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Surviving the 21st Century

Humanity's Ten Great Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them

Authors: Cribb, Julian

  • Enriches understanding of humanity's greatest challenges and why we need to solve them
  • Shares many tips and insights into creative and collaborative ways of avoiding human extinction
  • Identifies the main approaches to dematerialzing the economy, ending "agribusiness" and cleaning up the earth
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About this book

The book 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. 

About the authors

Julian Cribb is an Australian author and science writer. A former newspaper editor and science communicator; his published work includes over 8000 articles, 3000 science media releases and nine books. He has received more than 30 awards for journalism and is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology, Science and Engineering and the Australian National University Emeritus Faculty. 
His internationally-acclaimed book, The Coming Famine (University of California Press, 2010) explored the question of how we can feed 10 billion humans this century. His book Poisoned Planet (Allen and Unwin 2014) investigates the contamination of the Earth system and all humanity by man-made chemicals. Surviving the 21st Century is the third book in his trilogy about how humans can overcome the existential risks our success has brought upon us.


“Cribb, an experienced author and science writer, has written an important book–providing policy makers will pay attention to it. … This book is recommended for a variety of readers. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers.” (M. LaBar, Choice, Vol. 54 (8), 2017)

“His book Surviving the 21st Century: Humanity’s Ten Great Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them poses the ten existential challenges facing Homo sapiens, and answers each one. It is a book of solutions, severally and collectively.” (Climate Plus,, December, 2016)

“It comprehensively addresses all the main threats to us and to our planet. … We can demonstrate wisdom by getting hold of a copy of Surviving the 21 Century and applying some of the recommendations to our own lives. We can recommend the book to others. We can alert our leaders to the book and its contents. We owe this to ourselves and to our planet.” (Paul Holper, Scientell,, November, 2016)

“Spells out the ten greatest challenges ahead and suggests strategies to meet them, all based on science .... Those challenges include ecological collapse, climate change, war, chemicals in the environment, food, disease and delusional thinking, among others. The potential solutions proposed by the author include putting women in charge of world affairs, and for men to start thinking more like 'wise women'.” (Scimex,, November 3, 2016)

“What a refreshing a dose of realism! An antidote to so much media fog, hype and bad science. An important read for anyone who is seriously concerned about how the human race is to go forward and how to help our grandchildren survive. Worth every penny. (Will Goodall,, October 12, 2016)

“The book has been unanimously praised by a cast of reviewers ... . The author explores each of these threats and identifies ways we can positively approach each of them. But he says the greatest challenge lies not in the physical threats we face but in our own minds. He argues that our belief in non-material things like money, politics, religion and the human narrative often diverts and undermines our efforts to work together for survival.” (Canberra Alliance for Participatory Democracy,, October 5, 2016)

“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.” 

(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 Defense 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)

Buy this book

Softcover 29,11 €
price for Spain (gross)

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Surviving the 21st Century
Book Subtitle
Humanity's Ten Great Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them
Springer International Publishing
Copyright Holder
Springer International Publishing Switzerland
Softcover ISBN
Edition Number
Number of Pages
XIV, 255
Number of Illustrations
17 illustrations in colour