jksquires, May 15, 2013 (view all comments by jksquires)
This one kept me up half the night and is one of the most thought-provoking books I've ever encountered. If you are in need of a sense of humility, and are ready to confront the reality that our presence on this planet is on the one hand, pretty darned irrelevant; but, on the other hand created some damning long-term consequences, this book will make you take notice. It will also make you contemplate the wonder of existence in a wholly new and unexpected way.
Mary Picard, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Mary Picard)
This past year, I overcame my fear to be astounded and comforted by "The World without Us." As an ardent environmentalist and secular humanist, I expected to experience revulsion, and I did, while reading this book. I also experienced fascination, astonishment, and even comfort, as I was transported from the "Polish Statue" in Central Park to aboriginal forest in eastern Europe, and beyond. The comfort came from considering that the beauty and diversity of life on earth is greater than the myopic stupidity of the human race.
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MindyBuchanan, August 6, 2009 (view all comments by MindyBuchanan)
This is a super interesting book - and a HUGE downer. Nevertheless, I have to give it five stars. There were times I just had to put the book down and read something a little less intense. I will admit that it's easy to get bogged down by Weisman's style. Though some of his thoughts are funny (in a scary way), there are times when the technical explanations are tough to get through. I would say this is both a good and bad book to read before bed. Good because, it doesn't take long to get tired of the technical, bad because it will seriously give you nightmares or ulcers. It remains, however, an important and interesting read.
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Amanda Briney, February 18, 2009 (view all comments by Amanda Briney)
I had to read this book for a geography class I took about a year ago. It's an amazing, though provoking look at what would happen after people were gone. I plan to buy more books from Weisman soon.
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Thomas Dunne Books -
"Review A Day"
by Doug Brown, Powells.com,
"The concept of a world devoid of humans is a vivid imagination stirrer. It has been a theme of post-apocalyptic science-fiction books and films for decades. Much of the success of films like Road Warrior and Omega Man/I Am Legend is the titillation of seeing our familiar world laid waste, devoid of humans. Wiseman has taken it out of science fiction by talking to architects, sewer workers, museum archivists, etc., and getting their considered take on what would happen to our creations if humans suddenly disappeared." (read the entire Powells.com review)
by Booklist (starred review),
"Weisman is a thoroughly engaging and clarion writer fueled by curiosity and determined to cast light rather than spread despair. His superbly well researched and skillfully crafted stop-you-in-your-tracks report stresses the underappreciated fact that humankind's actions create a ripple effect across the web of life."
by Lev Grossman, Time online,
"I don't think I've read a better non-fiction book this year.... [Weisman] writes like Malcolm Gladwell and John McPhee mashed together and set on fast-forward."
by Library Journal (starred review),
"A sober, analytical elucidation of the effects of human dominance on this planet, intriguing if not especially comforting. This book should be broadly read and discussed."
"Weisman's description of buildings crumbling slowly and the subsequent incursion of vegetation are at once beautiful and disturbing."
by Gary Kamiya, Salon.com,
"[S]o intellectually fascinating, so oddly playful, that it escapes categorizing and clichés.... Written as if by a compassionate and curious observer on another planet, [Weisman's] book restores a sense of wonder not just to one little piece of the cosmos, but to the human race whose amazing deeds have transformed it, and whose equally monumental folly now threatens it."
by Boston Globe,
"Extraordinarily farsighted. A beautiful and passionate jeremiad against deforestation, climate change, and pollution."
"A refreshing, and oddly hopeful, look at the fate of the environment."
"Alan Weisman has produced, if not a bible, at least a Book of Revelation."
by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
"An astonishing mass of reportage that envisions a world suddenly bereft of humans."
by Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times Book Review,
"Weisman turns the destruction of our civilization and the subsequent rewilding of the planet into a Hollywood-worthy, slow-motion disaster spectacular and feel-good movie rolled into one....[His] gripping fantasy will make most readers hope that at least some of us can stick around long enough to see how it all turns out."
A penetrating take on how our planet would respond without the relentless pressure of the human presence
A penetrating, page-turning tour of a post-human Earth
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.
Discover the impact of the human footprint in The World Without Us. Take us off the Earth and what traces of us would linger? And which would disappear? Alan Weisman writes about which objects from today would vanish without us; how our pipes, wires, and cables would be pulverized into an unusual (but mere) line of red rock; why some museums and churches might be the last human creations standing; how rats and roaches would struggle without us; and how plastic, cast-iron, and radio waves may be our most lasting gifts to the planet.
But The World Without Us is also about how parts of our world currently fare without a human presence (Chernobyl; a Polish old-growth forest, the Korean DMZ) and it looks at the human legacy on Earth, both fleeting and indelible. It's narrative nonfiction at its finest, taking an irresistible concept with gravity and a highly-readable touch.
Some examples of what would happen:
· One year: Several more billions birds will live when airplane warning lights cease blinking.
· Twenty years: The water-soaked steel columns that support the street above New York's East Side would corrode and buckle. As Lexington Avenue caves in, it becomes a river.
· 100,000 years: CO2 will be back to pre-human levels (or it might take longer).
· Forever: Our radio waves, fragmented as they may be, will still be going out.
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