaug (The Wizard) & Vogt (The Prophet) before, but it's great to get a better picture of their lives & missions, especially where their adherents collide head on. - Borlaug believed that technology got us into this mess & could get us out of it. He's credited with saving over a billion lives due to his work with tweaking crops to grow in poor soils. He is credited as the father of the Green Revolution - crops modified to r...
  • Philipp
    [Borlaug] asked me if I had ever been to a place where most of the people weren't getting enough to eat. "Not just poor, but actually hungry all the time," he said. I told him that I hadn't been to such a place. "That's the point," he said. "When I was getting started, you couldn't avoid them."This is Dr. Norman Borlaug, next to Prof. William Erskine (who himself works in an office in my building here in Perth, we co-supervise one PhD student, he...
  • Charles J
    This book addresses what is, as far as the material comforts of the modern age, the central question of our time—can mankind have it all? The author, Charles Mann, does not answer that question, though I think his answer would be, if forced, “probably yes.” What Mann offers, rather than canned answers, is a refreshingly and relentlessly non-ideological work, comparing two philosophies of human development, embodied in the lives of two men o...
  • Koen Kop
    A must-read for anyone who cares about this planet and the pursuit of happiness of all its inhabitants. Best book I've read in ages.
  • Ryan Boissonneault
    How will humanity chose to address the future ecological problems it will face? Weaving together biography, philosophy, and science, the author presents an unbiased perspective on the two possible paths we can take to meet the challenges of supporting 10 billion people by 2050. Here are some interesting points I took away from the book.1. Human beings are subject to the same ecological and biological constraints as all species. For example, the p...
  • Stephanie
    Food for thought book. Well researched and referenced. Enjoyable but intense read.Charles Mann claims this is about two remarkable scientists, William Vogt and Norman Borlaug, but I would claim that his book revolves around three remarkable scientists, the third being Lynn Margulis. Mann uses Margulis’s biological rules and explains Vogt and Borlaug’s work and perceptions against them.Mann starts the book by give us biographies on both men an...
  • Leo Walsh
    Charles Mann is one of my favorite pop-science historians. I loved his books 1491 and 1493, which examine native Americas cultures as they existed before Columbus (1491) and after him (1493). And THE WIZARD AND THE PROPHET follows in his tradition of writing books that captivate, combining science with human-interest, and tracking science and technologies impact on regular people's lives. In this one, Mann traces the two common responses to our c...
  • Nancy Mills
    This is a must-read, in my opinion, for anyone interested in environmental issues, the future of mankind and our effect on the planet. It's an admirably balanced account of two schools of thought, represented by two amazing men who are little known but left huge legacies to our future: Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, the Wizard and the Prophet, respectively. Vogt introduced the view to a wide audience that our resources are limited, and that the...
  • Josh Friedlander
    A superb book, required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in environmentalism. Mann uses the dual paradigm of the "wizard" (Norman Borlaug, creator of the Green Revolution) and "prophet" (William Vogt, godfather of the modern environmentalist movement) to explore a fundamental question: are we doomed to run out of resources, making our planet uninhabitable (for us), and die out? This seems to be the path of every species, and after ...
  • Aaron Arnold
    Both of Mann's previous books, 1491 and 1493, described in great detail how various societies have interacted with local and global ecology, but never before has he offered such a clear framework for thinking about the reasons why humanity can't resist the urge to mold our environment to our activities and not the other way around, and drawn such clear lines between different human approaches to nature. This is a full-length expansion of "The Sta...
  • Leo
    3/5: Great review of two mainstream, competing environmental resource management theories, those involved in the culmination of these two theories, and a brief history of their interaction with our environment.
  • A Reader
    The current world population of 7.6 billion is projected to increase by 1 billion over the next 12 years and reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Growth will be mainly in developing countries, with more than half in Africa. This will present fundamental problems. “There are about too many people for too little land” said a few years ago the BBC broadcaster and naturalist, David Attenborough. How to feed ten billion? How to provide ten billion with clea...
  • Kyle Muntz
    A really nice look at issues of the environment and sustainability, very well written and weirdly evocative in its organization: the dueling ideology of "wizards and prophets" in their struggle to manipulate the elements of "earth, water, fire and air". On the other hand, despite its successes, I can't help but be a little disappointed, as this is the only book by Mann that hasn't drastically inverted the way I understand something. The issues ar...
  • Dana Kraft
    This was a book that changed my perspective on environmental issues and has made me think a lot more about why I hold certain beliefs. I learned about history, science, anthropology, politics and so many other things. This is also the most balanced, thoughtful and fair presentation of environmental and climate change issues I've ever read. I'm sure my family is tired of hearing me talk about this book.A few quotes I'll remember:'He asked me if I ...
