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The World Without Us Paperback – August 5, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
He also describes the decay of man-made works in other parts of the world, including a vivid description of what would happen to an oil field in Texas if humans suddenly disappeared. That would be hell in the short term -- but some of the speculations about earth without humans sound pretty attractive: back to the Garden of Eden, before Adam, Eve, and the snake.
The book is a cautionary one, telling about the fate of earlier societies who outran the potential for their environment, and taking the long view of the human species -- up till and including the final demise when the sun becomes a big cinder about 5 billion years for now. Will the last work of man to survive be a plastic water bottle? An amusing section gives a voice to the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement -- which proposes that human beings help themselves become extinct. Another describes the Pioneer spacecraft, sent out to hunt for other forms of intelligent life in the Universe. All that other civilizations may know of us is contained on the spacecraft: Mozart, Chuck Berry, and a few other details, to be precise.
It's a fascinating read of well-reasoned speculation.
Using a combination of very solid research and science, the author gives readers a view of what would -and would not - endure -and for how long. He gives a look at the world shortly after we leave and then a futuristic look at its evolution from there, with various scenarios. I found it riveting to read. Also, it made me realize that, as important as we may consider ourselves, the earth could evolve and change without us, often in positive ways. It was humbling, at least for me.
Finally, the writer's style is just breathtaking. I can't sum it up here (it'd be like trying to describe a painting instead of seeing it firsthand) but the writing makes the book extremely rewarding. I'd have gotten through it, even if written by a less competent writer, because I find the subject matter inherently fascinating, but I'm grateful that this was so nicely done.
The foundations are all there; the topic is novel and the amount of research the author has done and the creative thinking used should have provided more than enough material for an interesting book.
I think the problem is with the writing. The approach taken is very similar to that seen in Jared Diamond's books; in each chapter, introduce a different place in the world, discuss it's specific situation or history, then draw out a more general conclusion from the more specific situation. It's worked for Jared Diamond, but it doesn't work here. The problem is that in many chapters the author does too good a job of concealing what general point he is trying to make; several times I found myself thinking "This is a moderately interesting story... but what does it have to do with the topic of the book?" After finishing some chapters I found I still wasn't sure!
The writing style also grates. He uses a kind of journalistic, "reporter on the scene" approach. "Jim swivelled clockwise in his chair, as he revealed the true reason behind the drop in pH in the pacific's coral atolls!". There is a perplexing amount of fluff regarding scientist's hairstyles, what they're wearing, where they went to school and other filler.Read more ›
So, the premise of "The World Without Us" resonated with me: suddenly, there are no humans; what happens next? It's difficult to see how this postulated situation could develop; war, catastrophic climate change or an asteroid collision would cause considerable damage to non-human aspects of the world, for example. A particularly virulent disease might do the trick, but how the people disappear is outside the scope of the book; they're just gone. What happens afterward is the subject here.
Recent heavy rains in New York City have validated Mr. Weisman's first conclusion: the subways will flood, only without people to keep the pumps running, they stay flooded, undermining the towers of Manhattan. Steel corrodes; glass breaks; bricks and mortar fall apart. In a few decades, Manhattan has become a forest again. A recent trip to Central America convinces me that dogs might not survive without humans; the dogs there barely survive alongside the very poor humans.
I am skeptical of some of the details of Mr. Weisman's scenario. Ailanthus trees do very well in a city, but are they sufficiently shade-tolerant to survive in a mature forest?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The World Without Us is now just under ten years old, and while aspects of it are likely out of date, the message is almost more relevant. Read morePublished 24 days ago by J. Aaron Bellamy
This book is a clever way of summarising, in a very readable way, the latest science on how we humans have been comprehensively stuffing up the world. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
A great book! Weisman traveled the world and did an extensive research for this book. It is a fascinating read.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Shocking, thought provoking & depressing all at the same time. I'm a fan of horror fiction and in some ways this book is scarier than some horror novels. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about the death of the earth's ultimate scourge, humans. It's great!Published 2 months ago
Conflicted to say, I didn't like it (two stars) given I found some parts interesting. So I'll go with three stars. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Candace Drimmer