By Alan Weisman
In The World Without Us,a penetrating, page-turning tour of a post-human Earth, Alan Weisman postulates the complete disappearance of mankind from planet Earth. Then he extrapolates about what would happen without us. By his estimate most of our leavings would rot and crumble; much of our damage would take eons to undo. There's one tiny bit of good news. Depleted sea species might recover if we would do them a favor and go away.offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity’s impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.
Alan Weisman embarks on an audacious intellectual adventure: He tries to imagine what the world would be like if humans suddenly disappeared. "How would the rest of nature respond if it were suddenly relieved of the relentless pressures we heap on it and our fellow organisms? How soon would, or could, the climate return to where it was before we fired up all our engines? How long would it take to recover lost ground and restore Eden to the way it must have gleamed and smelled the day before Adam, or homo habilis, appeared? And,could nature ever obliterate all our traces?"
In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.
The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York’s subways would start eroding the city’s foundations, and how, as the world’s cities crumble, asphalt jungles would give way to real ones.
When Alan Weisman wonders what would happen to New York City, he foresees rewilding (the return of wolves and bears), plants forcing their ways through the sidewalk and water damage to the underground infrastructure.
The World Without Us describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dali Lama, and paleontologists,who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths,Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.
Weisman reveals Earth’s tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman’s narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn't depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.
The World Without Us is a must read for all human beings as it will get anyone who reads it to start seriously thinking about our impact on our home.