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The World Without Us Paperback – 3 Apr 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books (3 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753513579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753513576
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Compelling ... jammed packed with fascinating "what ifs"" (Guardian)

"Flesh-creepingly good fun . . . Food for thought" (Independent)

"A powerful vision of a possible future for the earth" (Sunday Times)

"A hugely enjoyable and thought-provoking book" (Scotsman)

"A wonderful idea... The World Without Us is a hugely enjoyable and thought-provoking book... Terrific" (Evening Standard)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
According to some biologists, the Earth is suffering an "infestation". The afflicting organism, "Homo sapiens" has overrun the planet. The infection is recent, several thousand years old in its most virulent phase. During that brief period, however, the surface of the planet has been seriously transformed. Alan Weisman has confronted the impact of our infection of the biosphere with an entirely fresh approach. Relying little on speculation, excepting only what might make the human species disappear, he points up our environmental foot print describing how the planet would recover from what our presence has effected. A captivating read, this book is at once an indictment and a challenge to our intellect and our values.

The great metropolis of New York City is one focal point in this account. Once traversed by 40 meandering streams feeding the ocean and river, the island, but for its striking Central Park, is now "tamed". Massive buildings line its many kilometres of pavement, and the storm sewer systems have replaced Nature's waterways. Yet, those rivulets persist, demanding flow rights. The loss of humanity would shut down the 753 pumps that keep the subway tunnels relatively dry. The streams, assisted by the bordering river and ocean would quickly inundate them. The bridges' streams of vehicles haven't stopped the return of wildlife to the city, and human abandonment would accelerate the process. Botany's realm, however, may never recover its original domain. Too many human-introduced species have an irresistible foothold. Those tall buildings bracketing the asphalt ribbons would also ultimately break down, providing havens for birds and small mammals before succumbing.
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Format: Paperback
What would happen if humanity were to depart in one go from the Earth? How would the world manage without us? What would happen to the environment, our cities or fauna and flora?

One of the early sections in this book visits New York city and the team of men who are responsible for the never-ending pumping out of water from under the city, which constantly threatens to fill subways. The author then goes through the surprisingly rapid decline of the city. If you've ever stood in Manhattan gazing along the straight avenues and streets, and were amazed at the scale of construction, then this section will chill you right through. Later in the book, the author desctribes an abandoned seaside town in Cyrpus and it's decline in decrepitude.

A common thread thoughout the book concerns our effect on the environment and how long it would take for the Earth to correct itself if we were to depart. What about the ozone-damaging chemicals we pump out into the atmosphere, or the heavy metals and radioactive materials we dump and store without regard for future generations. The U.S. has silos of chock-full radioactive materials, surrounded by hundreds of warning signs. Due to the fact that human languages can mutate beyond recognition over just a few hundred years, the warning signs had to be desinged to be comprehensible to anyone who came across them. The author visits oil-refining facilities in Texas to examine what would happen there should humans suddenly stop running these facilities. A trip to Chernobyl is used to illustrate what could happen in the aftermath of a nuclear containment failure.

By examining the rise of humanity from the depths of Africa, the author looks for the most suitable candidate to suceed us once we depart.
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Format: Paperback
Reflections on the impermanence of man's creations and corporeal form have long been part of both Christian and Buddhist tradition as antidotes to human hubris. Weisman's very modern mortality tale however serves not God or enlightenment, but the Earth itself. What would happen in the unlikely event that everyone on the planet simply disappeared? What would the legacy of our species be in terms of our buildings and cultures? Would the natural environment simply take over again, or have we done irreparable damage to our planet? The fascinating television programme based on this book focused on the GCI-enhanced mouldering of our monuments and gradual crumbling of our cities. The book however is much more ambitious in its scope, addressing the far-reaching effect of Homo sapiens on our environment since we first stood upright on the African plains a relatively (in geological terms at least) short time ago. Weisman skilfully and entertainingly constructs this complex story with evidence from geology, archaeology, anthropology, physics, chemistry and the environmental sciences. It is a brilliantly-written tale of a planet both seriously ravaged but strangely resistant. Very few of our creations would actually survive our departure except our nuclear and toxic waste and, just as alarmingly, microscopic fragments of almost all the plastic we have ever produced (...even the plastic from toys we played with as children is apparently still out there somewhere). But, according to Weiseman, a planet that recovered from the Permian extinction 250 million years ago when 95% of everything alive was wiped up can surely survive a bunch of rather nasty Johnny-come-lately primates. Maybe a memento mori, a reminder of man's mortality, is indeed spiritually uplifting as Wiseman ends not with a gloomy prognosis (although he presents ample evidence to justify such a conclusion) but on an almost mystical and rather hopeful note.
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