books { 'The World Without Us'

I just finished reading a new book that has been gathering praise and provoking discussion, and for good reason. The book, The World
Without Us
by Alan Weisman, is a grand thought experiment. Weisman takes the premise that 'what if, one day, humans just vanished from the Earth - poof, gone. What happens next?' Without the human species, what does the Earth look like? What happens to our things, our houses, our cities, our manufactured goods? What changes rapidly? What lasts nearly forever? How do animal populations change? What animals largely vanish or go extinct in short order, and what would thrive without us? What happens to the atmosphere, the oceans, the entire ecosystem, without the pervasive input from humankind.

Suffice to say it was a fascinating read. It was equally uplifting and disturbing, uplifting in knowing that the world and life on it will recover and adapt nicely in the absence human 'stewardship' (assuming we have not pumped so much fossil carbon into the atmosphere that we have set us down an unstoppable positive-feedback loop toward transforming the Earth into a greenhouse oven like Venus). Nature works just fine without us and our meddling. On the other hand, the book is also quite dark in many areas in the sense that we will leave certain legacies behind long after us - things like plastics, carbon pollution in the atmosphere, dioxins, heavy metals, and radioactivity, in addition to more benign things like bronze statues and Mount Rushmore.

This is a well researched multidisciplinary narrative about a world as it would look without our input, our industry, our sheer power to change the world in ways that no other known species could dream of. The pictures Weisman paints are equally comforting and unnerving, but certainly compelling. Well worth a read.

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