From the catalogue: "In A WORLD WITHOUT US, what traces of us would linger, and which would disappear? Weisman writes about which objects from today will vanish; which will become relics and fossils; how our pipes, wires, and cables will be pulverized into an unusual (but mere) line of red rock; why some museums and churches might be the last human creations standing; and how plastic, cast-iron, and radio waves may be our most lasting gifts to the planet.
But of our world currently fare The World Without Us is also about how parts without a human presence (Chernobyl; a Polish old-growth forest; the Korean DMZ) and it looks at the human legacy on Earth, whether fleeting or indelible. Its narrative nonfiction at its finest, taking on an irresistable concept with gravity and a highly-readable touch."
I avoided reading this book because I thought it was another "humans-are-bad-for-the-planet-and-we-should-be-ashamed-we're-even-breathing-its-air" book, but I heard Alan Weisman on a radio interview and was impressed with his enthusiasm for the subject of how fascinating the planet is and, with the hypothetical premise of "what if all the humans disappeared en masse in one day--not disease or war, so there would not be corpses--how would the earth survive (fairly well). No, he doesn't hate humans. He made a point of saying it wasn't a treatise on how we're damaging the planet, but what the effects of our actions are. That may sound contradictory, but his point is that we're humans not monsters and if we see what effect our actions and products we may think and act differently. (If you never hated plastic before, you will now--almost every bit that has ever been produced in the last 60 years since it was found still exists; it won['t go away, although he's sure that there are microbes mutating to be little plastic eaters that way there are microbes to eat just about everything else.) As a recognizable example, he chose New York City. As a lifetime resident I was both appalled and fascinated: The Brooklyn Bridge will last centuries because when it was built no one had built anything like it, had no blueprint, and there were no computers so they packed in lots more stone and steel than would prove necessary. The subways have 24-hour-a-day pumps to keep out the water; when the people disappear there is no one to maintain the pumps and in about 48 hours, the subways flood well above the platform. Wild life from upstate would soon take back Manhattan. He even theorizes over pet dogs and cats--one species would survive, one wouldn't. Then the book expands to discuss current (not hypothetical) situations in other parts of the world. It's gets very intense at times and I found myself needing to switch to fiction or lighter nonfiction, but wanting to go back to it.
This starts out exceedingly well, one of the best "first acts" in any science book I've ever read. Unfortunately, it loses a lot of that energy during the middle and the end, as it seems to forget its original vision and become a largely generic environmental text. However, some of the environmental facts presented are amazing and truly shocking.
I found this book to be most interesting. It describes what certain places will revert back to if there were no humans. I haven't finished the book yet, but I did get to the part where the Panama Canal is being discussed. I was on a cruise through the Canal in 2001 and so it was most interesting to read. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in what the world will be like if all human life is gone.
Although there are a few enlightening and informative historical tidbits, this book is primarily environmental alarmism, with the narrative thesis of how long it would take the planet to recover from us as a connective theme. Most of the information will be repetitive to the ecologically literate, and the tone is wearying. For example, one of the first chapters is about which parts of your house will rot first.
I agree with the previous reviewer who said this book loses steam about half-way through. However, this is an excellent book! Be aware that this is not a story, it's actual facts and explanations of what would happen to the Earth if people were to suddenly disappear. There's lots of statistics and details that are absolutely disturbing to me. I can't believe the ways humans are killing the Earth, and a lot of them I've never even heard of or thought about. This book will really make you think and examine what you consume and waste. Too bad everyone on Earth can't read this book, maybe it would make us all think twice before we buy that next soda in a plastic bottle or buy our next bouquet of flowers!
Very interesting calculation of what the world would be like if mankind disappeared. All sorts of things are considered--deterioration of cities, regrowth of forests over farmland, resurgence of animal life without man's destruction of habitat, etc. Many other things I'd never considered or thought of. The book is both an entertaining and thought-provoking intellectual exercise.
Extensively researched, this book is an interesting look at what this planet might become after all human life simply disappeared. What becomes of roads, buildings, or cities as they stand unrepaired for centuries? In what ways will animal and plant life thrive or diminish? Theories are based on some current real life samples throughout the world today. Fascinating concept. Will feed your curiosity and your imagination. D.