|The World Without Us
- BEWARE OF AMAZON SHIPPING!
Haven't read the book yet, but the way Amazon sent it was awful!
I submitted an order for this book and an order for canned goods. They arrived together in one box. The book had just been tossed in with the cans and you can imagine what shape the book was in. I had assumed the book would have been boxed or wrapped separately, even if they put it into the larger box of canned items. Makes you wonder what kind of idiots work in their shipping department and what kind of supervision is in place at Amazon. In the future I will never order a book WITH any other item. ...more info
- Breath-taking in scope, meticulous in research
One of the most fascinating non-fiction titles that I have ever read in my entire life and, believe me, I have read some very good ones.
Written by Alan Weisman, an award-winning journalist, who imagines what the world would be like if all of a sudden humans vanished from the face of the earth .... but not without a trace. He uses this hypothetical scenario to talk about the changes man has brought about to earth and how long would the human creations last without us (yes, the 'trace' I was talking about).
He takes this wonderful premise as a vehicle to discuss such diverse topics as human and animal evolution, air and water pollution, animal and plant extinction, natural disasters, Mayan history, NASA's Voyager and Pioneer spacecrafts, the fascinating history of Cyprus, the fate of 441 active nuclear reactors of the world, the history of the Panama Canal, the ecology of the uninhabited demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, the ramifications of the Chernobyl disaster, the future of human art, among other things.
The book discusses too many disciplines of science to name here.
Breathtaking in its scope and meticulous in research, this book is definitely a great intellectually stimulating read.
It's a hugely informative, highly readable, immensely entertaining read which is breath-taking in its concept and has been called 'one of the grandest thought experiments of our time.'...more info
- Good on more levels than you'll expect
This book delivers much more than the title leads you to expect. In order to explain how the world would change without us Alan Weisman explains natural history in a succession of areas where humans have made a big impact. He combines the natural history with the human history of environmental impacts to very seamlessly explain how and how fast nature will return.
Weisman's writing talents are considerable. He did a lot of research, traveled to a lot of places, interviewed lots of scientists, and brings to bear the research results of many areas of anthropological research, evolutionary research, and industrial history to tell us what'll happen without us still around.
You will come away with a much better understanding of ecosystems, the power of plants, the importance of microbes that break down leaves and other plant matter (creating new soil on top of human-made surfaces), and many other topics.
The book made me wish we built at least some structures to last a long time and made me appreciate the ephemeral nature of our existence. Oh, and plastics are wreaking havoc. Use less plastics....more info
- Yoooooohoo! Anybody home?
"Worldwide, every four days human population rises by 1 million." - Author Alan Weisman in THE WORLD WITHOUT US
But, what if the Earth's humans disappeared? This is the premise of THE WORLD WITHOUT US, a book version of what you may have seen on Life After People (History Channel) or National Geographic: Aftermath - Population Zero.
Weisman approaches his subject from two perspectives; what the Earth might have looked like had humans not evolved, and what would likely happen to the world and, more specifically, human creations, if we were to suddenly blink out of existence because of, say, a massive, species-ending plague. To illustrate the former is more difficult as Homo sapiens is so ubiquitous across the planet, but the author points to the Bialowieza Puszcza forest on Poland's eastern border and Chambura Gorge in Uganda as roughly representative sites. To illustrate the latter is much easier as one only has to look as far as Pripyat, abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, unoccupied Varosha on Cyprus isolated between the Turkish and Greek zones, the depopulated DMZ between North and South Korea, or New England's temperate forest, now larger than it was in 1776 due to a depopulation trend after the Civil War.
Weisman was perhaps at his most interesting when describing what would happen to humankind's creations in its absence. Almost charming, especially to a Los Angeles area resident such as myself, is the narrative picture of the dissolution of New York City infrastructure as vegetation and wildlife reclaim the environment; gee, what a pity. On the other hand, the demise of oil refinery complexes and nuclear power stations has apocalyptic potential. Regarding the huge refinery complex in Texas City, TX:
"With no one to monitor controls or the computers, some reactions would run away and go boom. You would get a fire, and then a domino effect, since there'd be nothing to stop it ... All the pipes would be conduits for fires ... That blaze could possibly go for weeks ... If this happened to every plant in the world, imagine the amount of pollutants ... They would also release chlorinated compounds like dioxins and furans from burning plastics. And you'd get lead, chromium and mercury attached to the soot ... the clouds would disperse through the world. The next generation of plants and animals, the ones that didn't die, might need to mutate in ways that could impact evolution."
