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on 11 August 2017
Does what it says on the tin - what would happen if we all disappeared. Where would the earth recover. If this book doesn't remind you of why the green agenda matters, you have a heart of stone. At the end Weisman offers some thoughts on how we might avoid our extinction and that of the planet.
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on 8 January 2015
Good book. Made me rather sad actually. We have brought the world to its knees.
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on 10 June 2017
Good book. Must read!
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on 22 May 2017
Good book
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on 7 May 2012
The subject of this, and also the tv series, is what the world would be like if there were no humans - no catastrophe or epidemic, just gone. I think this interests many people given the numerous novels on zombie apocalypse, or other apocalyptic scenarios. What sets this aside from the tv series is that it discusses previous events without humans, and how the earth coped and species adapted. It only discusses in brief how cities will collapse and be overtaken - it also compares current desolated regions and how nature has become to reclaim the land.

Overall, a very insightful and interesting read, not a boring and repetitive as the tv series, I would highly recommend for anyone with an interested in the subject area.
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on 10 April 2017
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on 6 August 2008
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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VINE VOICEon 7 October 2008
Let's try a thought experiment. Consider what effects the human race is having and has had on the Earth. Then consider what would happen should, somehow, we disappeared from the face of this planet tomorrow. It doesn't matter how, super virulent virus perhaps, raptured to heaven even, as long as we just disappear quietly. What would be our legacy to the rest of life, or what would be left to see for a visiting extra-terrestrial?

It's with this premise that Alan Weisman sets out to explore the possible and likely consequences of our tenure here. What buildings would survive? What happens to our cities? Our livestock, pets and cultivated plants?

There is much more to this book though. For, by discussing our potential legacy, the author spotlights what we are currently doing to the planet. I think this is his real agenda, by showing us what might happen without us it becomes obvious how much worse it well could be if we carry on as we've been doing.

It may well have been a deliberate move by the publisher to downplay the environmentalist angle in this book's marketing, in favour of something more sensationalist. I certainly didn't expect some of the material and it wasn't quite the book I thought it might be, it wasn't unwelcome however. In fact the sense of perspective added by little historical and personal vignettes deepens, I think, the appreciation of his subject matter. On the other hand he does sometimes get a little bit lyrical at times, particularly when describing some of the people he has met in the course of research. Perhaps it's the journalist in him.

Highly readable with a clear non-authortitarian tone, made it one of the best books I've read this year. After reading it you may just wish that we would just disappear and leave this place alone.
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VINE VOICEon 21 October 2008
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. The sudden departure of megafauna from the Earth is examined and is attributed to the increasing ability of Homo Sapiens to hunt. From a research facility in England, we learn how farmland will handle the fertilisers and chemicals we have left behind, and how eventually, trees will once again cover the land.

The author has gathered together so many areas of science in this book. However, due to skillful mixing of the strands, we never suffer from fatigue. He admits that the sudden departure of humans from the planet is fantasy, but the science and research he has gathered is rock-solid, and often chilling. Weisman portrays the sheer disregard humanity has for its home and its other inhabitants, yet his book also reveals the immense capacity of the Earth to heal itself. This book lingers in the mind long after you have finished reading it.
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on 29 September 2013
Alan Weisman's international bestseller The World Without Us has been widely acclaimed for its ability to carry its readers on a journey described by the Independent as `Flesh-creepingly good fun...an expert-led fantasia of the post human planet''. But pick up the book, absorb its contents and you will realize that the Independent was being modest in their appraisal of Weisman's love of detail. Detail, which if taken time to digest, will lead you to an epiphany. Here is a world, where the very last human on Earth is no more. `Look around you, at today's world' writes Weisman. `Your house, your city. The surrounding land, the pavement underneath, and the soil hidden below that. Leave it all in place but extract the human beings. Wipe us out and see what's left''.
This thought- provoking scenario compels the reader to follow Weisman's string of consciousness which attempts to answer two fundamental questions. Would nature be forever impaired by our destructive practices or would it simply heal itself back to its pristine, pre-human state? Perhaps the only hint that once, we humans were, like many other species whose ancient skeletal frames are now carefully preserved in history museums across the globe, just transient guests in nature's abode. Perhaps the trace of our former presence embedded only in the faint glow of a surface scar, littered with thick cast iron and chromium alloys. But whilst such a prospect is bound to make readers fidget on their sofas uncomfortably, they're also given a light hearted image of fire hydrants, casually sprouting amidst cacti as one of the few remaining signs of `Earthly humanity'.
Weisman predicts how other forms of life would adapt without the presence of humans by giving as prime example natural reserves and sanctuaries where human intervention has been minimal. Such places include Białowieża Forest, the Kingman Reef, and the Palmyra Atoll. He also approaches important figures, some of them like biologist E. O. Wilson in an attempt to foresee the return of native plants by looking into the spread of pre historic vegetation. In Weisman's view, megafauna would flourish whilst animals which constitute urban pests such as rats would die off from a lack of a continual supply of food that is plentiful in today's modern cities.
The author uses the city of New York as an example of how nature would take over in almost no time, even over a developed urban area such as modern day New York. Weisman foresees how New York's roads will cave in as a result of underground streams flooding subway corridors and how native fauna and flora would slowly take over and out survive the invasive exotic species once brought forth by explorers insistent on diversifying the city's vegetation.
But Weisman also looks at the suburban world, and assesses the impact of nature on abandoned middle class, residential homes. Yet again, the eroding power of water will damage the existent wood frames and rusting the metals to the point of collapse. 500 years later and all that'll remain out of a house once booming with human activity are dishwasher parts, stainless steel cookware and plastic handles that stubbornly persist in becoming part of our 21st century legacy.
And yet, Weisman does not entirely embrace the notion that the world as a human construct is all doom and gloom. He delves into matters deep, as for instance when he raises the question of the legacy humans will have left behind and strives to reach a verdict in humanity's defence. Perhaps our impact on the natural environment and the planet as a whole has not been as detrimental, as it has changed the face of a planet, where someday our ancestral monuments will tell our story to an entirely new, and altogether different inhabitants.
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