  • Lynn
    The Wizard is Norman Borlaug, a son of Swedish immigrants to the mid-West, who declared that innovation was necessary for humans to survive a population explosion and the demands of the environment. The Prophet is William Vogt, a self taught but well recognized ornithologist, who warned without cuts and changes in behavior, the human species could die off like other species have. He wrote The Population Bomb. Borlaug won the Nobel Prize with his ...
  • Abigail
    Where to even start?!? This book blew my mind!! I don't know if that is just a combination of my education and my job (both related to environmental resources)... I am sure that played a big part in it. I think anyone who works in this field should give this a read, and even if you aren't, I still think it could be eye-opening for you. I thought this book did an amazing job of trying to evaluate both world views fairly, finding faults with both, ...
  • Dave
    For me, Charles Mann has another home run with 'The Wizard and the Profit', 5+ stars! Mann is also the author of (among other books) '1491' and '1493', extraordinary nonfiction/history works. He is on my short list of very fine historians/nonfiction authors.In this book, Mann tells the story of the lives and works of two largely forgotten but extremely influential mid-twentieth century scientists. In 1948, William Vogt (the 'Phophet') wrote 'Road...
  • Laurent Franckx
    It's really one of the fundamental questions facing humanity: in order to solve the scarcity of resources, should we search for technical fixes or should we adapt our living standards to the carrying capacity of our ecosystems? Charles Mann's approach to this problem is highly original: he builds his book around the lives and work of two men who epitomize both worldviews: Norman Borlaug, the father of the "Green revolution" (the "wizard"), and Wi...
  • Mark
    Superb history of the modern environmental controversy from the standpoint of progenitors. William Vogt and Norman Borlaug, ideological enemies, between them set the ground rules for today's animosity between two worldviews that, for all intents and purposes, should be working together. Unfortunately, personality and sense of mission can form deep barriers to reason and Mann gives us a historical biography or where and how this divide emerged---b...
  • Barry
    An excellent history and summary of the two views that have dominated our understanding of how we deal with the future. The Wizards believe we need to use our human ingenuity to develop ways to deal with resources and our impact on the environment. The Prophets believe we have a natural limit to what we can do and we need to develop methods to lessen our human footprint. Mann does a very good job of pointing to the positives and shortcomings of b...
  • Naum
    Marvelous chronicle & essay fusion of the role of *wizard* (Norman Borlaug bio, condensed) and *prophet* (William Vogt bio, condensed) from author of the wondrous works 1491 & 1493. This offering is just as stellar. Mann delivers account in a "thinking aloud" mode & confesses he deviates from one axis to another. And this delineation could easily apply to just about any facet of any field of study.
  • Ryan
    Prophets warn that we'll run out and generally want to reduce consumption or strain on ecosystems. Wizards believe technological innovation will save the day, usually by producing more. Mann introduces the merits of both groups' attempt to create a world that can support 10 billion.It's easy to miscast prophets and wizards as luddites and geniuses or pessimists and optimists. The culture of water management, such as drip irrigation, that the Isra...
  • Faith
    A history of the different approaches to climate change. Very interesting and informative. The author is not a Christian, but he presents the facts and seems unbiased. I really enjoyed this one.
  • Rick Elinson
    Mann, cleverly and successfully, sets up a dichotomy to discuss the question of whether humans can deal with a population of 10 billion by 2050. He uses the thinking and careers of William Vogt, the prophet of the title, and Norman Borlaug, the wizard. Following Vogt, humans would have to accommodate themselves to the environment and to live within their ecological means. Following Borlaug, humans would have to find technological ways to increase...
  • Gail
    As a person who has worked with several leading environmental organizations, I was drawn to read about the dichotomy that is visible in almost every discussion on how to confront our greatest environmental challenges. And that dichotomy? Does our salvation lie down the path of technology (Wizards) or in living within existing limits (Prophets)?Environmentalists pride themselves on approaching problems and solutions based on “the evidence”. As...
  • Terry
    Author Mann (wrote bestseller 1492) uses 2 men with similar ages and personalities (persistent/stubborn, smart, humble backgrounds) but polar opposites in solutions to world pop./hunger/food/sustainability challenges., to outline, discuss, and summarize the long and on-going 'battle' between those who believe man can tame/control/alter nature for mankind's benefit vs those who believe 1) it's morally wrong to destroy eco systems; 2) and in the lo...