Of course, the book's subject matter opens the way for a discussion of the durable poisons that humans have injected into the environment and which will persist with us or without us: waste from nuclear generating plants, plastic polymers of all sorts, polychlorinated biphenyls, phosphate and nitrate fertilizers, and fluorocarbons. It's enough to make Al Gore weep, or at least go on the stump selling carbon offsets.
And what are the chances that every last member of the human race might cease to exist? Very slim in the relative short term as there are survivors of even the most virulent and infectious disease agents. But past human societies have achieved near extinction. Consider the Mayans, for example, whose culture dominated Central America for 1600 years before virtually vanishing in the eighth century AD for reasons not yet completely understood.
Perhaps the most imaginatively stimulating subtopic concerns the evidence of our existence that extraterrestrials at large might stumble across. The author makes reference to the "I Love Lucy" television shows that have been beaming to the stars for years and will reach the edge of our galaxy in 2450 AD. And then there's the Golden Record, a gold-plated copper analog disc on which are recorded both sounds and images of the Human Race, carried on both the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft as they speed away from the Solar System.
While THE WORLD WITHOUT US seemed slightly disorganized, and the few photos included highlighted the fact that more would have added value to the whole, it was throughout both thought-provoking and instructive. And though the phrase "built to last" has no meaning whatsoever on the cosmic scale, I certainly won't be tempted to toss my empty water bottle out the window the next time I drive through a national park.
- An interesting essay
Alan Weisman's book is an extension of a previous essay article, and unfortunately, that is how it often reads. The chapters (and sections within chapters) jump from subject to subject and through different time lines without real feeling for order or reason. The statements he makes are backed up by well researched evidence and via discussion with some very interesting characters but sometimes, one gets lost in trying to figure out what the point is of each section, rather than go with the flow.
However, he does make some very interesting and important points in regards to human impact and the fact that there are large numbers of species and populations that will not even notice that we are gone. He does also point out the fact that some of our inventions are likely to still be hanging around for mellenia and beyond.
Overall it is an interesting read, though I feel that if it was written by someone with more of a science background rather than journalistic, than it would have made for excellent reading....more info
- Save the Earth? [Required Reading!]
This is the truth and fact about planet Earth's recovery from the chaos imposed by humanity. Save the Earth? The Earth is quite capable of taking care of itself, less us of course!
This should be required reading for every graduating high school and/or college student. The real world they're inheriting!
A brilliant read!...more info
- The Answer is... Overnight?
They say the premise of this book is: If a virulent virus--or even the Rapture--depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished?"
Wouldn't the answer be: "Overnight?"...more info
- Required reading
The World Without Us is an excellent book in which Alan Weisman deftly describes what the world might be like if humans simply disappeared. But, rather than instructing us about the future, the book is really most poignant if it is viewed as a commentary on our own times. In asking - and attempting to answer - the question "What would happen to Earth if humans simply vanished?" the author has devised a lens by which we might examine the consequences of our habits, lifestyles, and use of resources. How does our use of plastics affect nature? How do our buildings, cars, energy production and consumption, death rites, and agriculture affect the world in which we live? How have we changed, and how do we continue to change, our own habitat?
Weisman could not possibly answer all these questions in one volume and do any of them any justice, but I nevertheless found his work well researched and his ideas well formulated. When reading the book, you get the sense that Weisman is genuinely concerned about his topic, the people who read his work, and the quality of his writing. He approaches his work with care, and the result is an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable read.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Weisman's book is the fact that it makes some rather complex science accessible to readers without formal scientific training. Although I have a PhD in Conservation Biology, I don't think I needed it to enjoy or understand The World Without Us. My friends with non-science backgrounds could easily pick up the book and understand it. In fact, I think they should, and I also think they'll enjoy it.
The enjoyment comes from the "What if..." nature of the book. It is human nature to speculate, but scientists normally tend to be quite reserved and cautious in their speculation. This book allows your imagination to run wild, it allows you to ask "What if..." and then think about all the myriad answers - and new questions - that come flooding into your consciousness.
