How would the world change if human beings vanished from the earth right now, for good?
What would the planet be like in a day, a week, a month...a millennium?
Just how long will our greatest achievements and our biggest mistakes last after we are gone?
To discover the answers, Alan Weisman looks to areas of the world that are currently unoccupied and speaks to experts in fields ranging from nuclear physics to archaeology.
He reveals how the natural world would react to our disappearance and wrestles with some of the key concerns of our time to offer an intriguing glimpse of the real legacy of our existence on the planet. 'Compelling...jammed packed with fascinating 'what if's" - "Guardian". 'The results of this huge thought-experiment are both fascinating and surprising' - "Daily Mail". 'Flesh-creepingly good fun...an expert-led fantasia of the post-human planet' - "Independent". 'A wonderful idea...This is a terrific book' - "Scotsman".
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 336 pages, Integrated b/w
- Publisher: Ebury Publishing
- Publication Date: 03/04/2008
- Category: Popular science
- ISBN: 9780753513576
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by dudara
What would happen if humanity were to depart in one go from the Earth? How would the world manage without us? What would happen to the environment, our cities or fauna and flora?One of the early sections in this book visits New York city and the team of men who are responsible for the never-ending pumping out of water from under the city, which constantly threatens to fill subways. The author then goes through the surprisingly rapid decline of the city. If you've ever stood in Manhattan gazing along the straight avenues and streets, and were amazed at the scale of construction, then this section will chill you right through. Later in the book, the author desctribes an abandoned seaside town in Cyrpus and it's decline in decrepitude.A common thread thoughout the book concerns our effect on the environment and how long it would take for the Earth to correct itself if we were to depart. What about the ozone-damaging chemicals we pump out into the atmosphere, or the heavy metals and radioactive materials we dump and store without regard for future generations. The U.S. has silos of chock-full radioactive materials, surrounded by hundreds of warning signs. Due to the fact that human languages can mutate beyond recognition over just a few hundred years, the warning signs had to be desinged to be comprehensible to anyone who came across them. The author visits oil-refining facilities in Texas to examine what would happen there should humans suddenly stop running these facilities. A trip to Chernobyl is used to illustrate what could happen in the aftermath of a nuclear containment failure. By examining the rise of humanity from the depths of Africa, the author looks for the most suitable candidate to suceed us once we depart. The sudden departure of megafauna from the Earth is examined and is attributed to the increasing ability of Homo Sapiens to hunt. From a research facility in England, we learn how farmland will handle the fertilisers and chemicals we have left behind, and how eventually, trees will once again cover the land.The author has gathered together so many areas of science in this book. However, due to skillful mixing of the strands, we never suffer from fatigue. He admits that the sudden departure of humans from the planet is fantasy, but the science and research he has gathered is rock-solid, and often chilling. Weisman portrays the sheer disregard humanity has for its home and its other inhabitants, yet his book also reveals the immense capacity of the Earth to heal itself. This book lingers in the mind long after you have finished reading it.
Review by mjmorrison1971
A really good read- While you can argue that perhaps the book does not quite hold together as a whole - each scenario is considered in isolation- it is none the less an fascinating read and should be read. In parts it is depressing but in others offers hope and even solutions - thought not directly to some of the problems facing the world.It is a real insight to the complexity of the world in which we live and I highly recommend it to all.
Review by blackjacket
There is much more to this book than the "what if?" scenario of the title and blurbs suggest. My advice: jump straight to Chapter 9 "Polymers are Forever" and be amazed. At the very least you will discover what a nurdle is. And you will never think about facial scrubs the same way again>
Review by patrickgarson
The World Without Us feels like some great feature articles that have been mashed together and desperately stretched to reach book length. Weisman unearths some very interesting gems, but there is an awful lot of earth around them which slows the book down unnecessarily. The premise is simple - what if human beings disappeared en masse tomorrow? What would happen? How long would it take for humankind's mark upon the Earth to fade? Not as long as you might...To answer the question, Weisman travels all over the world, talking to engineers, biologists, nuclear scientists and more in locations ranging from the Panama Canal, the Masai Mara, to Virginia's tabletopped mountains. Some of these excursions yield really interesting info. My favourite was the first chapter, a simple description of how quickly most buildings - from the humblest home to most daunting skyscraper - will collapse. Others are, well, a bit more predictable and in some cases pretty boring. Part of the problem is that Weisman devotes an inordinate amount of time to: 1) Describing how things are *now* not what they will be like, and 2) Talking about stuff that, frankly, your average National Geographic reader will already be well aware of.The descriptions wore me down after a while. A paragraph describing an oil refinery will never do when a page - or several - could be used to point out that there are indeed a lot of pipes and steel. It's frustrating because I want to know what happens when we disappear, but in every chapter it meant fighting through about 5 pages of description and then have the - no doubt about it - weirdly compelling vision of entropy being interrupted by yet more description of the tower he's standing in etc. The second issue is that whilst I for one had no idea how crappy modern construction is and how it will disappear practically overnight, I have a very good understanding of how introduced species impact our environment; how long nuclear waste lasts (spoiler: A Very Long Time); the basics of deforestation, mass agriculture etc etc etc. Pretty much every chapter.When a book called "The World Without Us" spend 2/3rds or more of its time talking about the world *with* us, you know you have a problem. I grew really fatigued at times and it felt like a bit of a chore reading in parts. This is exacerbated by Weisman's leisurely and very dry prose. It's very journalistic in a way, but there is a total absence of personality behind it. And yet, there were points regularly in the book where these considerations faded into the background and I was left with a captivating vision of a de-peopled world - it's like an epic version of wondering what people say when you're not around and it's mesmerising, and makes the tough parts just about worth while. A generous three stars from me.
Review by psiloiordinary
A great idea for a book well executed.This is basically a post apocalyptic horror novel with you as the main character as you will not be able to stop yourself imagining how you might survive in the world if everyone else was no more.