The World Without Us

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Macmillan, Jul 10, 2007 - Science - 336 pages
1604 Reviews

A penetrating, page-turning tour of a post-human Earth

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.

 

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Review: The World Without Us

User Review  - Goodreads

Highly recommend this book. It's a real eye-opener and it's making me take a second and third look at common things that are destroying the planet. In some ways this book should be listed as "horror" because of what we've done and continue to do. Among my top all-time nonfiction reads. Read full review

Review: The World Without Us

User Review  - Goodreads

I like it already. The details here are astonishing. Weisman engineers a story that takes right to it, in every sense of the word, while still leaving much to the imagination. Read full review

Contents

A Monkey Koan
1
A Lingering Scent of Eden
9
Unbuilding Our Home
17
The City Without Us
24
The World Just Before Us
47
The Lost Menagerie
65
The African Paradox
84
What Falls Apart
113
The World Without War
232
Wings Without Us
243
Hot Legacy
256
Our Geologic Record
279
Where Do We Go from Here?
301
Art Beyond Us
315
The Sea Cradle
328
Our Earth Our Souls
345

What Lasts
128
Polymers Are Forever
140
The Petro Patch
162
The World Without Farms
183
The Fate of Ancient and Modern Wonders of the World
217
Acknowledgments
355
Select Bibliography
371
Index
401
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Alan Weisman is an award-winning journalist whose reports have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Discover, and on NPR, among others. A former contributing editor to The Los Angeles Times Magazine, he is a senior radio producer for Homelands Productions and teaches international journalism at the University of Arizona. His essay "Earth Without People" (Discover magazine, February 2005), on which The World Without Us expands, was selected for Best American Science Writing 2006.

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