The World Without Us by Alan WeismanThe World Without Us by Alan Weisman

The World Without Us

byAlan Weisman

Hardcover | July 17, 2007

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From five minutes to five billion years: an astonishing vision of Earth without humans

Picture a world from which we all suddenly disappeared. Tomorrow. Noted journalist and professor Alan Weisman does just this in a book that is a tour de force of investigative writing and unputdownable reading.The World Without Us examines what would happen in both the immediate and distant future to the land, the animals (guess what? cockroaches would not survive for long), the oceans, our cities, our art and all manner of things we take for granted. Would the seas again teem with fish? Would our concrete jungles crumble into natural ones? How long, if ever, would it take for our collective footprint to fade away?

Examining the minute, fascinating details of how things deteriorate (or don’t), Alan Weisman describes how seemingly indestructible pipes will be pulverized into rock, why some of our churches may be the last buildings standing and how plastic may be one of our “gifts” that keeps on giving. Much more than a physical cataloguing, however,The World Without Us takes us into places we’ve abandoned, including Chernobyl, the Korean DMZ and an ancient Polish forest, to see how they’ve fared since we left. He talks to numerous scientists, engineers, ecologists, biologists and architects to get a realistic view of our impact on this planet. And he asks, since we’re imagining, why not think of a way for nature to prosper that doesn’t depend on our demise?

At a time when we are seriously examining our impact on the earth, The World Without Us is essential reading. With its irresistible premise, intelligent mix of disciplines and candid tone, this mesmerizing book is a provocative and timely future classic.

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ALAN WEISMAN, author of An Echo in My Blood and Gaviotas, has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine and many others. He has been a contributing editor to The Los Angeles Times Magazine. A former Fulbright Senior Scholar in Colombia, he has received many awards, including a Los Angeles Press Club Award for Best F...
Title:The World Without UsFormat:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9.41 × 7.24 × 1 inPublished:July 17, 2007Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0002008645

