The World Without Us

I am finally getting caught up on some reading, and read the World Without Us, by Alan Weisman.  It is an outstanding book.

It is basically a thought exercise about what would happen to the planet if humans suddenly disappeared.   How long would New York last? (not long – the New York subway system would flood).  What would happen to the petrochemical plants and storage plants in Houston?  Most would blow up.  What would happen to the nuclear plants and nuclear waste?  The swimming pool storage would dry out, storage vessels would melt, leading to widespread dispersion of waste.

While the book outlines many disasters that would occur, it also outlines the recovery that nature would quickly undergo.  Forests would regrow, top predators would spread, and animal and fish populations would rapidly rebound.  Soils that have had large increases in heavy metals would recover in time.  Domesticated crops and animals would perish, but wild versions would proliferate.

The author has an outstanding understanding of human geography – the impact that humans have had on nature, and even the landscape itself.  And the writing style is engaging and interesting.

This is a must read for environmentalists, and anyone interested in human history or geography.

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