This site will look much better and function properly in a browser that supports web standards.

bookbuffet: the one-stop web resource for book groups
Cover Image of The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story by Matt Bondurant published by Scribner
Cover Image of To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty (Introduction) published by Harvest Books
Cover Image of Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson published by Putnam Adult
bookbuffet features

What If: The World Without Us

abstract:What if? In his extraordinary book, The World Without Us (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martinís Press 2007) Alan Weisner asks the question, "What if?" Imagine a world where suddenly humans didnít exist, where we had suddenly vanished leaving the world as it is now. What would we leave behind? What would the world inherit from our existence? How quickly would nature take back the land we have borrowed? Do you think the Eiffel Tower would still be standing one thousand years from now, would the Panama Canal still be intact, would the Euro Tunnel have caved-in? Weisner takes the reader all over the world exploring different places and the effects we have had on them, and what effects we have set in motion for the future.

Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martinís Press 2007
March 16, 2009
As our world becomes more concerned about the impact of man on the planet I decided to take my head out of the piles of fiction books that I love to read and attempt a non-fiction on a subject that is on the minds of most people today. Alan Weisman is no stranger to reporting from across the globe and his reports have appeared in many publications including The New York Times Magazine, Harperís and Vanity Fair. The World Without Us is Weismanís fifth book spending 10 consecutive weeks in the top 10 of The New York Times Magazines bestsellers list. It has now been translated into 30 different languages, named the Best Nonfiction Book of 2007 by both The Times Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, and was rated #1 Nonfiction Audiobook of 2007 by iTunes, among other accolades. Living in Massachusetts, Weisman leads an annual field program in international journalism at the University of Arizona, as well as being a senior producer for Homelands productions, where his documentaries have been aired on National Public Radio, Public Radio International and American Public Media.

A busy man with a lot of experience and information to draw from, this book spans the globe, pulling research from different areas of study and professionals, with history intertwining with procrastinations on the future. It reads almost like a science fiction novel where New York decays into the marshland it once was, with deer and bears taking back the land that we have developed into one of the most recognizable skylines in the world.

"ÖMore coyotes follow the footsteps of the intrepid ones that managed to reach Central Park. Deer, bear and finally wolves, which have reentered New England from Canada, arrive in turn. By the time most of its bridges are gone, Manhattanís newer buildings have also been ravaged as wherever leaks reach their embedded steel reinforcing bars, they rust, expand, and burst the concrete that sheaths them."

Weisman talks about an area known as the "Green Line", a band of land in Cyprus that has been fought over by both the Greeks and Turks for years. Allan Cavinder, a British electrical engineer describes the area after humans have hurriedly left.

"He wandered through the deserted town. About 20,000 people had lived or worked in Varosha. Asphalt and pavement had cracked; he wasnít surprised to see weeds growing in the deserted streets, but hadnít expected to see trees already. Australian wattles, a fast growing acacia species used by hotels for landscaping, were popping out midstreet, some nearly three feet high."

What is eerie is that he is not setting the scene for the next movie blockbuster but he is building predictions by probing the minds of engineers, zoologists, biologists and religious leaders and asking questions of these professionals that they may never have deliberated before. For example without human beings, what would happen to the Texas oil fields? How would the ocean react to us disappearing over night? How long will plastics stay on the planet? What animals would be where if they were allowed to roam free?

Weisman seems to leave no stone unturned, looking back to what places used to be like before we arrived, before the farming revolution, before the industrial one. What has happened to the seven wonders of the ancient world, what will happen to our modern feats of design, the Panama Canal, the Channel Tunnel if we are not here to maintain them? Which ones would still be around to a testament of human design and ingenuity a thousand years from now?

Weisman covers with amazing detail a whole scope of different places, times and ideas. Although haunting and eerie at times this book does not have the doom and gloom set up of many books dealing with our future. He is merely stating, in a very matter of fact way, what we have done with the time we have been given on this planet so far and what we potentially face in the future.

In an interview posted on edited by Valdis Wish, Weisman explains what he thinks the main cause of our problems are. He also states that he does not believe we are un-savable, but that we have time to make some much needed changes happen.

AW: "I had no idea I was going to get into this stuff about population when I started the book. That wasn't my intention, but it became logical. I realized that it all comes down to having a million more people on the planet every four days. This guy who I interviewed left me with this amazing image: just imagine if we all stopped procreating. Every decade, as there were fewer humans, the world would become wilder and more beautiful. Within a century, we would go back to the same population we had before the gigantic population explosion that began at the beginning of the 20th century."

VW:After writing this book, are you still hopeful for the future?

AW: "I was very worried about the fate of the world, but I'm no longer worried about it. I think the world is going to be fine. Now whether the world as we know it is going to survive - that's an open question."

This book left me reeling with the amount of interesting facts and figures that Weisman puts together so effortlessly. It has given me a very broad view of what we have done to the planet we inhabit, the things we may have done wrong but it also highlights the feats of engineering and design that we have accomplished through years of time, development and love for our world. There is a sense of panic about our future and how we intend to maintain the lifestyles we have, and what we must simply change to survive. I think this book only heightens a person's perspective and appreciation that we must sometimes look back, to look forward. This is a book that asks us simply to imagine ó a great human trait ó along with Weisman I hope that we can imagine a way out of our current situation and develop a way of living that is much more in harmony with the things around us. A truly thought inspiring book.

Recommended Links

Alan Weisman Homepage

Book Homepage

Related article on our oceans and plastic trash

Weisman article on Las Vegas, Cairo and Baffin Island

Interview with Weisman about the book



Social Bookmarks
home |  about |  buy books |  contact |  help |  legal |  media & press releases |  privacy |  reviewers & authors |  sitemap | 
tell a friend
© 2019 BookBuffet LLC
using bookbuffet
about book groups
online discussions
links & resources
find a book store
book archives & research