ISBN - 13:9780002008648

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book! This book was amazing! It was well-written and well-researched. Weisman skillfully wove a narrative out of a wide range of subjects from science and engineering to climate change to evolution to politics. He meticulously laid out the facts about the affect that humans have had and continue to have on the planet. He carefully puts our present-day habits into context by detailing the evolution of our species and our societies.
Date published: 2016-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I found this book absolutely captivating and horrifying. Horrifying because of the impact we have had and are likely to continue to have on our home planet earth and the legacy we'd leave behind should we for whatever reason (but hopefully not) disappear tomorrow! The author appears to have researched the topics covered extremely well and present a speculative, but convincing and science based, hypothesis on natures response to our sudden disappearance. This is one of the most thought provoking books I've ever read!
Date published: 2014-02-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Fascinating theory but poorly presented. The idea of this speculative piece is to suppose what would happen to the Earth if we, the human race, suddenly disappeared. While the premise is engrossing, the writing is not. Weisman begins with the obvious question of what would probably happen to our houses & buildings, but then repetitively reaccesses our place on this earth and what we are doing to it now that will affect our planet (good or bad) in the future. There is less speculation than I expected and more scientific jargon about how we are polluting our planet and changing the various cycles of flora and fauna we share the Earth with. I also found his writing to be jumpy and chaotic as the author tried to incorporate historical fact with present day occurences and scientific hypothesis. There were also far too many scientists introduced who each had their own take on what we were doing to Earth without always saying what that would mean to "a world without us". The last few chapters concerning our most "everlasting" legacies to the third rock from the sun were perhaps the most interesting, but by the time I got to those parts, I was almost ready to give up on this book.
Date published: 2012-07-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from very interesting book this was a very interesting book, and quite thought-provoking!
Date published: 2011-09-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A serious book The premise is what if humans suddenly disappeared, which Weisman acknowledges is hypothetical exploration. But really his exploration is about humans' physical legacy on Earth. And that legacy is not pretty. Getting past how the Chunnel is probably the longest lasting structure, the impact of petrochemicals, nuclear waste, and lots of other long-lasting bad stuff kinda makes you feel the Earth is doomed. So go live it up while we can. But this book is serious. Thoroughly researched, it does open your eyes to what has been going on, nature's vast but limited ability to absorb it all, and importantly how we can slow it down. He also gets quite philosophical about the long long term legacy of humanity and what it will take for us as a species and collective consciousness to survive. This is a great read, very well written, and important to internalize. Just don't expect a feel-good narrative of how fantastic we've made things.
Date published: 2011-09-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Simple is better. Alan Weisman's book, The World Without Us, was definately an eye opener to how much we are actually affecting the world. He goes in depth of how we as a society affect the earth so much. Although this book has many interesting facts, i found it slightly boring in a sense. To a person who doesnt have much interest in science just genereic examples and descriptions would suffice. It was an interesting book but im not sure it should be a book thats at the top of your reading list.
Date published: 2011-05-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Simple is better. Alan Weisman's book, The World Without Us, was definately an eye opener to how much we are actually affecting the world. He goes in depth of how we as a society affect the earth so much. Although this book has many interesting facts, i found it slightly boring in a sense. To a person who doesnt have much interest in science just genereic examples and descriptions would suffice. It was an interesting book but im not sure it should be a book thats at the top of your reading list.
Date published: 2011-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Entertaining Nonfiction This is a book that hypothesizes what would happen to Earth if mankind disappears overnight. It does not attempt to explain why and how humans can suddenly vanish. Instead it tries to portray how cities and other man-made artifacts will collapse, in addition to how other lifeforms will adapt. To illustrate its points, this piece utilizes vivid examples like the crumbling of New York City -- think Will Smith racing the red Camaro through a run-down and overgrown Times Square in I Am Legend. This publication has also inspired various TVseries like Life After People on the History Channel. Here are some interesting points: 1. Our houses, built of the usual suspects (wood, clay, bricks), will fall easily to nature. Their biggest enemy is water that seeps through the smallest cracks, thaws and freezes over time. Although most roofs are waterproof, water can always find a way to rust and loosen the nails that hold the shingles together. Once inside our habitats, it will quickly wreak havoc by molding walls, wooden floors and other furniture. 2. New York City will rot from underneath. It all starts with the extensive subway network which had effectively punched winding holes throughout the city foundation. These lines will flood within days as water pumps malfunction, causing the sewers above them to also overflow. The flooding weakens the soil structures, causing roads to cave in and pavements to crack. As water attacks from beneath, rain water will amplify the results from above. More importantly, it has an accomplice in plants. Plant life will find a way into these cracks and their roots in turn will "break more ground." The combined effects of these forces will eventually tumble the skyscrapers in Manhattan, one at a time. 3. While modern man-made structures quickly falter without human maintenance, the structures that will last the longest are surprisingly, the ones that have stood for thousands of years. These include the pyramids of Egypt and the Stonehenge of England. Other man-made evidence that will survive the test of time include radioactive materials, bronze statues, plastics, and Mount Rushmore. 4. Wildlife will also find a way back into cities and towns as domesticated pets fall prey to the lack of human care. They are the first to go as their food supplies dwindle. Wild animals from nearby countryside will take over and flourish. So does infestation of wild plant species as they outgrow the locals. Over time, cities will be concealed by massive vegetation growth. The Mayan establishments are perhaps the best illustration. Before their discovery, various Mayan towns including their massive pyramids were well hidden by heavy vegetation in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The point ultimately is nature will flourish where there is no human presence. The case study used in the book was the Korean DMZ. 5. The author also hypothesized that mega faunas will one day return because evolutionary pressures to outrun human hunters no longer exist. As the theory goes: mega faunas like the woolly mammoths were easy targets for early hunters. By bringing down these big animals, our ancestors guaranteed themselves ample food supplies, clothing and weaponry resources. With such advantages, the sure-fire extinction of mega faunas was inevitable. Without humans however, wild animals can afford to evolve into giants again! Overall, this book is an entertaining read. The thought experiments were very visual and easy to extrapolate. I would recommend this non-fiction for some good bedtime reading. -PTS (
Date published: 2010-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read Worried about the planet? Worried about nuclear waste with a 500,000 year half life? Worried about rising C02? Worry no more. This intelligent, articulate book, penned in a non-alarmist manner succinctly plays out most possible disasters earth has and will encounter. Fortunately, Weisman demonstrates that genetic matter and its ability to adapt and evolve through natural selection will pretty much guarantee the continuance of life on this amazing planet. An astounding book, well researched and supported by world authorities on many subjects.
