Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: The World Without Us

People have the tendency to describe books like The World Without Us as eco-porn. Alan Weisman asks (and then answers) the question: how would the planet fare if humans were to disappear overnight?

The depressing answer is that most of the planet would do very very well indeed. In fact, much better than with humans around. The exceptions are places like nuclear power plants, where the disappearance of humans would lead to break down in equipment eventually leading to melt down and release of radioactive material. Even that doesn't seem so bad compared to all the benefits the rest of the planet would see: depletion of the ozone layer would stop, as would rampant release of greenhouse gases.

The author explores nearly every piece of the world. From big cities such as Manhattan to the underground caves in Turkey, you get a nice overview of nearly every environment. The ocean, for instance, gets a large section to itself, and I felt like I learned a lot --- this is not mere eco-porn, since you learn not only about Coral Reefs, but also about how the oil refineries in Texas work. It took me quite a while to read this book, but when I got to the end I wished for more.

At the end of the book Weisman recommends a few (incredibly politically unrealistic) measures for the human race if it wanted to keep planet Earth as a home. I don't think there's a chance humans will take such intelligent steps, but at least the book does show that if we wiped ourselves off the planet life will make a comeback from the mass extinctions we've introduced.

Recommended.
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