Imagine one fine day, human beings were to vanish from earth. No, we are not talking about extinction or asteroid collision or anything of that sort. Just imagine that all our constructions, all our signs are retained – just we humans are plucked from the earth. What would then happen?
“The World Without Us”, by Alan Weisman, tries to answer just that question. I'm sure we all know what we've done to the Earth. But, reading this book will give you a more complete picture of this. It leaves no stone unturned, no aspect of human interference untouched. Just a sample of what are the topics the book touches upon:
What will happen to New York city without us?
What will happen to oil refineries?
How long before the nuclear power plants disintegrate without humans to maintain them?
What will happen to farms and farmlands in the absence of humans?
Will corals reinvent themselves sans us?
How long will the non-biodegradable poison (plastic) continue to poison the animals, bird and aquatic beings after we're gone?
Will nuclear waste buried at several places deep below the earth continue to poison all future species for millions of years to come (remember, fuel-grade Uranium has a half-life of 700-million years)?
What is even more interesting is that in order to understand what will happen in future; Alan takes us through a history of how the arrival of humans wreaked havoc with the environment. How the appearance of humans coincided with the extinction of megafauna (massive animals like giant sloths which were twice as big as today's elephants). So guys, if you though the industrial revolution was the beginning of the destruction of the earth, you are off by a few million years!
Then, Alan also takes an educated guess as to what might be the monuments which will last the longest – and as you would have guessed, most of them are ancient!
I think I'll leave you with that – and rate “The World Without Us” as a must-read if you are an environmentalist or a nature-lover. The author has travelled to all corners of the earth in quest of the answer; and he takes you from corals to deserts to Chernobyl to Serengeti to the Korean DMZ to the 5-centuries old forests in Poland and Belarus. All this makes for a very interesting read; not to mention a very relevant and thought-provoking one at that.
Other books I have reviewed:
My Friend Sancho (by Amit Varma)
Wise and Otherwise (by Sudha Murthy)
Bitter Chocolate - Child Sexual Abuse in India (by Pinki Virani)
Frontline Pakistan (by Zahid Hussain)
Dude, Where's My Country (by Michael Moore)
Games Indians Play (by V Raghunathan)