Date published: 2009-12-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Needs to be read In this book, Weisman takes a look at what would happen to the Earth if all humans suddenly disappeared. For no reason… we are just gone. He also looks back at what we have done, partly to compare to things we are doing now and partly so he can look forward in time based on what we’ve done to see what could happen with those things (i.e. nuclear reactors, petroleum refineries, all the plastic we’ve manufactured that has ended up in the oceans, etc) if we all disappeared. I found some parts very interesting and some parts dry, I must admit. But, I am giving it as high a rating as I am because I believe that this is a book many people should read, if for no other reason than in hopes that people might try to change their behaviour, in order to help “fix” (if that’s even possible at this point) all the terrible things we’ve done to our planet.
Date published: 2009-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a must have for everyone Very illuminating about our impact on the environment and how nature has the ability to take over very quickly if we were out of the picture.
Date published: 2009-07-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from True to life (hypothetically speaking) Nature's power on display without any humans is a real eye-opener... Even more eye opening is how much of the book is actually happening before our very eyes everyday but never think about.
Date published: 2009-05-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from How We Affect the World A sometimes chilling but always enlightening perspective on just how the world would continue without us, and the mark humanity has made on the planet. By exploring the way cities will decompose, to revealing just how long plastic will stay in the oceans and landfills, my eyes were opened up to many of the effects humans have left on the world we live in. If we were all to disappear tomorrow, what would be our legacy? This is the main question the book asks, and you'll be surprised like I was at the answers.
Date published: 2008-08-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very thought provoking This book is very well written. It devotes a chapter to different environmental impacts that humans have had on our planet plus it also ponders the question 'what would the earth be like if humans had never evolved?'
Date published: 2008-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everyone should read this!! A thought provoking page turning look at how we have damaged the earth and how quickly it would recover without humanity trampling upon it. An unlikely event, but a book that should give us all pause in how we use the world's resources and what damage are daily actions are doing to our planet. Thoroughly readable for teens through grandparents, it is an enjoyable yet scary look at how much damage we have done as a species but how resilient our planet is.
Date published: 2008-03-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mother Nature Rules! Great book that emphasizes that everything goes back to square one and very little of our civilization will left for future advanced life forms to admire. A hard book to put down!
Date published: 2008-03-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Eye opener My 14 year old son was the first in the house to read this book – but it is in no way a book only for young people. Weisman uses the “hook” of human disappearance to invite us to look at the long-term environmental impacts of our existence; not in the context of “This will kill us all” but purely from the perspective “It will take the world a long time to recover from us.” From the disintegration of the New York skyline, through exploding oil refineries in Texas, to plastic nodules in the North Pacific gyre, he takes us around the world to see what we have done to our planet, and how the changes we have made will finally if slowly be reversed.
Date published: 2008-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and Humbling The World Without Us is a must read. It's premises and promises for our planet are humbling. I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2008-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everybody Should Read This Book Despite what the title suggests, this is not just a book about how much better the world would be without us, its about the effect we have already had on the world and how our legacy will last after we're gone. It really makes you think twice about the little things you do that have the potential to have a profound effect on the environment, things you probably didn't think about before.
Date published: 2008-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astonishing! The World Without Us is a truly fascinating look at the impact humans have had on the planet and the destruction we have caused. It is clear that humanity lacks foresight into our actions, but even I was unaware of how much damage we had really caused. This book covers topics such as production and disposal of plastics, storing nuclear waste, destruction of natural habitats, and overpopulation. Today many people are embracing greener ways of life, and this book is a fantastic motivator. I would recommend this book to everyone because it has changed the way I think about and treat the planet.
Date published: 2008-01-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Perfect Read for Bleeding-Heart Liberals and Vegetarians I was hoping for a more neutral, non-political point of view before reading this book (Boy was I wrong). The main purpose of the book is to say, Humans are EVIL and if we somehow disappeared, Mother earth would revert to a paradise again. The first chapters brought a neutral tone, but soon after, the rest of the book quickly turned into a thinly veiled tirade of left-wing propaganda against the human race. In short, Allan Weisman preached that simply by being alive, we are killing the planet. Overall, Weisman does a bad job hiding himself as a Democratic liberal apologist for humanity.
Date published: 2008-01-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Eye Opening Read The World Without Us by the author Alan Weisman highlites the harsh environmental impact that humans have had on our planet since evolution spat us out. This book pursues the question, "What would happen to the Earth if one day every last human was gone?" 'The World Without Us' takes note of a variety of topics such as: the disappearance of Megafauna and flora due to the spread of humanity, how the great cities will collapse, the harsh effect that the mass production of polymers will have, and how places devoid of all humans have begun to rebuild. This was a very eye opening read of a medium length, it was slightly repititive at times but nonetheless very interesting.
Date published: 2007-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wide-Ranging Overview of the Effects of Humans on Nature Although the author does discuss what would happen to buildings, roads and a variety of other man-made structures - ancient as well as recent - if humans suddenly ceased to exist, the main bulk of this book concerns the environment, ecosystems, various animal species and their habitats, trees, plants and nature as a whole. The focus is mainly on the harm that humans have done to the above, and are still doing now, through i) planned activities, e.g., building cities, agriculture, ii) accidents, e.g., the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion, and iii) human lifestyle, e.g., the spread of various types of pollution due to human activity. Comments are made on nature’s recuperative abilities should there suddenly be no more humans on earth. The writing style is friendly, clear and engaging. A very extensive set of references is also included. Although this book could easily be enjoyed by general readers, it may be most appreciated by biologists, environmentalists, naturalists, ecologists and conservationists.
Date published: 2007-10-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from FABULOUS After reading the book The World Without Us. It opened my eyes to the understanding of what we are doing to our world. It showed me that humans are taking the products the world generosity has give us, and uses them for our selfish ways of living, which is beginning to destroy our world, as we sleep at night. If one day there is a world without us, the world will still have billions and trillions years to recover from the damages we had put on it. This is a terrific book, it gives you an inside look to the future and what as well as how long it would be until all the animals and people had died off the planet. If Alan Weisman’s predictions are correct one day there will be one on earth, and the world will have to restart all over again.
Date published: 2007-10-24

Editorial Reviews

“The scope is breathtaking...the clarity and lyricism of the writing itself left me with repeated gasps of recognition about the human condition. I believe it will be a classic.”