8/13/2008

The World Without Us

When I looked into the book for the first time, I just put it back after a few seconds. No, can't read this.

I came to the bookstore on the next day and read in it for five minutes. It gave me the creeps.

On the third day, I bought it. Mainly because of the chapter "Unbuilding Our Home". There's a quote by architect Chris Riddle: "'If you want to destroy a barn,'a farmer once told me 'cut an eighteen-inch-square hole in the roof. Then stand back.'"

It reminded me so of my so often deserted house and the changes that can be observed after some time.

Weisman imagines what would happen if the earth’s most invasive species — ourselves — were suddenly and completely wiped out.

This is part of Jennifer Schuessler's review:

".... Weisman travels from Europe’s last remnant of primeval forest to the horse latitudes of the Pacific, interviewing everyone from evolutionary biologists and materials scientists to archaeologists and art conservators in his effort to sketch out the planet’s post-human future. In even the most heavily fortified corners of the settled world, the rot would set in quickly. With no one left to run the pumps, New York’s subway tunnels would fill with water in two days. Within 20 years, Lexington Avenue would be a river. Fire- and wind-ravaged skyscrapers would eventually fall like giant trees. Within weeks of our disappearance, the world’s 441 nuclear plants would melt down into radioactive blobs, while our petrochemical plants, “ticking time bombs” even on a normal day, would become flaming geysers spewing toxins for decades to come. Outside of these hot spots, Weisman depicts a world slowly turning back into wilderness. After about 100,000 years, carbon dioxide would return to prehuman levels. Domesticated species from cattle to carrots would revert back to their wild ancestors. And on every dehabitated continent, forests and grasslands would reclaim our farms and parking lots as animals began a slow parade back to Eden."

On his Website, Alan Weisman has an animation "Your House Without You" and a World Tour on Google Earth to locations in the book, such as Chernobyl, Ukraine, Houston, Texas, or the Gombe Stream National Park.

Fascinating.

3 comments:

Rob Spence said...

Scary stuff! Really fascinating, Francessa- thanks for mentioning it. Like you, I find the whole concept quite intimidating.

Lydia said...

Fascinating, I'd say! I enjoyed the way you described kind of a dance around this book before buying it and reviewing it for us. I think it sounds like a book that should become standard text material in high schools around the world.

francessa said...

Rob and Lydia,

On the website Alan Weisman says he had "sought for a long time some fresh, non-threatening approach to disarm readers’ apprehensions about environmental destruction long enough that they might consider the impacts of unbridled human activity on the rest of nature". And I think, in this he succeeded.

I'm reading on now (had to pause for a week in which I was busily fighting the powers of nature in the above mentioned house and garden) - with less horror, but great excitement and wonder. There are some interesting parts about Great Britain.

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