Posted by: Matt | May 14, 2008

The World Without Us

Immediately after hearing about The World Without Us for the first time, I knew I had to read it. What a fascinating idea, to ponder what the Earth would be like if we all just suddenly disappeared. It is clear from the detail that Alan Weisman did his homework before writing this book. He discusses several environments across the globe and how they might change if there were no longer humans. He addresses the ocean, the arctic, the results of nuclear power plant failures, and the consequences of abandoned petroleum processing facilities among many other topics. It is all quite depressing to see the negative results that have come from our species. Weisman even discusses some organizations that seek for our removal, such as VHEMT which pleads for us to voluntarily quit breeding.

My strongest complaint about this most fascinating book is Weisman’s insistence on dwelling on the negative. Maybe that’s because there is no positive side, but I sincerely hope that is not the case.

Rating: 8.0

Other Reviews:

  • The New York Times
  • Salon
  • Let me know by email or comment if you have a review of this book you’d like mentioned here!


  1. This has been on my list for a good year and it sounds just as interesting now as it did then.

  2. This definitely sounds like a book I would like to read. Although I think I can come up with enough negative all on my own!!

  3. Thanks for this, looks like a thought-provoking read. Does he atleast couch his negative predictions inside a framework of things we can still do to reverse some of the effects he describes?

  4. Funnily enough, I found this less negative than I expected. Maybe because I had expectations of extreme negativity? lol My biggest complaint was his rather bombshell advice at the end to only have on child: I think that needed its own chapter, so that it could be more fully discussed, or to just not be there.

  5. Joe – It was on my list for a long time as well and finally got around to reading it.

    Stephanie – I thought I had a decent idea of how much we were screwing up the world, but I was wrong.

    verbivore – Mostly he discusses how nature and the environment should be able to recover if humans disappeared but he doesn’t really discuss what we can do to reverse negative effects while still living on the earth.

    Eva – I thought that one child advice to be rather surprising myself. My question was were does it stop, one child per couple is obviously below replacement level (that’s his point) but at what point do we increase to two children? Or is he suggesting that we continue to decrease the population to zero? It certainly was an idea that could have used some fleshing out.

  6. Zero population was the bandwagon that I remember but it seems to have lost traction. I’m fairly postive we will never hit zero, there will never be a global compliance for one child per couple. We don’t even stay couples. How would that work? I run into the same problems with climate control.

  7. I really have to get around to reading this book. I heard about it at work not long ago. A friend of mine told me that it was a really interesting read.
    She told me that he talks about how nature will basically take back the reigns. I think that’s kind of comforting. We’ve done so much to decimate the natural world and that mother nature can just take back what is hers is kind of a nice thought. Maybe if ever we do leave this earth as a species, it won’t just completely disintegrate. Maybe in fact, things will be better.
    Thanks for bringing it back to the front regions of my mind! I’ll have to pick it up sooner or later

  8. The review and commentary here really make me want to read this book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  9. I loved this when i read it last year. In a way it is uplifting because you feel like no matter what happens to us, the earth is going to go on. The part that really struck me was how they can find plastic everywhere now, ranging from the little micro-scrubbing beads in bath products just floating in seawater to the huge “garbage” pool in the pacific.

  10. […] The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (rating: 8.0) […]

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