Kelly's Reviews > The World Without Us

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
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's review
Apr 20, 08

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in April, 2008

An intriguing thought experiment of how the earth and life on it continues if humans only suddenly disappeared, and not in some cataclysmic way that wipes out other life on earth. Of course to contemplate the world without us requires an investigation of the world with us--plastics, refineries, nuclear power plants, CO2, subways and skyscrapers, invasive species, pets, etc.

I approached this book with a geologist's perspective of time scale, and our ability to find discrete and obscure clues of the physical and biological past and then describe the travels of continents or the family life of dinosaurs. Weisman describes both the transient and indelible impacts of our species' presence on this planet (and in the larger universe as broadcast TV signals of I Love Lucy race away from our planet). I am less optimistic than Weisman that signs of human existence will be so quickly erased.

The resiliency of life--in general, not specific--on this planet is well demonstrated in the fossil record and life will doubtless continue regardless of the certain self-destruction--and of all the other species we take with us--that will be the outcome of our current course. Weisman's closing sentiments are similar to--but not as eloquent as--Barry Lopez' in Arctic Dreams: that what set us apart from other species is not that we should do something to alter our course but rather that we can.

Weisman: "Worldwide, every four days human population rises by 1 million. Since we can't really grasp such numbers, they'll wax out of control until they crash, as has happened to every other species that got too big for this box. About the only thing that could change that, short of the species-wide sacrifice of voluntary human extinction, is to prove that intelligence really makes us special after all.

The intelligent solution would require the courage and the wisdom to put our knowledge to the test. It would be poignant and distressing in ways, but not fatal."

Lopez: "Because mankind can circumvent evolutionary law, it is incumbent upon him, say evolutionary biologists to develop another law to abide by if he wishes to survive, to not outstrip his food base. He must learn restraint. He must derive some other, wiser way of behaving toward the land. He must be more attentive to the biological imperatives of the system of sun-driven protoplasm upon which he, too, is still dependent. Not because he must, because he lacks inventiveness, but because herein is the accomplishment of the wisdom that for centuries he has aspired to. Having taken on his own destiny, he must now think with critical intelligence about where to defer."
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message 1: by Jenn (new)

Jenn Come on Kel, you are such the scientist! Where is God in the big picture...He told us in the beginning that we were to be wise stewards! You have many good points, but the picture is incomplete without including Him in the equation. We do need to be wise and careful stewards, the problem is the only people who will take this book's message to heart is people who are already concerned about the environment, people like you...good review though. Hey, could you please take out the recycling when you get home? (kidding, I already did) love you!

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