Talon Book Review: “The World Without Us”

Unlike many nonfiction books out there, “The World Without Us” mainly covers a completely hypothetical situation. The book capitalizes on people’s morbid fascination with their own destruction. However, rather than focusing on the process of destruction itself, this book focuses mainly on the aftermath of human extinction, particularly its effects on the world we leave behind. Through several interesting approaches, the author Alan Weisman manages to cover many different possibilities and outcomes of the theoretical absence of humans from Earth. The most interesting and thought-provoking possibility is the complete and sudden disappearance of every single human being on Earth, leaving everything else behind untouched. This type of disappearance would wipe out the entire human race, or sterilize its members, but not affect any other species. What would happen to the world we leave behind if we all vanished into thin air tomorrow? What would happen to the cities with our buildings, streets and houses that we leave behind? What about all of the animal and plant species that once coexisted with us? What about our tools, belongings, and devices? Our works of art? Our monuments, both ancient and modern, to great civilizations? And what about our technological advances? These are the questions that Weisman tries to answer. Weisman interviews many people for his book in order to built up information for his hypothetical outcomes of human extinction, and he does this very well. Numerous quotes from accredited experts in many fields strongly support the basis of the book’s context. Weisman travels all over the world in order to find sources and content that support Weisman’s ideas on the many changes that would happen if people were to vanish off the face of Earth. Through all of the research in his book, Weisman discovers a gloomy but evident conclusion about the markers of our civilization that are left by us. To sum it all up: very few things of human origin will be left behind on Earth after years have gone by. In other words, if another highly intelligent species arrives on Earth in the future, they will find little evidence that we once existed. Skyscrapers, constructed with steel and glass, will collapse and be buried in under 1000 years, and other buildings made of structures such as concrete or wood won’t last much longer. Even the Panama Canal, a “giant scar upon Earth created by man,” will be “healed” by the erosion, as dams crumble and the Pacific side of the canal dries up. Nuclear plants would experience complete meltdowns without people to monitor them, spreading radiation into the surroundings that would have damaging effects on the environment for thousands of years. The book not only covers a scenario where people would disappear into thin air from the modern world, but it also covers what Earth was like before humans arrived and what the Earth would be like now if humans had never been intelligent. Even though Weisman’s book is very thorough and descriptive of events, there are a few things that somewhat detract from the book’s value. Unlike the History channel TV show “Life after People,” which covers many topics common to the book, the book lacks in visual aids. In addition, the book only covers a few randomly selected modern examples of what would happen when people left their cities and dwellings behind. Despite these faults, the writing is very engaging and the style never tires out. It’s an excellent read and intrigues reader’s minds.