Monday, 16 December 2013

Book Review: The World Without Us

The World Without UsThe World Without Us by Alan Weisman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This bestselling popular science book asks the question, "What would happen to the world if we suddenly disappeared?" An interesting premise, but more interesting is a related question he also asks, namely "How have we affected the world?"
As a former archaeologist, I'm familiar with decay, but still I was surprised at how quickly many of our greatest industrial works will disappear. His long section on New York City without its army of maintenance crews was especially eye opening.
There is also much here about species extinction and the impact of our toxins on the environment. It turns out that the most harmful thing we may be doing to our planet may be the vast amount of plastic we're pumping into the ocean. Tiny indigestible bits of plastic are finding their way into the systems of all sea life, and we simply don't know how that might affect them.
Weisman is a masterful writer and he takes us around the world from old Maya ruins to primeval forests in Eastern Europe in his quest to see how the world once was, where it's going, and how it would fare without us. It's gripping reading, told at a level that any interested person can understand. My only complaint is that in my UK trade paperback edition the photos were few and poorly reproduced, thus adding little to the text. Otherwise this is an excellent book, well worth reading for anyone with an interest in science.

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Is there a television series or movie based on that book? It sounds really familiar...

Sean McLachlan said...

It was an international bestseller a few years back. I wouldn't be surprised if they did a TV documentary.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.