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The World Without Us
Alan Weisman
From Macmillan Audio
Published on Tuesday, July 10, 2007
12 hours, 10 CDs
$39.95 - Compact Disc (1-4272-0148-X)


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A penetrating take on how our planet would respond without the relentless pressure of the human presence

Description | Quotes | Author Bio(s) | Amazon Customer Reviews

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.

“Offers us a sketch of where we stand as a species that is both illuminating and terrifying. His tone is conversational and his affection for both Earth and humanity transparent.”—Barry Lopez, National Book Award-winner
“This is one of the grandest thought experiments of our time, a tremendous feat of imaginative reporting!”—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
“An exacting account of the processes by which things fall apart. The scope is breathtaking…the clarity and lyricism of the writing itself left me with repeated gasps of recognition about the human condition. I believe it will be a classic.”—Dennis Covington, author of NBA Finalist Salvation on Sand Mountain
"The imaginative power of The World is Flat is compulsive and nearly hypnotic—make sure you have time to be kidnapped into Alan Weisman's alternative world before you sit down with the book, because you won't soon return. This is a text that has a chance to change people, and so make a real difference for the planet."
—Charles Wohlforth, author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner The Whale and the Supercomputer

Author Bio(s):
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.

Amazon Customer Reviews:
When we're not around to take care of our "stuff"... (Rating: 4 out of 5)
Just for kicks, let's say that everyone on the planet just disappeared. No, this isn't a review of I Am Legend. It's the premise of the book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. Weisman looks at how the planet would start reclaiming its land from the imprint of man. It's a bit uneven and meandering at times, but it does lead to some interesting conjecture...

Part 1: A Lingering Scent of Eden; Unbuilding Our Home; The City Without Us; The World Just Before Us; The Lost Menagerie; The African Paradox
Part 2: What Falls Apart; What Lasts; Polymers Are Forever; The Petro Patch; The World Without Farms
Part 3: The Fate of Ancient and Modern Wonders of the World; The World Without War; Hot Legacy; Our Geologic Record
Part 4: Where Do We Go from Here?; Art Beyond Us; The Sea Cradle
Coda: Our Earth, Our Souls
Acknowledgments; Select Bibliography; Index

Fortunately, this wasn't a "global warming is killing us" diatribe. If it had been, it's likely I wouldn't have picked it up. Instead, it's more of a look at how nature's systems would take over and interact with an abandoned infrastructure. For starters, you're treated to a slow-motion destruction of your humble abode. Water seeps in around nails and shingles loosen up. Insects and rodents start taking up residence and add to the decay. Load-bearing walls weaken and collapse, leaving piles of rubble that slowly crumble and return to the soil of the foundation. Given a century or so of complete neglect, nature would reclaim much of what we built. Particleboard won't stand up like rock walls of the previous millennium. I also found the chapters on our "wonders" quite eye-opening. Structures like the Panama Canal would very quickly be overrun by the surrounding forests. The Chunnel could be a link allowing species to migrate for some period of time between England and France. Granted, it's speculation, but interesting nonetheless.

Some of the material didn't seem to flow as well. There was a fair amount of discussion as to the hows and whys behind the disappearances of large land mammals that seemed to exist before the advent of man. Giant sloths and other strange creatures didn't fare well when stacked up against humans. Those chapters seemed to be a strange mix between looking back at what happened and what might happen once we leave. It probably was put in to help support arguments surrounding how species adapt and survive. But it seemed to break the flow of the main narrative... I found myself starting to wander a bit when those chapters got a bit too long.

If you've walked through ghost towns or seen pictures of an abandoned Chernobyl, this book will add much to your understanding of what happens when we're not around to take care of our "stuff".
The single secret still is Man (Rating: 5 out of 5)
The idea of imagining, speculating upon, understanding insofar as possible what would happen to the Earth should Mankind suddenly say good- bye to it is a fascinating one. Clearly it is done to help us appreciate the riches of the Earth, and to make us too understand how Mankind has damaged and destroyed much, and has created much ( The plastic trail) that in some way litters and befouls the planet's environment. In other words the idea of this book is a tremendously ingenious one, and the realization of, the embodying of the idea is according to all opinions I have seen, done in the most convincing, scientifically accurate, and imaginatively rich way.
The idea too works in another way as it provides plenty of new information to feed our own speculations as to 'what if'. Part of understanding reality is after all, understanding what it might become, how it might possibly turn out.
The book gives pleasure in another way. Hidden fantasies of being free from it all, secret guilty longings for destruction are satisfied by this book in a far more detailed and convincing way than we could possibly provide for ourselves.
And again surprising riches of Nature, and its powers of renewal without human interference are rendered with great skill here.
And all this is done in a sense to humble us, and help us become better propietors of the Earth lest we disappear from it.
All of this is outstanding and original.
And yet all the beauties of nature all its wonders would somehow be not real were there no one to appreciate and understand them.
The Planet Needs to Recover (Rating: 4 out of 5)
The premise of the book is what would happen to the planet if the people suddenly disappeared. WOW! A lot of the chapters demontrated how many thousands of years it would take for some of the ecosystems to recover. It covered many topics that were completely unexpected subjects such as the dumping of plastics in the ocean. I learned a lot from this book.

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