Thursday, December 8, 2011

The World Without Us


This is a book to make one think. Depending on your point of view the thinking could be positive and hopeful or as uncomfortable as a prostate exam. The question raised is - what would the world be like without us? If all humans just disappeared one day.

The books starts out simple enough, looking at common things like what would happen to your house, the street out front, the park down the road. Well, your house would rot; shingles give out in the first decade, the roof caves in, the walls rot and fall, the basement eventually fills in with debris and dirt. Within a couple of hundred years your house, heck the whole neighborhood, is a mound a dirt beneath the canopy of some mature forest. Weisman then takes us on a journey through New York city. You'd think this big 'concrete jungle' would never fall down, or when it did it would never change back into a natural jungle. Well, it turns out that might happen faster than you'd think. Mostly because the island New York was a swamp at one point, but, we've covered over it. This water will do some nasty damage to building foundations really really quickly and take down even the tallest structures. That is positive to me, in a strange sounding way. It gives me hope that we haven't completely trashed the earth and it could rebuild itself if given the chance.

Then comes the rest of the book. A closer look at what we would leave behind if we all just took off into space, or died out from a deadly virus, or got so addicted to reading blogs on books that we forgot to eat and all died. What we'd leave behind is scary. The ever popular climate change, a few hundred nuclear reactors, plastic plastic and more plastic, and various other hazardous chemicals. Some of these 'problems', like nuclear reactors, are safe right now because we have people keeping an eye on them. But, with people gone these things would eventually blow up and melt-down. And, apparently plastic never fully breaks down - there is no organism that will eat it (notch that up as a victory for mankind). What a legacy.

I found this book very accessible. There was no tech talk, just plain old english used. Easy to understand the ideas and theories that Weismen puts forth. What I really liked was when I put the book, that didn't come out right...when I started thinking about my own situation. What would my house look like in ten years if I did nothing to it. What would it look like in ten years if the tree out front blew down in a storm and took out the windows. What would happen the van? Would I be able to come back in fifty years and pick out my washing machine? Oh, so many important questions. Dropping the jokes, I found this book very relevant and easy to relate to.


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