Friday, April 04, 2008

Book Review: The World Without Us

There's a couple of subjects that I stop and ponder from time to time.
1) What would happen if every human just vanished one day.
2) What did this place look like before people came.
3) How would you introduce Abe Lincoln to the world if he showed up one day.
4) Whatever happened to women hating sports? I liked those women better than the football fans.

One day I got a link to this site.
Move your mouse over the squares to find out how the artifacts of civilization would break down in those time spans.

Later I got a link to this video.

These both address the first question. I was pretty much sold on the book right there.

"The World Without Us" poses the question of what would happen if everyone vanished one day. Maybe aliens kidnap us all, maybe there's a 100% fatal plague, who knows. The point is we're gone.

Most of the book covers how things were before people and then addresses how well we'd return to that.

Chapter 1 talks about a forest in eastern Europe that was protected by one dictator or tyrant for centuries and how the introduction of democracy means that this forest primeval is now getting raided for corporate interests.

Chapter 2 talks about your house, it's vulnerabilities, and how it will crumble over 200 years with nobody to tend to it.

Chapter 3 talks about New York City and how it'll fall apart

Chapter 4 talks about ice ages.

Chapter 5 talks about Thomas Jefferson's fascination with fossils and how he sent Lewis and Clark to look for Mammoths. It goes on to talk about all the mega-fauna that once inhabited North America until they were killed off by the Native Americans. Turns out they didn't live in tune with nature as much as grade school taught us.

Chapter 6 tries to explain why the African mega-fauna lived while it was wiped out everywhere else humans expanded.

Chapter 7 talks about a part of Cyprus where a peace deal keeps people from going and how the hotels and homes there fell apart.

Chapter 8 goes on about artifacts of older times that survived until now.

Chapter 9: It's all plastics these days... and will be until the end of time.

Chapter 10 talks about all the oil refineries in Texas and the big kablooie they're gonna make. It also talks about the different ways that oil is refined into different products.

Chapter 11 talk about what'll happen to the farmland. It pays attention to some research done long ago into what helps and what hinders crops. That researcher also set aside land just to see what happens when fields treated different ways are left alone. That experiment has been running since 1882.

Chapter 12 talks about great wonders. Pyramids, the Great Wall, and the Panama Canal.

Chapter 13 talks about the developments inside the Korean DMZ.

Chapter 14 talks about how birds respond to our presence and our technology.

Chapter 15 talks about our radioactive "nature preserves".

Chapter 16 talks about our impact on geography.

Chapter 17 talks about how we preserve our bodies.

Chapter 18 talks about what we've sent into space.

Chapter 19 talks about life in the ocean, our impact on it, and how it might recover.

The Coda talks about population control.

The fun chapters are 2, 3, and 10. The book is worth it just for those chapters. But the rest of the book is interesting and readable, too.

This goes on my highly recommended list. I just wish I'd found it a few months earlier when the author was in town signing them.

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