My only two criticisms of the book are that it needs more maps and it needs a chapter on freshwater habitats. The maps will help readers orient themselves and understand the places and ideas that Weisman discusses. The chapter on freshwater (there is already a chapter on marine ecosystems) is needed for several reasons: we drink fresh water, we alter freshwater habitats in myriad and very harmful ways (dams, dikes, canals, invasive species, draining wetlands, etc.), and most pollution that ends up in the ocean is dumped into freshwater first.
Weisman's thought experiment is well worth reading and ought to be required for all high school and college students. By asking us to consider what would happen if we were all suddenly to disappear, we learn a lot about the impact of our presence. It's a valuable lesson, both for it's approach and the messages it conveys. The approach - encouraging the reader to think about the consequences of our existence by taking a moment to consider the consequences of our disappearance - touches on critical thinking skills that all students should learn. The message - that we need to clean up our act with all haste - is a much-needed warning, albeit one that may already be too late. Combining these two aspects creates an especially powerful effect because it leads the reader to the warning via a thoughtful and introspective approach that is uncommon in the environmental literature. Rather than beating us over the head with a sign (or book) that exclaims "The End Times are Coming!" Wiiesman wisely leads us to less dire but equally powerful conclusions on our own.
I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. I realize that not all of Weisman's arguments are compelling, but I do think you will find his writing accessible and thought provoking nonetheless.
~norm leonard...more info
- give this book to your teens
Please buy this book for your teens. There's no chance that my generation will live long enough to repair the damage that mankind has done to this planet, perhaps our grandchildren will be brave enough and smart enough to put things right... if they understand what the problems are. If not then humans will go the way of the dinosaurs. Encourage your kids to live and play in the real world, not just cyberspace....more info
- Over-rated a little
Weisman's effort is interesting above all for its depth and coverage. He really does manage to detail what would happen in different parts of the world if mankind suddenly disappeared. The 3 thoughts that occured to me while reading the book were:
1) Who cares what happens if mankind disappears? After all, by definition, we are all gone.
2) Much of what changes, though not everything, does so slowly and over periods of years and decades
3) The book, despite its detail and insight, quickly becomes a little monotonous, slow and .... dare I say, predictable.
It's not a bad read. But it probably does not deserve the credit that it seems to have generated. ...more info
- Required Reading for All of Us
THE WORLD WITHOUT US should be required reading. We live within walking distance of a Borders Bookstore. For my birthday I preselected a stack of well-written and interesting-looking books, sorted through them in the cafe area, and settled on Weisman's perspective-changing volume. It's a hard read, one that I spread out over six weeks. The legacy of humanity isn't looking so good. But I am still optimistic that we can change the world for the better. ...more info
- Wiesman preaches the tenants of animism
Weisman refers to many less-complex life-forms as our ancestors.
Weisman prays to "Mother Earth" at the very end of the book.
These are tenants of Animism or worshiping animals because they are your ancestors.
Weisman proposes that watching animals and plants is more enjoyable than having raising children.
Weisman anthromorphsizes evolution giving it or animals the power to design their genetic mutations.
I won't even go into the way he practically deifies "Natural Selection" as if it actually could create new genetic information.
The two interesting things I took from it were that "science" doesn't know how the oil deposits formed under the ocean and that "science" claims there are actual tree parts multiple millions of years old that have not fossilized.
I also thought his description of the "Church of Euthanasia" was telling. Especially the four pillars of their faith.
Not withstanding, I'm guessing that the "science" in the book was probably mostly accurate in capturing what "science" at the time of the writing was. Now that "Global Warming" has universally changed to "Climate Change" much of his references to rising oceans seem as quaint as discussions of light being conducted by the ether....more info
- The World Without Us
A wonderful book. Anyone who cares about the world they live it should read it. And those that do not should read it twice....more info
- the Earth will survive
The Earth will be just fine in the long term after we've destroyed ourselves. In the long term, however humans disappear, our "foot print" will be erased like foot prints by a wave on a sandy beach. That is what "The World Without Us" points out. But we will eliminate many species with us.
