I just finished reading “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman. My aunt gave this book to me for Christmas, and I tore through it. It was gripping in a way that no other scientifically and historically based book ever has before for me.
The basic premise is what would happen if humans were to suddenly vanish off the planet all at once. Weisman takes us to many interesting places, from nuclear power plants to underground villages, and he writes amazingly to boot. The book is so throughly researched that I can’t imagine how long it took him to write. Each chapter tackles a particular issue, such as cities or energy production and then he paints an elaborate picture of the world as it was before humans, throughout history, the present day, and then what would happen if we vanished tomorrow. And it is strange, but he writes this all without being overbearingly anti-human.
The thing that really hit me was nature’s struggle with mankind has been ongoing since the beginning of man. I suppose that I always just assumed that our not-so-distant ancestors were much better stewards of the environment. Evidently, we have been burning down forests and causing extinction for tens of thousand of years, it is just that we recently have developed the technology to do this on a scale that we have no idea what the consequences will be.
I think that the greatest takeaway from this book is the fact that humans are doing things that are unsustainable, many of which we as a species are only vaguely aware of. This unawareness needs to change. We need to take a collective look at what we are doing, and choose a different path. We are very imaginative and creative creatures, and we need to learn how to use these skills to live in harmony with our planet.