Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The World Without Us

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I’m painfully busy for the next few days, but for now here’s my interview with Alan Weisman about his bestselling book The World Without Us, which I’ve talked about a few times before. He’s reading at the Regulator here in town next Tuesday night.

This was not the first time Weisman had examined nature’s resilience in the absence, nor near-absence, of humans. Glausiusz approached Weisman because she had been struck by an essay he wrote for Harper’s Magazine in 1994, “Journey Through a Doomed Land: Exploring Chernobyl’s Still-Deadly Ruins,” chronicling his Ford Foundation-funded trip to Chernobyl and the discovery of a deeply damaged ecosystem that was, astoundingly, already in recovery. Rather than apocalyptic, that essay emerged for Glausiusz as a powerfully hopeful, even optimistic look at the resilience of the Earth, of nature itself.

Weisman remembers the trip well: “You’d go into these places [near Chernobyl], and there’d be bountiful crops and plants, huge mushrooms and rhubarb everywhere. It was wonderful—until you turn on the Geiger counter.”

Weisman says the same strange beauty can be found in such places as the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, where a recent photo shoot in USA Today revealed cars covered by moss and flowerbeds, or in the abandoned, prairie-like regions of shrinking post-industrial cities like Detroit. It’s the same attitude he brings to The World Without Us, which he is always careful to describe as a kind of anti-apocalypse. The sudden disappearance of humans reveals not only the scope of the damage we’ve done to the planet, but also the speed with which the planet could bounce back, if we’d only let it.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 12, 2008 at 2:02 pm

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