Before you start thinking that I must be some sort of literary masochist, not all apocalyptic fiction (or nonfiction) is dark and hopeless. Most often, the appeal lies in the struggle that comes after; the pulling together (or apart) of individuals and groups, finding strength and hope in the face of utter catastrophe, and the odd comfort in seeing that even without society as we know it, the world does go on.
So what would happen if, suddenly and for no reason, all of humanity simply disappeared? What happens to our homes, our shopping malls, or our pets that would be left behind? That is the question that journalist Alan Weisman takes up in The World Without Us. As Weisman states in the first chapter, this is not a book about how we disappear, but what happens after we're gone.
In exploring what might happen without humanity, we also discover the long-lasting impact we have already had on our planet. Some impacts are as short-term as the buildings we live and work in, which in Weisman’s estimation would be consumed by the landscape in 200 or so years, whereas the plastic we created will remain in our environment for hundreds of thousands of years after we are gone. And what would happen to the nuclear power plants, the dams and reservoirs and the oil pipelines - all the things that require meticulous human attention - if those attentions suddenly ceased?
Weisman bases his book on scientific studies and observations from a variety of settings and locations. Some areas, such as the Korean DMZ, Chernobyl, or the small sliver of primeval forest on the border of Poland and Belarus called Białowieża Puszcza, show us how quickly and remarkably nature recovers and continues in the absence of immediate human intervention. Weisman also looks at what remains of the civilizations that have come before us, such as the underground cities beneath Cappadocia, Turkey, thought to be 8,000 to 9,000 years old.
While such a subject could easily become dry and uninteresting, taking the tone of yet another ecological doomsday lecture, Weisman artfully weaves the factual and hypothetical into an engaging and ultimately hopeful tale. Some passages, such as Weisman's description of the effect our lights, power lines and buildings have on the navigation of birds, border on the poetic. Other chapters take a sadder tone, particularly the sections that describe the possible fates of our pets. The World Without Us is a great read for anyone interested in the environment, history, or biology, or who are simply curious about the world be live in and the effect we humans have on it.
|DVD 576.84 LIF|
Happy (and hopeful) reading!
~Allison, Adult Services