Book Review: The World Without Us

Book club met last week and for a delightful change, everyone liked the book!

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (I always have to check those prepositions in titles to see if they’re capitalized or not . . .) is nonfiction and was written in 2007—and chosen as Time’s Book of the Year.

Guess what–it’s about what the world would be like without us.  Actually, it’s very unlikely that every single person would be gone—but still, let’s pretend.  Almost makes me want to reread “On the Beach” by Nevil Shute—–remember that old book about how only one ? person was left on the earth?

You might think this would be dry reading—and perhaps for just a page or two it was.  But once you told yourself that you didn’t have to memorize every fact—there wouldn’t be a quiz, you let Mr. Weisman have his way with you and explain the different possible results.

I’ll tell you right off the bat that the explanation of the way New York City keeps millions of gallons of water from pouring into the subways makes for some sweaty palms, and claustrophobia!

Mr. Weisman travels from place to place, all interesting, and interviews scientists who, thank goodness, are working on all of our problems.

What problems?  How about plastics?  Remember the famous line in “The Graduate” where Dustin Hoffman is taken aside at his graduation party and given “one word of advice” from a friendly adult?  “Plastics” he tells him—-“that’s the future”.

And sure enough, it sure was!   Today the “merchant marine” alone dumps 639,000 plastic containers into the ocean daily.  There’s a huge swirl of plastic garbage, the size of New Jersey in the Pacific Ocean . . .

PCBs, which were outlawed in 1977, continue to live on, and disrupt immune systems, motor skills, memory and play “roulette with gender”.

As a result of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, in 2007, there was STILL a nearby railroad bridge too hot to cross.

Every four days the human population rises by one million.  The world has 6.5 billion people today.

Most things will be destroyed, rotted, eaten away—the animal life line a story in itself (though head lice won’t last without our warm little heads!)

Yikes!  What’s a body to do?

Let’s think positive: scientists ARE aware and working on solutions.  What will last?  Glass, bronze, and things underground.

I’ll finish with my favorite fact—about Mount Rushmore which is made of GRANITE—-it erodes one inch every 10,000 years.

This book goes right along—worth reading—copy some of the salient facts to put in your wallet to bring out at next cocktail party . . .

Next month’s book club book is “All Quiet on theWestern Front” by Erich Maria Remarque.

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