December 9th, 2007

reading, activism, writing

Book # 48: The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

Would things on Earth be better or worse without humans? Depends on what you are. If you're a cockroach living rent-free in New York City--much worse, with no heat your tropical body will die. If you're a bird--much better, if only because most of the windows in houses and buildings will eventually break and that means that about one billion of you will not have your necks broken in the US per year.

Weisman's fascinating book touches on numerous changes that will take place if the human race simply disappeared one day, either by fast moving virus, rapture or an alien in need of billions of human specimens for its zoo. He talks to scientists, theoreticians, foresters, and engineers. He learned that without humans to control water subway tunnels will fill, roofs will leak, cracks will develop in concrete and remain unfixed, and mortar will deteriorate bringing great domes of the world crashing to the ground. City after city will fall.

Without humans to run the electricity, and monitor and repair safety equipment, the 441 nuclear plants on Earth will explode and burn spreading radioactive contamination globally. However, like the area around Chernobyl, nature will come in to fill the void.

No more plastics will be manufactured, what a blessing that turns out to be. After a few decades, no more dams and so the water and the nutrients it carries will flow to the sea. No more artificial fertilizers either, another blessing. Fish, fauna, and flora (including the microscopic types) will all thrive in unpredictable ways.

The world will continue to turn and life will continue to evolve. It simply won't have humans to kick around any more.