Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The World Without Us

Now I've started reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, a journalist and documentary maker who, in this book, studies what would happen to the planet and all that's on it, if humans left. Have you ever seen I Am Legend? Will Smith plays a man who is alone in New York City and has been for three years. Weeds grow up from the sidewalks, corn fields grow in the middle of the city, animals wander much more freely. And that's only after three years. Weisman discusses what will happen after many more years than that:

Look around you, at today's world. Your house, your city. The surrounding land, the pavement underneath, and the soil hidden below that. Leave it all in place, but extract the human beings. Wipe us out, and see what's left. How would the rest of nature respond if it were suddenly relieved of the relentless pressures we heap on it and our fellow organisms? How soon would, or could, the climate return to where it was before we fired up all our engines?

...Might we have left some faint, enduring mark on the universe; some lasting glow, or echo, of Earthly humanity; some interplanetary sign that once we were here?

...Is it possible that, instead of heaving a huge biological sigh of relief, the world without us would miss us?
The first chapter I read was about what happens to our homes (suburban homes) if we're not here to keep the elements out. If we're not here to fix the roof, seal the basement, etc. It may take 50 to 100 years, but they all will eventually collapse. It starts with mold. Which rots the sheetrock and the wood. Rotten walls let in water, which produces more mold. Holes in the foundation let in critters. Soon it collapses upon itself. Weisman also looks at our past to determine a future without us. While some of the book is a tad on the slow side for me, Weisman does have a beautiful way of stringing words together - as you can read above. And, it's all very interesting to think about, sad and depressing, too, but interesting.

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