An Earth without People
A new way to examine humanity's impact on the environment is to consider how the world would fare if all the people disappeared…
It’s a common fantasy to imagine that you’re the last person left alive on earth. But what if all human beings were suddenly whisked off the planet? That premise is the starting point for The World without Us, a new book by science writer Alan Weisman.
In this extended thought experiment, Weisman does not specify exactly what finishes off Homo sapiens; instead he simply assumes the abrupt disappearance of our species and projects the sequence of events that would most likely occur in the years, decades and centuries afterward.
According to Weisman, large parts of our physical infrastructure would begin to crumble almost immediately. Without street cleaners and road crews, our grand boulevards and superhighways would start to crack and buckle in a matter of months.
Over the following decades many houses and office buildings would collapse, but some ordinary items would resist decay for an extraordinarily long time. Stainless-steel pots, for example, could last for millennia, especially if they were buried in the weed-covered mounds that used to be our kitchens. And certain common plastics might remain intact for hundreds of thousands of years; they would not break down until microbes evolved the ability to consume them.
Thinking about an earth without humans can have practical benefits. Weisman explains that his approach can shed new light on environmental problems.
At first they think, this world would be beautiful without us. But then they think, Wouldn’t it be sad not to have us here? And I don’t think it’s necessary for us to all disappear for the earth to come back to a healthier state.
Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)