Friday, October 5, 2007

The World Without Us

What would happen if every single human on the face of the Earth disappeared tomorrow? What buildings would be still standing in a thousand years, what animals would become extinct, what fingerprints would be left to prove humans had once existed?

These are the questions that Alan Weisman tackles in his book, "The World Without Us". He doesn't go into the why all humans would disappear, but picks up on the moment after- what would happen next, and it's fascinating.

Two portions of the book are dedicated to New York City and to Africa, and those were the two most engaging parts of the book for me. In the New York Chapters, he clearly details how the New York subway system would be a major contributer to the collapse of the city. What buildings in New York would surive the years, which would be the first to collapse (I was left surprised by the predictions). In the Africian section, he talks extensively about which animals would survive, and why big game animals that once covered North America are extinct, but have lived on in Africa. The answers may surprise you.

There's an excellent chapter on pollution, what the world would be like without humans continuing to clutter the planet with our love of plastics and paper. It doesn't get preachy, but it clearly confirms the idea that our careless treatment of the environment has caused horrible results. While outlining what we've done, it also gives hope to the idea that we can still make a change and alter the course we are on, in regards to hurting the animals, oceans and forests. (how's that for preachy?!)

I was worried that fascination felt for this book would be bogged down by scientific talk, and in some ways it was. There's an entire chapter dedicated to polymers that caused my eyes to glaze, and the chapter on farming was a bit of a struggle. Over all though, the book is engaging and one that I would recommend, especially if you are a reader who can skim read over a chapter on polymers and not lose sleep.