The World without Us

The World without Us

Hardback

By (author) Alan Weisman

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  • Publisher: Virgin Books
  • Format: Hardback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 234mm x 34mm | 500g
  • Publication date: 5 July 2007
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1905264038
  • ISBN 13: 9781905264032
  • Illustrations note: Integrated b&w illustrations
  • Sales rank: 93,375

Product description

'On the day after humans disappear, nature takes over and immediately begins cleaning house - or houses, that is. Cleans them right off the face of the earth. They all go.' Alan Weisman looks to the future to discover what the world might be like, and how it would change, if humans disappeared right now, for good. In the current age of anxiety over our impact on the earth's climate and environment, this timely book offers an intriguing glimpse of what the real legacy of our time on the planet may be. How would the natural world respond if it were suddenly relieved of the burden of humanity? Would the climate return to where it was before we fired up our engines? Could nature ever obliterate all traces of human civilization? How would it undo our largest buildings and public works, and could it reduce our myriad plastics and synthetics to benign, basic elements? And what about architecture and art? What will be our most enduring legacy? This groundbreaking book examines areas of the world that have been abandoned or never occupied by humans to see how they have fared without us and looks beyond to discover whether, and for how long, our largest cities, biggest achievements and most devastating mistakes will last after we are gone. In doing so it wrestles with some of the key concerns of our time and reveals a picture of the future that is both illuminating and terrifying.

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Author information

Alan Weisman is a journalist and the author of numerous books. His writing has won several major awards and has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

Review quote

"'This is one of the grandest thought experiments of our time, a tremendous feat of imaginative reporting!', Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature"

Editorial reviews

Nicely textured account of what the Earth would look like if humans disappeared.Disaster movies have depicted the State of Liberty poking out from the ground and empty cities overgrown with trees and vines, but what would really happen if, for one reason or another, every single one of us vanished from the planet? Building on a Discover magazine article, Weisman (Journalism/Univ. of Arizona; An Echo in My Blood, 1999, etc.) addresses the question. There are no shocks here - nature goes on. But it is unsettling to observe the processes. Drawing on interviews with architects, biologists, engineers, physicists, wildlife managers, archaeologists, extinction experts and many others willing to conjecture, Weisman shows how underground water would destroy city streets, lightning would set fires, moisture and animals would turn temperate-zone suburbs into forests in 500 years and 441 nuclear plants would overheat and burn or melt. "Watch, and maybe learn," writes the author. Many of his lessons come from past developments, such as the sudden disappearance of the Maya 1,600 years ago and the evolution of animals and humans in Africa. Bridges will fall, subways near fault lines in New York and San Francisco will cave in, glaciers will wipe away much of the built world and scavengers will clean our human bones within a few months. Yet some things will persist after we're gone: bronze sculptures, Mount Rushmore (about 7.2 millions years, given granite's erosion rate of one inch every 10,000 years), particles of everything made of plastic, manmade underground malls in Montreal and Moscow. In Hawaii, lacking predators, cows and pigs will rule. Weisman quietly unfolds his sobering cautionary tale, allowing us to conclude what we may about the balancing act that nature and humans need to maintain to survive. (Kirkus Reviews)