Book Review 2: The World Without Us

Pit stop to read on the Coastal Walk

The second book on the roster was The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. This book makes you think. As a non-fiction book with heavy scientific analysis this one wasn’t an easy read either. It basically explains what would happen to the world if humans just vanished.

It really sheds light on just how much damage we are doing to the world. Totally fascinating and freaky. Not to sound hippie-dippie, but our actions have implications for thousands of years after we depart the world and are damaging the earth immensely. It just makes you think: could we do better?

I’ve never read a book quite like this one and I think it opened my mind. Do I think this is one is for everyone? Absolutely not. It was pretty dry and without some internal willpower hard to get through, but if you want a bit of a challenge go for it! I can’t imagine many of my friends picking this one up and enjoying it, but it’s good to broaden your horizons. Let me know if you’ve read this or plan to in the future.

Official synopsis:

The World Without Us

In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity’s impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us. 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. It 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.

From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), 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.

Check out my first Book Review.

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