I want to say what a great idea for a book! No doubt there were countless journalists who wished they'd come up with this idea!
Journalist Alan Weisman examines a different topic in each chapter. Basically the the book explores how nature would react to the disappearance of humans and what legacy humans would leave behind. The book does not show what the world would be like after WW3 and nuclear annihilation or any disaster: the picture presented is simply what would be if all the humans instantly disappeared. It is a thought experiment- a hypothetical. I think of maybe a super-virus doing could come close simply eliminating all people rapidly.
We look at what the future of plastics, nuclear facilities, oil infrastructure. He went around the world visiting places that have been abandoned by civilization that have actually given us a glimpse of how nature reclaims ground. Places profiled include the Bialowieza Forest, the Kingman Reef, the Palmyra Atoll, the Korean Demilitarized Zone (a location completely abandoned by humans for decades), the island of Cyprus, and Chernobyl, Ukraine--two other areas largely left to nature. Many scientists and various professionals in different fields that have a solid, expert understanding of how our human-made things work and how they relate to the non-human environment help paint the picture. Among the interviewees is famed biologist E.O.Wilson.
Props is to be given to Alan Weisman for really starting something, at least in terms of entertainment for people. There have been TV specials--"Life After People" on the History Channel--which put to good use computer graphics to digitally degrade buildings and in the course of one program or even just between commercial breaks visually display the rapid speed at which plant life reconquers highways, skyscrapers, and all our helpless, crumbling stuff. Now there is going to be a regular series which will explore in further detail a world without people. In addition to brisk sales and making best seller lists, "The World Without Us" has enjoyed a very warm critical reception. ...more info
- Humans: Past and Future
If humanity disappeared very suddenly, what would happen to the Earth? What would become of everything left behind? Alan Weisman explores a wide range of areas and subjects in detailing humanity's final traces, from New York City to Kenya, the Pacific ocean to deep space, from the actions of ancient civilizations to those of imperialist American presidents and modern bronze sculptors. It is both a diligently researched supposition of a post-human world and an environmental warning bell, one more engaging and varied than most.
I ordered this book expecting something like a research paper for a post-apocalyptic story. This book is far beyond that, dealing in time scales much longer than human lifetimes and delving as much into the past as the future, exploring the impact of humans on this planet since we came out of the trees. The book is neatly organized into areas of examination, such as plant and animal life, technological advancements, structures and art, and of course, where to go from here. What surprised me most about the book was how much it affected me. In particular, the chapter on plastics, entitled "Polymers Are Forever," was genuinely upsetting with its vivid descriptions of tons of plastic floating forever on the surface of the ocean.
But the book is not completely dour. In every chapter, the author offers alternate perspectives or glimmers of hope, in the persistence and mutability of life or in the nature of humans themselves. This book will fascinate anybody interested in science, anthropology, or the progress of humanity. It is thoughtful, meticulously researched, well-written in an easily readable style, and goes into every corner of the globe to provide a balanced picture of what we will leave behind. The scope of the book was surprising, but delightful....more info
- Wonderfully Written Book
When I first picked up The World without Us by Alan Weisman, I was genuinely interested. The back cover promised an imaginative, compulsive, fascinating book. After reading, I understand what the other authors were raving about. The World without Us is beautifully written with exquisite detail. It answered my question of how the world would seem without any people, but left me with thousands of new, unanswered questions. Alan Weisman has thought this up, of an alternative world, which he shares with the rest of us. In his world, the environment is able to take its natural form. One of the reasons I like this book is because he really expresses how the environment would finally be natural again after all these years. Some people, when reading this, might think nature is doing wrong and abnormal things. Alan Weisman stresses the importance that nature will be natural rather than being the forced robot humans only allow it to be. As James Howard Kunster, author of The Long Emergency, quotes, "This is a very important book for a species playing games with its own destiny". He couldn't have said it any other way to stress the importance the book has on the world. One of the ways humans are playing games trying to fight destiny by designing things like iPods and televisions. Soon, those exact technologies that humans live for day-in-and-day-out, will kill us all. They will, in time, destroy the ozone layer above us. This leads to unprotected humans from the suns ultraviolet waves. By designing and using things that destroy our environment, we are taking the risk of starting Alan Weisman's world. Next time you're at Barnes and Nobles, wondering around and aimlessly looking around, pick up The World without Us, and you will not be disappointed. This book will inspire you and cause you to further your thoughts on the world around us. ...more info
- A fascinating intellectual exercise
The World Without Us concerns an interesting hypothetical scenario. What happens to the earth if humanity disappears? The cause of humanity's departure is irrelevant. Instead, what becomes of our cities? What happens to the massive human-created infrastructure that litters the planet? What are the long term effects of the environmental damage humanity has caused? What happens to animals and plants that we have directly affected over the centuries? Alan Weisman explores the answers to these fascinating, if somewhat morbid questions. Some people have criticized this book as a purely intellectual exercise with no real use or merit. My rejoinder is simple. We as humans cannot begin understand our impact on out planet without investigating our planet's reactions to us. This book does an excellent job of explaining the impact of the human footprint. Plus, I am admittedly a sucker for hypothetical scenarios such as this. What if? That has always been something that has interested me, and Alan Weisman looks into a very interesting and important What If? scenario....more info
- Great Book
One other person wrote that this book is fascinating but depressing and that is why he/she chose to give it less than 5 stars.
