World without Us

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In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.

In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might ...

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Overview

In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.

In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.

The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations, and how, as the world's cities crumble, asphalt jungles would give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dali Lama, and paleontologists--who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths--Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.

From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), Weisman reveals Earth's tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman's narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn't depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
This book's global-scale dismay about humanity's environmental impact is its most important theme. But it's Mr. Weisman's more marginal facts that give The World Without Us so much curiosity value…From the gyre that is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the flower-growers of Kenya to the Rothamsted Research Archive in Britain, a repository for more than 300,000 soil samples, Mr. Weisman covers a huge amount of terrain. His research is prodigious and impressive.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

If a virulent virus-or even the Rapture-depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished? That's the provocative, and occasionally puckish, question posed by Weisman (An Echo in My Blood) in this imaginative hybrid of solid science reporting and morbid speculation. Days after our disappearance, pumps keeping Manhattan's subways dry would fail, tunnels would flood, soil under streets would sluice away and the foundations of towering skyscrapers built to last for centuries would start to crumble. At the other end of the chronological spectrum, anything made of bronze might survive in recognizable form for millions of years-along with one billion pounds of degraded but almost indestructible plastics manufactured since the mid-20th century. Meanwhile, land freed from mankind's environmentally poisonous footprint would quickly reconstitute itself, as in Chernobyl, where animal life has returned after 1986's deadly radiation leak, and in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a refuge since 1953 for the almost-extinct goral mountain goat and Amur leopard. From a patch of primeval forest in Poland to monumental underground villages in Turkey, Weisman's enthralling tour of the world of tomorrow explores what little will remain of ancient times while anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781905264032
  • Publisher: Gardners Books
  • Publication date: 7/5/2007

Meet the Author

Alan Weisman is an award-winning journalist whose reports have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Discover, on NPR, and more. He has been a contributing editor to The Los Angeles Times Magazine and is Associate Professor in Journalism and Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 75 )
Rating Distribution

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(30)

4 Star

(27)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(5)

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2007

    Astounding read!

    This imaginative depiction of the world without human beings is truly astounding! not only do we receive brief history of man, but also what history would be like without man. one of the most enthralling and thought provoking books I have ever read. I truly could not put it down. The imagery used creates a world never thought of before. My respect for nature has always been high, but Weisman opened my eyes to things I had never imagined or thought possible. truly remarkable, a must read!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2007

    If only we humans were not born - blah, blah

    After reading some of the reviews... It was with great expectations I read this book. What a disappointment. It comes across as we humans have so poisoned mother earth we don't deserve to be here and after we are gone nature will reclaim all and make it pure again. The Garden of Eden will re-emerge and all harmony will return when man is gone. Except for maybe some of the poisons we created like spent nuclear fuel. On but nature will even make that pure again without our meddling even being involved. If you hate the human animal you will love this book. If you celebrate man's creations appreciate the environments we have improved and marvel at what we have achieved as a species save your money on this one.

    4 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008

    Earth after Life.

    I thought that this book was very well written. The author wrote very well in specific detail about many of the things that humans have impacted on the earth such as animals, the environment, and many more. He discusses what would happen to the world if humans were to suddenly disappear and what impact we would leave on the world such as heavy metals in the soil, nuclear waste and more. It was a very good book and i encourage others to read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2008

    Our impact

    The synopsis says: A penetrating take on how our planet would respond without the relentless pressure of the human presence. Everyone focuses on the overt theme...what happens if we all should disappear suddenly. Weisman's research is thorough and fascinating, his writing concise and illustrative. BUT by illustrating what happens to our world AFTER we have disappeared, Weisman clearly and devastatingly outlines just how negative human impact has been on the earth. In this, the book is one of the most persuasive tomes on the environment and environmentalism I've yet to read. It's a short leap, in my mind, from our current predicament to the potential solution proposed in the last few pages. Sadly, I think humans won't be disciplined enough to stick to the recommendation of one woman - one child.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    Alan Weisman's book, The World Without Us, grabbed my attention from the first page and didn't let me put it down until I reached the very last page. Even the acknowledgement section is interesting and shouldn¿t be passed up. When I first heard about this book (from a friend who passed along an advance reader copy) I was skeptical that it would be a cheap trick sort of book - with a catchy premise and the rest just fluff. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book is well researched, well written and full of data, history and insight. Any one who works with data knows that to predict the future requires a lot of data points from the past that one can extrapolate forward logically. So to understand what would happen to the Earth and its various flora and fauna, cities, farms and oceans if people would cease to exist, we first should look around to see what has already happened in places, which, for various reasons, have been abandoned by humankind. The visions and conclusions the author leads us to are both spirit lifting and unsettling. Spirit-lifting as we see that nature finds ways time and again to come back or to re-invent herself no matter what horror we may leave her with. And unsettling in that the longer humans go on with unchecked population growth, resource devastation and wars, the harder it is to believe that the world could recover back to something resembling our romantic notions of what earth should look like. I highly recommend this book and hope it becomes broadly read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2007

