The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

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Synopsis

A penetrating, page-turning tour of a post-human Earth


In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.

The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations, and how, as the world's cities crumble, asphalt jungles would give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dali Lama, and paleontologists---who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths---Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.

From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), Weisman reveals Earth's tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman's narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn't depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.

 

About Alan Weisman

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Alan Weisman is the author of several books, including The World Without Us: an international best-seller translated in 34 languages, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Wenjin Book Prize of the National Library of China. His work has been selected for many anthologies, including Best American Science Writing. An award-winning journalist, his reports have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Discover, Vanity Fair, Wilson Quarterly, Mother Jones, and Orion, and on NPR. A former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, he is a senior radio producer for Homelands Productions. He lives in western Massachusetts.
 
Published July 10, 2007 by Thomas Dunne Books. 348 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Professional & Technical, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The World Without Us

Kirkus Reviews

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Nicely textured account of what the Earth would look like if humans disappeared.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Publishers Weekly

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I f a virulent virus—or even the Rapture—depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished? That's the provocative, and

May 14 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Publishers Weekly

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Because of the scientific terminology and the interlinked data amassed bit by bit, this is not an easy read for narrator or lay listener. But it's a fascinating book, and Grupper handles it we

Aug 27 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

The New York Times

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What would happen if earth’s most invasive species — humans — were wiped out?

Sep 02 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

The New York Times

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The abundant doomsday plotlines in “The World Without Us” make it a useful conversation piece, if a grim one.

Aug 13 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

The New York Times

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“The last humans could enjoy their final sunsets peacefully, knowing they have returned the planet as close as possible to the Garden of Eden.” (Apparently he never saw “Children of Men.”) Weisman has his own flirtation with religious language, his occasionally portentous impassivity giving way t...

Sep 02 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

The Guardian

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"Microbes don't really much care whether we - or anything else - are here or not.

May 03 2008 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

BC Books

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In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman goes off the beaten track to speculate on the future of planet...

Mar 05 2008 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

BC Books

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In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman goes off the beaten track to speculate on the future of planet Earth.

Mar 05 2008 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Examiner

The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, Thomas Dunne Books, 275 pages.

Nov 11 2012 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Book Reporter

According to Weisman, it's plastic (and perhaps aluminum kitchenware), which will be blowing in the wind after other forms of refuse --- including radioactive materials --- have long since degraded.

Jan 24 2011 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

USA Today

Subtitle: "The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" Psychological thriller about the disappearance of a young married woman.

Jul 19 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Pajiba

100 Books in One Year #19: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.

Oct 28 2008 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Open Letters Monthly

Weisman reserves his deepest doubts only for problems that seemingly defy even the best of human intentions—the insurmountable deluge of non bio-degradable garbage produced every day, for instance, or the sheer, unprecedented reproductive growth of the human species itself.

Jan 30 2013 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Bookmarks Magazine

By journeying around the world to interview biologists and paleontologists, engineers and curators, Zápara elders and Masai ecoguides, Weisman has done a remarkably thorough job of answering a question that doesn’t particularly matter."

Oct 05 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Esquire

He doesn’t wear a sandwich board and scream on the highway, and we’re pretty sure he doesn’t have a musty bunker in his basement.

Sep 05 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

Cairo 360

Alan Weisman, in his seminal work The World Without Us does more than simply imagine what our world would be if all humans simply disappeared overnight, he extrapolates the data available and paints an image of that human-void Earth that is at both exciting and startlingly frightening at the same...

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California Literary Review

and it’s true, I probably hadn’t, but it popped up again prominently in one of the next books I opened to write about for the California Literary Review, The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman!) On the other hand, there’s Varosha, once a city of 20,000 on the eastern shore of Cyprus, deserted by ...

Nov 16 2007 | Read Full Review of The World Without Us

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