Sunday, June 08, 2008

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Weisman opens this book with the following question: "Is it possible that, instead of heaving a huge biological sigh of relief, the world without us would miss us?"

I won't give away the answer, but if you like good nature writing (um, Dad), this is a wonderful book for you. Weisman chronicles what the world might look like if people were suddenly raptured away from it (gone extinct, taken by aliens, you get the picture.) At once startling and inspiring, Weisman reveals the inter-connectedness of ecosystems and explains the detrimental (or helpful) role humans play all over the world. From the plains of the Serengeti to the subways of New York City, you see the world as we know it slowly erode before your eyes. Weisman's writing is often poetic, his chapter titles for example: "Unbuilding Our Home, What Falls Apart, Wings Without Us."

I found myself overwhelmed, at times, by the idea of all humanity erased away. It's a sobering reflection. But at the same time, I was full of awe at the amazing ability of life to find a way. One chapter, about the wildlife that has returned to Chernobyl, was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Although some of our animal friends would fare worse than others (sorry, cows), still others would find new niches and possibly evolve to take advantage of new opportunities (housecats, for one.)

This book WAS "one of the grandest thought experiments of our time" as touted on the cover. Read, and enjoy.


Dave said...

Amanda - If a distance of hundreds of thousands of years would wipe out any sign of our existance, then this might not be the first time some species attained a "stone age" level of civilization prior to extinction. Took us a couple million years to get from the African plains to today. The big reptiles were around a lot longer than that. Just a thought.

Amanda said...

Well, interestingly, evidence of our existence might never be wiped away (according to Weisman.) I think you would really enjoy this one. It provides a lot of thought-provoking questions and sometimes startling answers.