World on the Edge starts depressing and goes downhill from there. The atmosphere is being pumped full of greenhouse gases; cars are sucking the world's oil supplies dry; and water, perhaps the most valuable commodity, is disappearing in the places it is needed most. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has exhausted its underground water supplies.
It is a dismal picture. But Lester Brown, president of a US environmental policy research organisation, is not simply writing an essay on how our days are numbered.
The second half of the book is devoted to necessary but painful proposals. For what is essentially scholarly research distilled into popular language, it reads fast and Brown's ideas are conveyed in neat packages. There is little space for opposing views, but then, in Brown's estimation, ignoring resource shortages is shortsighted. This is proselytising literature, but unlikely to persuade anyone not already sympathetic to the ideas it contains. In the end, it is enjoyable and informative - not beach reading, but the perfect book for anyone living in a desert.