It’s Depressing

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Grade: B+

Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us is a non-fiction book that questions what would happen to our planet if we (mankind) suddenly disappeared en masse. How quickly would nature take over again? And what marks of our existence would remain on the Earth long after we’d disappeared?

He approaches these questions from two main angles. One angle is to examine the places on Earth where there are no people. For example, he takes us to an isolated coral reef to show us what life is like in a place that we’ve never colonized. He also takes us to several places that humans have abandoned, such as Chernobyl and the Korean DMZ, to show us how nature responds to the empty spaces (which is quickly and resiliently, thank goodness).

His other angle of approach is to examine the different forms of long-term damage we’re leaving behind. We’ve caused the extinction of countless animals, and left others on the brink of nonexistence. We’ve littered the planet with plastic that Nature cannot biodegrade, and probably won’t be able to for a long time. So that plastic will just get broken into smaller and smaller pieces, damaging every level of the food chain on its way down. We’ve created nasty things like dioxins and radioactive waste that will linger indefinitely. And within days of our demise, countless human-made catastrophes will occur as chemical plants and nuclear plants, with no one watching over the switches and no power to run the automated systems, will burn or melt down or explode or whatever.

I hesitated over the grade. It’s an interesting book. It will help with my novel (which is good, since that’s the reason I decided to read it). But it’s also depressing as Hell. Weisman might as well have called it “A Million Reasons Why Humans Don’t Deserve to Live.” So, it’s possible that the book is worthy of an A grade, but I’m too bummed out to give it anything higher than a B+.

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