I beg to differ, one of the reasons why I gave it 5 stars is because it was depressing. It caused me a lot of anguish reading how much we have damaged this planet and how part of this damage will take 1000s of years to go away. I guess that would have been part of the message of this book, which it delivered on superbly.
Another user also chose to give it less than 5 stars because it had too much focus on NYC and not other places. Again I beg to differ; the book did devote a whole chapter to Houston. Also I do not think this a huge shortcoming for the book, after all, it was written by an "American" for a largely American audience. Additionally, I think the author was limited by space. He could have gone on and on about other places, but he would have ended at something like 500+ pages. I think the book did deliver on it's message within the limitation of 350+ pages. ...more info
- Mankind's past & present - Earth's future
Although this book occasionally bogged down, the end result is an enlightening look at just what the title announces..."the world without us." Weisman takes on various topics and explores their history, current conditions, and possible (or likely) future events.
Weisman reveals numerous facets of reality for mankind and the risks they pose not only for us today, but also how things might play out in a future where humans, for whatever reason, suddenly didn't exist. Needless to say, most everything discussed reveals the folly of human endeavors.
A few topics:
* The subway system in New York that needs constant pumping of groundwater (millions of gallons/day) and almost failed during 9/11.
* The thousands of highrises in Istanbul that will collapse in the next significant earthquake because of the poor quality of concrete.
* The nuclear power plants that will contaminate the environment for tens of thousands of years if we're not around to operate them.
* The history and future of the Panama Canal.
* The Korean DMZ - how it came about, how it's now essentially an (unofficial) wildlife preserve as a result of it's "non-human" occupation status, and it's potential future.
* The "Petro Patch" (as Weisman refers to it) - the string of petrochemical plants stretching from Houston to Galvaston. How we, as a society, came to rely on oil, how this area has been developed and managed, and how things may unfold in our absence.
All in all, this is an eye opening book even for environmentally conscious readers -- you're almost certain to learn something new.
Highly recommended....more info
- Engaging, environmentally conscious book
The author does a great job presenting the material in an unbiased way that engages and draws the reader in. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested an engrossing, thoughtful piece of nonfiction about the environmental processes that shape our world and the artificial mechanisms that are slowly undermining it. ...more info
- Fascinating Look at Our Effect on the Planet
When I first picked up this book, I was concerned that it would simply be a lesson on how plants and animals would overtake our cities and houses once humans had disappeared from our planet. That is a major part of the book, but I never found it to be overdone. The parts of the book that I loved were the history and places that are explored in this book. From the DMZ zone in Korea to the nuclear fallout of Chernobyl to the beginnings of human history in Africa. There is a lot more to this book than should be judged from the cover.
I also loved the look into the everyday things that we use and how they affect the world around us. It really made me think about how small changes in what I use could make a difference.
