Looking for something to read that’s a little more thought-provoking than the usual beach book detritus pushed on the unwary consumer this summer?
Fly, don’t waddle, to the nearest bookstore and take a gander at The World Without Us, a fascinating “thought experiment,” as one reviewer called it, that ponders what would happen to our planet if all humans suddenly disappeared.
Before speculating on what changes, both nurturing and poisoning, would be loosed upon Earth by our absence, the author, Alan Weisman, first chronicles with precise and first-hand knowledge what humans have done to our planet over the past century. He traveled around the world to meet with experts on pollutants such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, banned for thirty years in this country) or radiation, and visited several unique areas, such as the DMZ of the two Koreas, where humans have vacated. His compelling writing is almost mournful at times as he describes how we have taken a stranglehold on the biosystems of Earth as if the Gods of Olympus themselves were battering nature into obeisance.
Then, we disappear. Why and how is not the author’s point – it is what happens after we’re gone. The best sections of the book delineate both the horrific wounds humans would carve into Mother Earth if they were gone, such as the 441 unmanned nuclear reactors around the world, now all headed toward meltdown, and the almost heavenly beauty of flora and fauna repopulating farms now seeded with trees, and cities now slowly crumbling into dust.
If an alien race landed here several million years after we are gone, what would survive from our time on Earth to give them a clue as to who we were? Weisman’s account of what humans have created that will last until our sun expands to broil the planet into oblivion is indelible, but I’m not going to give these secrets away. You’ll have to borrow my copy of the book to find out the rest.
The World Without Us is some real beach reading, for those who have ever sat on a beach, looked all around and wondered…and wondered…