Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reading List: The World Without Us

I recently finished 'The World Without Us' by Alan Weisman. While not exactly what i imagined when i started reading, it definitely was captivating enough in terms of a compelling future vision of life. The nutshell is that life is for some unforeseen reason, mysteriously vanished from the earth. Or i should say, human life, that is.

:: book cover image via The World Without Us

Everything else is left to frolic and adapt to the environment that is left in our wake. Certain areas and species heal and adapt, others degenerate due to lack of human intervention, and others - well, they either degrade over millenia (plastics, nuclear materials), or await the unfortunate small mammal that stumbles upon them (underground vaults for volatile gases, nuclear waste). While painting a picture around some of the less touched spaces in the world (ancient Polish forests, for instance) and providing some real visions of deterioration (New York City devolving into nature) - what was lacking was a real picture of what this means.

My question, why write the book? Is it a plausible future to envision? Perhaps, but is it motivated by a need to teach us something. Maybe, but the conclusion, which took me totally by surprise, was a plug for population control. While a large proponent of this concept from way back college reading of the family Ehrlich, I failed to see the connection to the idea of us all being gone.

:: Photo of a flooded City of Jafaa via Naked in Nuhaka
So my summary conclusion is that for all of us to disappear would be bad - due to the instability that would create via our technologies. The other conclusion is that we must reduce the amount of people that are here, or, some portion of us (a lot) should disappear, but enough should remain to man the controls. With impending Peak Oil, global warming, and other looming catastrophes, will this rationale be the one that finally leads us to an awakening to slow down our inevitable decline... or will be laugh at the vision of new york and the world degenerating, ala 'The Day After Tommorrow'. Guess we'll find out.

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