Just 200 years ago man saw himself as an agent of improvement on the earth, making it bloom and grow.
But, today, a flurry of new books suggest that man sees himself as the earth’s problem, not the solution.
In this latest entry into the human apocalypse genre, journalist Alan Weisman asks the question: What would happen to the earth, if we were suddenly gone?
Weisman doesn’t bother much with the issue of how man disappears, his book, The World Without Us, focuses mainly on what would happen next. It is a combination of science and guesswork, offered up in readable vignettes, concluding that remnants of human works would stay long after the humans are gone, but that plants and animals would thrive.
Weisman’s descriptions of how buildings and bridges would decay and cities implode are the most compelling aspect of the book, says Business Week reviewer Adam Aston.
In Manhattan, for example, pumps that keep the subways dry and sewers from clogging would shut down and groundwater would quickly fill the subterranean spaces. In time, some of the island’s buried streams would resurface, accelerating the process of rust and rot.
Pond-filled craters from collapsed buildings would hydrate raccoons, feral cats, amphibians, and birds. They would eventually be joined by bears, beavers, wolves, and escaped animals from local zoos.
Thousands of years to come, visitors from other planets could still find ancient stone statues of the Greeks and remnants of modern suspension bridges. Floating in the Pacific, would be a vast continental size island of plastic bags.
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 325 pages, $24.95