The World Without Us

The World Without Us

Book - 2007
Average Rating:
Rate this:
New Page 1

From five minutes to five billion years: an astonishing vision of Earth without humans

Picture a world from which we all suddenly disappeared. Tomorrow. Noted journalist and professor Alan Weisman does just this in a book that is a tour de force of investigative writing and unputdownable reading.The World Without Us examines what would happen in both the immediate and distant future to the land, the animals (guess what? cockroaches would not survive for long), the oceans, our cities, our art and all manner of things we take for granted. Would the seas again teem with fish? Would our concrete jungles crumble into natural ones? How long, if ever, would it take for our collective footprint to fade away?

Examining the minute, fascinating details of how things deteriorate (or don’t), Alan Weisman describes how seemingly indestructible pipes will be pulverized into rock, why some of our churches may be the last buildings standing and how plastic may be one of our “gifts” that keeps on giving. Much more than a physical cataloguing, however,The World Without Us takes us into places we’ve abandoned, including Chernobyl, the Korean DMZ and an ancient Polish forest, to see how they’ve fared since we left. He talks to numerous scientists, engineers, ecologists, biologists and architects to get a realistic view of our impact on this planet. And he asks, since we’re imagining, why not think of a way for nature to prosper that doesn’t depend on our demise?

At a time when we are seriously examining our impact on the earth, The World Without Us is essential reading. With its irresistible premise, intelligent mix of disciplines and candid tone, this mesmerizing book is a provocative and timely future classic.

Click here to read The World Without Us timeline.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins, c2007
ISBN: 9780002008648
Branch Call Number: 304.2 Wei
Characteristics: viii, 324 p. : ill., maps


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 22, 2020

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman was overall a pretty decent book. I was hooked from the beginning with the descriptions of what would happen to our beloved cities and great monuments without us to maintain it. The impact on wildlife was also very interesting for me to read about. However, additionally to this, Weisman also goes off on many tangents about what the world was like before humans and how we have ruined it. He talks a lot about the evolution of animals and other unrelated things. I came to this book to learn about what would happen to the human legacy but was instead distracted by other details. Nevertheless, this book is filled with many fascinating topics and it is clear that the author did lots of research. I loved how Weisman was able to communicate these difficult topics in a clear and simple way so that everyone can enjoy it.

Sep 16, 2019

I didn't like this one, and I think the issue was with my expectations. I was looking for a relatively academic explanation of how things happened (not down to all details, but somewhat aseptic in that sense). Rather, the book is written in a much more narrative style, spending a lot of time talking about the people that the author met and their view of things. Surely interesting for some people, just not what I was looking for.

Feb 24, 2019

This book is interesting, but a little too self-important. It's easy to see how this book influenced survivalists and post-apocalyptic fiction, but I found the writing centered unrealistically on the white American experience. It got suddenly existential in the last part of the book, which was an unpleasant surprise.

Oct 02, 2018

A blend of speculative fiction and environmental nonfiction, I really enjoyed The World Without Us. The research the Alan Weisman did with academics and field specialists on how people are currently changing the environment, and what would happen if humanity disappeared leaving all our structures and biological changes behind. This book is full of interesting tidbits about a post-human earth that most people wouldn't guess. For example, the fact that bronze artwork is likely the only artwork that will outlast humanity; or the fact that with few exceptions, many invasive plants and animals moved or domesticated by humanity would die out or be genetically subsumed by local species without human interference in just a few centuries. On the frightening side we learn (some of which we've long known) the terrible long term impact of things like industrialization's massive release of CO2, nuclear waste and industrial plastics having lasting impact on the planet for hundreds of thousands of years. Yet the author dulls this alarming knowledge by pointing out the unyielding power of nature, using examples like the forests and wildlife that appeared around the irradiated Chernobyl Red Forest. I can't believe I didn't notice this book when it was released more than a decade ago.

SPPL_János Mar 21, 2018

Science writer Weisman explores the idle scenario of how the Earth would recover if humans abruptly disappeared. It's an impossibly huge subject, so he winds up highlighting various fascinating but disjointed subjects without bringing together a consistent scenario. Some sections chart the collapse of our buildings, the Panama Canal, our oil refineries, and our art media. Others profile various effects humans have had on the environment, from megafaunal extinctions to invasive species and the abraded plastic particles clogging the ocean. Most interesting are the portraits of the surprisingly swift natural recovery observed in demilitarized zones in Cyprus and Korea, and around Chernobyl.

HCL_staff_reviews Dec 01, 2016

Weisman posits what would happen to the world if human beings suddenly disappeared on a planet that would otherwise be left intact. Animals would generally be much happier though, with the exception of housecats, most of our domesticated animals wouldn't make it. This very readable book investigates in vivid, research-backed detail how durable cockroaches, subways, architecture, plastic, our toxic wastes, and fine arts will be in a world without us. You will never look at plastic the same way again. — Kim P., Southdale Library

Aug 15, 2015

Very interesting! Written in laymans terms. Brings the world alive! This should be a required reading in school science. It tells of places around the world that have been devastated and how it will slowly be absorbed back into wild flora and fauna. Ecology has been a passion of mine since I was a child and there are places in this book I haven't heard of before. I hope there is a second installment.

Aug 09, 2015

Fascinating. I learned so much.

This nonfiction book asks the intriguing question, what if we all disappeared today, but left the rest of the earth intact? What would happen as our nuclear power plants fail, as our subways flood, and as plants and wildlife take our cities back? It's not exactly a dystopia, but it is marvelously thought-provoking.

Jan 26, 2015

The author describes how our earth would react if we humans somehow magically just disappeared. It's honestly a very optimistic view of the earth renewing and healing itself and it's not fantasy, or fiction, it's science-based reality. I found it a relief to understand how plants and animals would rebound.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
100101_2827637 Apr 10, 2012

100101_2827637 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 16 and 99

Jul 26, 2008

bookherder thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


Add a Summary
Jul 26, 2008

what the world would be like if man vanished. How the cities would fall, and how the forests would spread, what traces of man would survive etc.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at IPL

To Top