Sunday, October 21, 2007

Food for thought

I have recently had the opportunity to read the new book by Alan Weisman, entitled The World Without Us. The book is both an intriguing thought-exercise as well as a subtle warning, and is definitely worth the read.

Weisman ponders the question of what the world would do, would look like, if humans magically disappeared tomorrow? Everything left intact as it stands right now (no nuclear holocaust or such removal) and no more degradation of the environment than we've already started (so not in 100 years with rampant global warming). He just examines how the natural world would respond to our absence. From flooding of New York subways to the destruction of our cherished monuments (and the perseverance of some others), he looks at the world in our wake.

It is at times hopeful as to the restorative nature of, well, nature. Looking analytically at how nature responds to shifts beyond equilibrium (and the amount of human effort used in combating the encroaching wilderness on what we've already built). He seems to indicate that mother nature would eventually bulldoze our creations, even our great skyscrapers, and lay it all down in verdant growth.

He goes on to discuss some of our creations which stand to remain the longest, and these stand as potent reminders of how our evolving technology can impact the environment long after it has left our conscious thought. Plastics, chemicals, radioactive waste, and global warming are all touched on in this human-less future.

It is an engaging book, one that deserves mention for attention to readers. It's conflicting messages, of the resilience of nature, compounded with our own technological advances that nature has no answer to, leave you a bit flustered, but definitely thinking in new directions. I found myself wondering, as I drove past them on the way for some hiking, how long these farms, these car lots, these houses would last under the strain of nature. And also it helps to re-evaluate your impact on the planet. Weisman writes with a dis-arming natural flow, an inviting approach to the subject that is technical without being intimidating, informative without being boring. An enlightening and entertaining read, for sure.

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