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The World Without Us

by Alan Weisman


If a virulent virus—or even the Rapture—depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished? That's the provocative, and occasionally puckish, question posed by Weisman (An Echo in My Blood) in this imaginative hybrid of solid science reporting and morbid speculation. Days after our disappearance, pumps keeping Manhattan's subways dry would fail, tunnels would flood, soil under streets would sluice away and the foundations of towering skyscrapers built to last for centuries would start to crumble. At the other end of the chronological spectrum, anything made of bronze might survive in recognizable form for millions of years—along with one billion pounds of degraded but almost indestructible plastics manufactur... Read more

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ISBN: 0312427905
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...couldn't have been gone that long. What had happened to them? The Desert Laboratory--originally the Carnegie Desert Botanical Laboratory--was built more than a century ago on Tumamoc Hill, a butte in southern Arizona overlooking what was then one of North America's finest stands of cactus forest and, beyond that, Tucson. For nearly half the lab's existence, a tall, broad-shouldered, affable paleoecologist named Paul Martin has been here. During that time the desert below Tumamoc's saguaro-covered slopes disappeared under a snarl of dwellings and com merce. Today, the Lab's fine old stone structures occupy what developers now covet as prime view property, which they continually scheme to wrest from its present owner, the University of Arizona. Yet when Paul Martin leans on his cane to gaze out his lab's screened doorway, his frame of ref erence for human impact is not merely the past century, but the last 13,000 years--since people came to stay. In 1956, a year before arriving...

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