    A tremendously thought provoking book

    To be honest, before I purchased this book, I thought it would be a more step by step analysis of how long it would take for structures to fall apart and details such as how many pets would die within our vacant houses, etc. The book has a much more vast approach detailing all types of environments, species and human artifacts. It is more philosophical, fact filled and beautiful than I expected. The author does illuminate how subways, roads ,and houses will fare along with how nature will respond to our absence. That said, the chapters on plastics, toxins and nuclear waste were very disturbing. I've just finished reading this powerful work and am quite depressed regarding our past and present activities. Mr. Wiseman however ends with a positive note and as he is obviously more knowledgeable than myself, I'll rely on his prognosis. If you are at all interested in learning about human impact upon the earth and its creatures, you will not be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    interesting, yet disturbing

    an interesting concept - what will physically happen to the planet when humans are gone? what will endure? what will crumble? what will thrive? some fascinating things, yet troubling to see how much damage the human race causes to everything else that lives on the planet. well researched, although it gets a little over technical at times. not for the faint of heart!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2008

    Must Have!!

    This book is fiction based on fact but that does not stop us from denying that this book definately explains why humans are so detrimental to the environment. It makes the reader ponder if leaving their lights on or water running still has no impact on anyone but their bills. All doubters about the climate concern must read this book but the facts are undenyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2008

    An INTERESTING science book? Is it possible?

    YES! Hey, I have no scientific or academic credentials, and this is not at ALL the kind of thing I'd normally read. But the concept intrigued me and I have to say, I'm VERY glad I bought it. The book never bored me and it never floored me. It was, indeed, an interesting read. Mr. Weisman entertains and educates but never intimidates.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2008

    Magnificent book!

    I have read other environmental books, but this has to be the most interesting book I have ever read. It describes the scenario of a world without humans, as the title says! And honestly, I do believe that a world without humans would be an interesting sight and a very beautiful scene. You must buy this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2008

    A reviewer

    This book has a few sections that drag, but overall is facinating. It is amazning to think of how quickly our very exsistence could be erased by the natural order we currently dominate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2007

    More Than Fascinating

    I am a 68 year old investment advisor with no background in earth sciences etc. I enjoy reading and usually gravitate to popular genre of novels writen for the non-literary masses. This is the most fascinating book I have ever read. Probably the most mind-opening reading experience of my life. It was essential to have computer search engines available which I used close to 100 times. I cannot recommend this book too highly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2007

    Rachel Carson redux

    This has to be the most convincing contemporary book about the environment since the 1960's. It's frightening yet somehow beautiful. We have a LOT to think about as human beings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2007

    very good book

    this is a very good book and explains not only the things we know about but also things we didnt know about. P.S. the meaning of the book is to show what things would be like without man-kind. and we are poisoning mother Earth! hence Global Warming- its our fault whether people want to admit it or not. You dont have to hate the human race to understand that human kind is the major reason why other species are dying, the climate is changing, and people are dying.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2007

    A Great Read - Best WORLD Book

    A very good read. Explains how the world would be like without us now and how it would be if we never existed. Many interesting chapters and facts much this book awesome. A Must Read for those you want to learn more about this earth and its processes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2007

    A reviewer

    After reading this book, I felt that I had a greater sense of what's going on in our society. We are carelessly wasting valuable resources as well as using vast amounts of energy. Alan Weisman illustrates how we might somehow become the center theme of his book if we don't take the necessary steps to help save our planet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book is a MUST HAVE for anyone interested in our planet Earth! It is a fascinating look at what our world would look like if humans suddenly vanished. I could not put this book down and highly recommend it. You'll never look at our planet the same way again!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2007

    Thought Provoking

    Mr Weisman has searched the world and interviewed many practicing specialists to project what would go or stay if homo sapiens suddenly disappeared. He has covered man's artifacts as well as flora and fauna. Despite a convoluted style similar to Stephen Jay Gould's,the book is suspenseful and even hilarious (his comments on housecats, are classic). A must read for those who keep up with science or sci-fi writers looking for material.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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