Review: The World Without Us

The World Without Us

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

rating: 3 of 5 stars

What an amazingly educational book, from underground cities in the Middle East to the mechanics of the Panama Canal, I’m unable to recall a time when I’ve learned such a wide variety of facts from a single source. Of course, the vivid depictions of an ocean teeming with floating plastic or the near absolute permanence of radioactive waste hammer home the sobering reality that humans have altered our natural world, certainly negatively, perhaps permanently.

Despite my pleasure at the book’s premise and execution however, I was disappointed that Weisman failed to address any practical methods that can be taken to reduce or replace our destructive behaviors. His one suggestion, that we somehow limit reproduction to one child per female and thereby gradually reduce total world population and resource use, was so slapdash, so haphazard and simplistic–no discussion of infrastructure, no attempt to explain the economic implications of an aging population–that it almost negated any credibility he had garnered from the previous pages.

I say almost because it remains a truly impressive attempt at explaining the complex reality of humanity’s impact on our environment.

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