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Publisher's Summary

In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, and man-made molecules may be our lasting gifts to the universe.

Just days after humans disappear, floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations and the world's cities would crumble, asphalt jungles giving way to real ones. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dalai Lama, and paleontologists, who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna (like giants sloths that stood taller than mammoths), Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.

Weisman reveals Earth's tremendous capacity for self-healing and shows which human devastations are indelible and what of our highest art and culture would endure longest. Ultimately reaching a radical but persuasive solution to our planet's problems - one that needn't depend on our demise - this is narrative nonfiction at its finest, taking on an irresistible concept with gravity but a highly accessible touch.

©2007 Alan Weisman; (P)2007 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Chris
  • indianapolis, IN, USA
  • 08-23-07

mixed feelings

I found this book to be entertaining and thought provoking at times, yet also vague and not focused at others. All considered, the book wasn't the objective science-based vision of the future
that I expected, but more a meandering commentary on environmental injustices since the industrial revolution. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't looking for cheery utopian visions here. I would probably save my download credit if I could go back, and see what my world without it would be like. A good abridgement skillfully edited might change my mind though...

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Steve
  • Walnut Creek, CA United States
  • 09-02-07

Generally a good book

As some others have said, a lot of this book is not about the world without us, but the world with us. Still, I think some of that content is necessary in order to point out how we've changed the world in building our civilizations. In some ways, the world could go back to the way it was without us relatively quickly, and in others, we've left a much longer-term mark.

In listing what we've done to the place, there are elements I read in Jarred Diamond's "Collapse".

It was quite thought provoking. Some sections were really fascinating - such as that on what happens to NYC if we vanish, or the oil refining area around Houston, or nuclear power plants.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ellen
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 03-02-09

Couldn't put it down!

If you're a dog lover don't read this. No I take it back--read it and weep. The best thing about this book is it doesn't celebrate the idea of people being gone and the planet "recovering." It laments this possibility. Some people think environmentalists are environmentalists because they hate people. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's for future generations. This book is a sobering, not gleeful, look at what could happen. The movie "I Am Legend" showed visually exactly what this book predicts.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Old prophecies in modern skin

Reading Alan Weisman "The World Without Us" is a terrific experience. The book contemplates the state of the earth after the human race is gone... The author is not giving us the another catastrophic theory - instead he speculates on how and what can happen to our mother earth if we are no longer there....

The prevailing conclusion is that the nature will manage the world with us much faster we could ever imagine. He gives examples that are so convincing - like the example of Puszcza Bialowieska in Poland - the last forest primeval in Europe, Chernobyl abandoned areas, Korean DMZ - the places where the power of nature prevails - only because we are not there.....

The author also suggests, that what could happen to us, in some sense already happened in the history - in the case of Maya civilisation. Although on a micro scale, what happened to Maya's - can happen to us - on much larger scale.

The book is fascinating and captivating - once you started - you can not stop reading.

It also relates to "end-of-time" predictions of major world religions.

The only criticism I may have - is in the "Coda" where author apparently apotheoses the idea of "one-couple - one child" idea. On this point, I dare to disagree, but I also think, the fantastic book would be much better if we could not identify other agendas.


6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Brent
  • Hendersonville, TN, USA
  • 10-14-07

Fascinating and captivating

This book is an absolute must read for anyone who has an interest in science, appreciation for nature, and curiosity of our impact on the world which we share with millions of other creatures. Weisman does a fantastic job of explaining in incredibly captivating detail how the world would regenerate, our structures and creations would meet their eventual demise, and how human development has progressed through the ages to get us to who we are today. This book kept my attention the entire time and has given me a new appreciation for what we've done to this planet and the sadly irreversible effects of our insatiable appetite for plastics. This book isn't one-sided and doesn't neccessarily push a case that we are a plague on the planet, but it does lean more towards that side than the other. Weisman does a good job at covering both sides of the equation.

Love the book and highly reccomend it to just about anyone. It may change your viewpoint of our culture and have you reevaluate the human role in the Earth's ecosystem.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carolyn
  • Oklahoma City, OK, United States
  • 07-22-07

A fascinating premise!

Looking for something to stir your imagination and haunt your thoughts? Well, this is the book for you! Well written and well-read, this book provides fertile ground for consideration, awareness and thought beyond the words. Some may find this information to be gloomy--perhaps an indictment of humanity. I found it to be a necessary wake-up call to greater conciousness--the first step to redemption. Great book!

21 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Thomas
  • Dallas, TX, USA
  • 06-22-08

...worth a listen.

Very interesting subject. The History Channel show of the same name only scratched the surface of total content of the book.

It's nice to know that the Earth will have no almost no memory of us after several thousand years.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

World Without Us

A wake-up call for the human species, a must read for you, your children, and grandchildren, if you plan to be among those who'd like to survive in this century.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Martie
  • Oviedo, FL, USA
  • 10-06-07

The World Without Us

He helps us look into the future. There are some alarming facts in this book that are quite disturbing. It's the kind of book that really makes you think. I recommend it.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Carrie
  • Dallas, TX, United States
  • 05-26-15

Part fascinating, part depressing, part flaky.

I found this when looking for a non-fiction "Earth Abides" (George R. Stewart, 1949).

Weisman incorporates history, physics, chemistry, biology, and a bit of sociology in this attempt to answer the questions of what would happen to the world without us.

His answers are manifold as he explores what human absence would mean in various categories--what would happen to plastic? To oceans? To dogs and cats? To radio waves? To music?

Many of these answers involve fascinating accounts of historic cultures and choices, of man-made and natural wonders in the world today, of our highest hopes and darkest fears for the future--with or without humankind.

Some of his answers are depressing--sometimes because the topic is indeed troubling,but other times through heavy-handed pathos and a well-developed sense of guilt (or blame) for the things other people did in other places, long before the author was born. (Or perhaps the narrator's wistful reading...?)

And then from time to time, things just get a little weird... So I nod and smile through those bits and wait for him to get back to the science and history.

Pretty good book overall.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful