Mateo's Reviews > The World Without Us

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
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Sep 15, 07

Read in September, 2007

Yeah, what you've heard about this book is true: It really is very good, very scary, very depressing--AND it's written entirely in Spurdlish, a language I just made up that consists only of the letter 't'.

If it only enabled fire ants to slowly liquify Dick Cheney, it would be perfect.

Okay, I'm kidding about the Spurdlish, but, yeah, great book. Weisman doesn't just speculate on what happens to your house or the NYC subways or the pyramids once we've all been raptured off to Heaven. (Hint: That expensive kitchen remodel you did? Hopefully it's in a color that raptors enjoy.) The book is really about what we're doing to the planet, and how long our nefarious activities will outlast us. The news is both good and bad: nature tends to adapt to just about anything--think wildflowers blooming in Chernobyl--but there are still some future scenarios that are pretty hellish. Yes. More hellish than Boca Raton, Florida. Between the PCBs, the fluorocarbons, the dioxins, the plutonium, the global warming, and those uncounted zillions of plastic microparticles now gutting everything from krill to blue whales, the planet's in for a rough ride for a while, even if aliens appear in the skies tomorrow and suck us up through the galaxy's biggest straw.

Weisman writes quite well and the panoply of places he visits is worth the price of admission: reserves in Kenya, the Korean DMZ, the Panama Canal, the American Southwest, Turkish caves, Pacific atolls, etc., etc. I'm glad someone could write about them before they're swallowed up in Pepsi bottles and plastic bags.

It's tempting, when reading the book, to take the long view of things, that the Earth endures and that if we disappear from our own foolishness, it's no great loss. In fact, it's hard to escape the conclusion that we deserve extinction for all that we're doing. And yet that seems to me to be both simplistic and disingenuous. For all the evil we've done through our greed, our cruelty, and our shortsightedness, we have produced some real marvels, whether it's the Parthenon or a newborn child. We are a remarkable species, perhaps unreplaceable, and it will be a loss to the biosphere when we go. Of course, in the end all things must pass, as some Liverpool philosopher once put it, but the end is not yet here and there's still much to enjoy. (Do those who wish an end to humanity really believe what they say? Who amongst them is willing to commit suicide for the sake of a better planet?) Let's hope that we gain the wisdom to enjoy it all, and preserve it for a better future.


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message 1: by Antony (new) - added it

Antony Suicide? Perhaps not, but a decision not to reproduce? Definitely.


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