This book is great for anyone interested in the effect that humans have had and are having on this world....more info
- Treasure Trove for the Thoughtful Reader
Alan Weisman's The World Without Us is much more fun than a box of chocolates. Just how WOULD our favorite planet respond if Mother Earth hit the delete button on the entire human race? Weisman, a talented and experienced journalist endeavors to answer this question, with fascinating results. Sound like fun? It is! Be it discussions about the Voluntary Society for Human Extinction, a tour of New York subways that would be doomed by even a couple of days without electric power, 280 feet deep cave cities beneath Turkey, a portrait of the demise of the Panama Canal, or the projected 7.2 million year lifespan of Teddy Roosevelt's visage at Mount Rushmore, the reader is in for a mind candy binge. One never knows what treat awaits the turning of the page. It might be the fate of coral reefs, or it might be a discussion in a funeral parlor regarding a human legacy that might continue to surface for tens of thousands of years after we depart: indestructibly constructed coffins that are built to last for, well, for eternity.
The title, The World Without Us, is a brilliantly deceptive choice for a book that is equally about something far more urgent than simple speculation: The world WITH us. Weisman cannot approach what Earth would look like without us without deeply delving into what humans have wrought. The chapter entitled Polymers Are Forever is far more horrifying than any celluloid gorefest that Hollywood has yet produced.
Why four stars rather than five? Books such as The Botany of Desire, Genome, The Song of the Dodo reach a level of science writing that is entrancing, informative, and in the end, transformative for the reader. Stylistically, The World Without Us comes in a notch lower, a bit clunkier, a tad less engaging. And... still completely worth the read! ...more info
- What hath man wrought?
The World Without Us
This book is really more about what man has done while here than about what things will be like without him, although it addresses both. Weisman is a journalist, a good one, who has interviewed lots of specialists and traveled to lots of spots around the world to ascertain man's affect on several niche environments and to speculate about what would become of these if man were gone. The chapters focus on particular forests, reefs, farmlands, chemical plants, and other habitats or artifacts shaped my humans, and then hypothetically remove humans from the future equation. In the end he makes a plea for human population reduction (not to zero, though -- he is not that extreme)....more info
- So what happens when we are gone?
Image a world with no humans. How would nature reclaim that which she had lost for thousands of years? How long would she take. What artifacts of human existence would last the longest. Alan Wesiman's sweeping account of this simple postulation in The World Without Us, and the adaptive nature of nature itself is a remarkable read - not only for the knowledge that it disseminates about the world around us as well as what we have done to it.
From the salt domes of Texas to the radioactive fields of Chernobyl, Alan walks us through how nature would reclaim everything if and when humans disappear. What's remarkable is that the evolutionary characteristics of nature would eventually reclaim most everything leaving little trace of our existence. How temporary we really are.
Alan does a great job of moving from one subject matter to another and maintaining interest as he talks of genetic structures and chemical traits. Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming to the layman but Alan does a great job of keeping it at just the right level of detail such that the reader can both understand and appreciate what is likely to occur. The details are everywhere in this book - as they should be - but again, Alan keeps the details from getting in the way of the real storyline and that was an accomplishment given the details needed to express the thoughts contained.
This is one of those rare books where the story isn't commonplace and where the presentation matches the the ideas presented. I did enjoy it, will remember many of the vivid descriptions of places that I never new existed and am now more appreciative of what we have done to our planet and how nature will eventually take it back - regardless.
L.A. Little...more info
- The world without us
A well researched and written look at the global footprint humans are making on the world. A vivid account of human pressures on the environment and what the implications are for the future. Weisman is not just a prophet of doom but paints a stark picture of the future. ...more info
After reading this I would love it if someone banned the plastics used in shampoos. The author ended up taking us to some interesting places to seek out where humans have had to let go of portions of the earth and seeing what happened. I'm very happy I read this and I think you will like it too....more info
- Not really my cup of tea
First I would have liked to have given my review a 1.5 stars intead of 2. I have to say that while I understand everyone has their own tastes and opinions, this book was not my cup of tea. I think this book would be best suited to someone in the sci-fi/biological area. I found that he spent WAY too much time on the process of decay and transformation. And by that I mean, by wasting too many pages on what would happen for instance if the sewers when un-manned in NYC. Which I understand is the whole premise of the book. But had I known he was going to go into such mind-dumbing, time-wasting detail, I would've passed on the book alltogether. I felt the book would have been more to my liking if he spent more time on the overall aspect. But to each his own....more info