Alan Weisman is an award-winning journalist whose reports have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Discover, and on NPR, among others. A former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, he is a senior radio producer for Homelands Productions and teaches international journalism at the University of Arizona. His essay "Earth Without People" (Discover magazine, February 2005), on which The World Without Us expands, was selected for Best American Science Writing 2006.
If a virulent virus-or even the Rapture-depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished? That's the provocative, and occasionally puckish, question posed by Weisman (An Echo in My Blood) in this imaginative hybrid of solid science reporting and morbid speculation. Days after our disappearance, pumps keeping Manhattan's subways dry would fail, tunnels would flood, soil under streets would sluice away and the foundations of towering skyscrapers built to last for centuries would start to crumble. At the other end of the chronological spectrum, anything made of bronze might survive in recognizable form for millions of years-along with one billion pounds of degraded but almost indestructible plastics manufactured since the mid-20th century. Meanwhile, land freed from mankind's environmentally poisonous footprint would quickly reconstitute itself, as in Chernobyl, where animal life has returned after 1986's deadly radiation leak, and in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a refuge since 1953 for the almost-extinct goral mountain goat and Amur leopard. From a patch of primeval forest in Poland to monumental underground villages in Turkey, Weisman's enthralling tour of the world of tomorrow explores what little will remain of ancient times while anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like. (July) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Asking "What if" questions has been a proven tool leading to key theories and discoveries in science. The imagined scenario presented here offers a provocative perspective on life on Earth and the degree to which human activity has shaped the planet. If every human on Earth suddenly vanished, what would become of this world? Science journalist Weisman ponders numerous questions, e.g., How long would it take for nature to reclaim dense urban areas, like Manhattan Island? What endangered fauna would recover, and what new species might evolve? What would become of humankind's most enduring pollutants, such as plastics, greenhouse gasses, and nuclear wastes? The book's strength lies in its audacious willingness to confront uncomfortable questions while offering glimpses of answers in areas of recent wars, diseases, and ecological disasters. This is neither a warning to human beings to change their errant ways, nor a wishful paean to returning to the Garden of Eden; instead it is a sober, analytical elucidation of the effects of human dominance on this planet, intriguing if not especially comforting. This book should be broadly read and discussed. For all environmental collections. [Library marketing campaign; see Behind the Book profile on p.112.]-Gregg Sapp, Science Lib., SUNY at Albany Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
"This is one of the grandest thought experiments of our time, a tremendous feat of imaginative reporting." --Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future "Brilliantly creative . . . An audacious intellectual adventure . . . His thought experiment is so intellectually fascinating, so oddly playful, that it escapes categorizing and clichï¿½s. . . . It sucks us in with a vision of what is, what has been, and what is yet to come. . . . It's a trumpet call that sounds from the other end of the universe and from inside us all." --Salon "An astonishing mass of reportage that envisions a world suddenly bereft of humans." --The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "A fascinating nonfiction eco-thriller . . . Weisman's gripping fantasy will make most readers hope that at least some of us can stick around long enough to see how it all turns out." --The New York Times Book Review "Alan Weisman has produced, if not a Bible, at least a Book of Revelation." --Newsweek "The book boasts an amazingly imaginative conceit that manages to tap into underlying fears and subtly inspire us to consider our interaction with the planet." --The Washington Post "Extraordinarily farsighted . . . Beautiful and passionate." --The Boston Globe "Grandly entertaining." --Time "The World Without Us gradually reveals itself to be one of the most satisfying environmental books of recent memory, one devoid of self-righteousness, alarmism, or tiresome doomsaying." --Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "A refreshing, and oddly hopeful, look at the fate of the environment." --BusinessWeek "This book is the very DNA of hope." --The Globe and Mail (Toronto) "Prodigious and impressive." --The New York Times "I don't think I've read a better nonfiction book this year." --Lev Grossman, Time Book Critic "In his provocative new book, The World Without Us, Alan Weisman adds a dash of fiction to his science to address a despairing problem: the planet's health." --U.S. News & World Report "An exacting account of the processes by which things fall apart. The scope is breathtaking . . . the clarity and lyricism of the writing itself left me with repeated gasps of recognition about the human condition. I believe it will be a classic."Dennis Covington, author of National Book Award finalist Salvation on Sand Mountain "One of the most ambitious 'thought experiments' ever." --The Cincinnati Enquirer "Alan Weisman offers us a sketch of where we stand as a species that is both illuminating and terrifying. His tone is conversational and his affection for both Earth and humanity transparent." --Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams "Fascinating, mordant, deeply intelligent, and beautifully written, The World Without Us depicts the spectacle of humanity's impact on the planet Earth in tragically poignant terms that go far beyond the dry dictates of science. This is a very important book for a species playing games with its own destiny." --James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency "Weisman's enthralling tour of the world of tomorrow explores what little will remain of ancient times while anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like." --Publishers Weekly (starred) "The imaginative power of The World Without Us is compulsive and nearly hypnotic--make sure you have time to be kidnapped into Alan Weisman's alternative world before you sit down with the book, because you won't soon return. This is a text that has a chance to change people, and so make a real difference for the planet." --Charles Wohlforth, author of Los Angeles Times Book Prize-winning The Whale and the Supercomputer "Weisman is a thoroughly engaging and clarion writer fueled by curiosity and determined to cast light rather than spread despair. His superbly well-researched and skillfully crafted stop-you-in-your-tracks report stresses the underappreciated fact that humankind's actions create a ripple effect across the web of life." --Booklist (starred)