Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bookworming: The World Without Us

The World Without Us, Alan Weisman, ****
The central premise of this non-fiction work is: what happens if all humans suddenly disappeared from the planet? It is great marketing for sure, but the book really is not about what will happen to the vast infrastructure that people have created. That material is in the book, and just as evocative as it sounds. But the larger narrative, the real power of it, is an overview of the impact that people have had and are having on nature.

For those expecting politics to creep in, it does not. This is a scientific look at a "what if" that simply shakes out certain viewpoints that could be considered political. If anything, you can take whatever political view you want from the text, because it's ultimately about how nature and life win. No matter what impact we have, it will all eventually be gone. And yet, what an impact we do have. Ultimately, what won me over was the surprisingly optimistic tone throughout what could be an extremely bleak subject. It takes a hard heart to begrudge something that imagines the Korean DMZ becoming a wildlife refuge, and that is just one example.

Light reading, this is not. But it is an exceedingly well done series of tales of humanity's might and how ephemeral our works really are in a world without us.

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