In 1994 the author of this book wrote an article for Harper's about how nature had re-occupied the deserted area around Chernobyl. This was followed in 2005 by an article in Discover Magazine entitled "Earth Without People". The author then expanded this article and in 2007 published this book.
I had expected a different structure. On page one I expected the proposition that suddenly all humans on Earth had disappeared to be followed in the rest of the book of a description of how nature reclaimed the world. Instead this book is thematic, each chapter discussing a different topic, how humans have affected this topic and what would happen when humans cease to affect it.
There are also visits to various illustrative places. He begins with a primary forest on the Polish Belarus border as an example of a place mostly untouched by humans. There is a visit to a deserted holiday resort wedged between Turkish and Greek Cyprus; there is a visit to the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea, and there is a visit to Chernobyl. These are all examples of how nature reclaims, and reclaims quickly. There is also a visit to the huge petrochemical complex in southern Texas and a discussion of how this would degrade once humans are gone and then a discussion of how nuclear power stations would act in a human-less future. A visit to an agricultural research station in England shows how farming has shaped the land and how, once humans go, the farmland will return to nature.
My particular favourite concerns plastics, how some of them degrade and how many of them will not, to be left as alien objects in a natural world surviving into geologic time. And in the middle of the Pacific, in an area called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, there is a small-continent-sized floating garbage dump of plastics. I am also grateful to the author for introducing me to the term nurdles, which are small plastic pellets, manufactured in bulk.
All these topics are interesting and thought-provoking. However, the style is journalistic reportage, showing the book's origins in an extended magazine article. The people the author used as sources are named and fully described. For some readers this may be irritating. For those who do not find this style irritating and do not mind reading a series of interconnected magazine articles, I would recommend this book.