The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

I decided to read this book because it is the expanded version of Weisman’s article of the same name, which looks at what would happen to New York City should humans suddenly disappear from the Earth. I was under the impression that the novel would be similar. However, this is not the case, and instead the novel focuses heavily on environmental issues of our consumer-based economy rather than by a post-apocalyptic tale of what would happen in life after people.

Weisman’s book covers exactly what was covered in a class I took last semester, Earth Transformed by Human Action. Honestly, it could have been the textbook for my class as it discusses plastics in the ocean, fertilizer usage, fracking, and many more environmental issues that affect the Earth today.

There is a lot of recounting of what others have to say about the subject (more of a journalistic style of writing, I would say) as well as quite a bit of raw data and long names of chemical compounds that made reading certain sections a bit of a bore. For me, it was a bit repetitive because I did spend a whole semester on the subject, but I still found the subject matter to be of some interest because I did spend a whole semester on the subject.

The what-if scenarios were the most interesting, especially when he discussed what will remain behind if humans were to leave. For example, what monument will be one of the last standing reminders of human civilization? Hint: It’s not the pyramids in Egypt. (The scenarios have been expanded on in the History Channel’s series, “Life After People”.) I also liked how he backed up his claims by using information about areas already removed from human interaction such as the Demilitarized Zone in Korea.

All of this made of an interesting read, and made the book worth reading for me. However, the ending was a bit odd and very preachy so I did finish the book on a bit of a low note.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us. New York, NY: Thomas Dune Books, 2007. Print. 275 pgs. ISBN: 9780312347291. Source: Library.
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  1. I still check the labels of the stuff I get, particularly the body wash. I don’t think I’ll ever get the image of the plastic pellet-impacted wild life. I didn’t find it quite so preachy, personally, as I’m usually the one frowning at litterbugs and other wanton polluters. Not that I’m a big tree-huggin’ greenie 😉

    I didn’t have the previous experience with the material you had, so, for me, it was all new stuff. I do agree with you that this book could easily be used as a text book. Fun to know there are such classes, I’d love to take one.


    • I have a body wash with those plastic bits in them, and certainly will not be buying any more of it. I didn’t find the book overall to be very preachy, just the ending.

      As for the class, I thought it would be more fun than it actually was. The topics were interesting, but the professor and the way they presented the topics weren’t very good. Even so, I am interested in reading more about the topics we covered in that class hence the reason why I read this book and am planning to read books like 1491 by Charles Mann.


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