The World Without Us (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
In 2005, journalist Alan Weisman published in Discover magazine an article titled “Earth Without People,” in which he speculated on what might happen to the structures supporting human civilization if the humans who built and maintain them were suddenly to vanish. In researching the article, however, he discovered there was far more material than he could useenough, in fact, for a whole book, and so he began work on The World Without Us. In the book’s brief introduction, he addresses and dismisses the nagging issue of how such a human disappearance might occur. Among the means he suggests are “a Homo sapiens-specific virusnatural or diabolically nano-engineered,” “some misanthropic evil wizard,” or even that “Jesus or space aliens rapture us away, either to our heavenly glory or to a zoo somewhere across the galaxy.” His point, of course, is that, though people may be troubled by the specter of the sudden departure of their entire species, in the end, the means by which people might vanish from the planet makes no difference to the elaborate thought experiment that follows. What matters is merely that readers of the book accept its initial premise: Humans are here one day and gone the next.
Weisman is deeply fascinated by the natural world, and it is there that The World Without Us begins, in Poland and Belarus’s Biaowiea Puszcza, the last old-growth primeval forest in Europe. Only a tiny fragment...
(The entire section is 1709 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
America 197, no. 16 (November 19, 2007): 23-24.
The Humanist 67, no. 5 (September/October, 2007): 46.
Library Journal 132, no. 15 (September 15, 2007): 99.
Mother Jones 32, no. 4 (July/August, 2007): 76-77.
Nature 448 (July 12, 2007): 135-136.
New Statesman 137 (October 1, 2007): 53-54.
The New York Times Book Review 156 (September 2, 2007): 12.
The New Yorker 83, no. 23 (August 13, 2007): 85-86.
Publishers Weekly 254, no. 20 (May 14, 2007): 43.
Science News 172, no. 6 (August 11, 2007): 95.
(The entire section is 47 words.)