Alan Weisman Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Alan Weisman

Alan Weisman

An interview with Alan Weisman

Alan Weisman speaks about his groundbreaking book, The World Without Us

Your new book, The World Without Us, poses a fascinating, extraordinary thought experiment: if you take every living human off the Earth, what traces of us would linger and what would disappear? It asks what might happen to our world if humans vanished? What was the inspiration for your book?

For a long time I've sought some fresh, non-threatening approach to disarm readers' apprehensions about environmental destruction long enough that they might consider the impacts of unbridled human activity on the rest of nature – and on our own fate. I've found that theoretically wiping humans off the face of the earth intrigues rather than frightens people.


At first glance, the research required to make educated predictions about the future on many parts of the planet seems incredibly daunting. How did you go about this task?

To understand how a world without people might be requires learning what the world was like before people existed – which turns out to be different on every continent and island. And then, of course, there is the fact that two-thirds of the world is covered with water. What would the seas be like without us? To get everything I needed, I have been privileged to speak to paleontologists, structural engineers, biologists, art conservators, diamond miners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, and even Buddhist monks, to name just a few.


Describe some of the interesting places you traveled to in writing The World Without Us.

The field research included travel to abandoned spots like the Korean Demilitarized Zone; the last relic of primeval European forest (a game preserve since the 14th century on the Polish-Belarusian border); national wildlife refuges in Colorado that were once nuclear and chemical weapons arsenals; ancient and modern ruins in Turkey and Northern Cyprus; Chernobyl; diving in coral reefs in Micronesia's Line Islands; and several sites in Africa, the Amazon, the Arctic, and Mayan Guatemala.


What are some of the changes we could expect in New York City alone if all humans vanished?

Within two days, without pumping, New York's subway would impassably flood. Within twenty years, water-soaked steel columns that support the street above the East Side's 4-5-6 trains would corrode and buckle. As Lexington Avenue caves in, it becomes a river. In the first few years with no heat, pipes burst all over town, the freeze-thaw cycle moves indoors, and things start to seriously deteriorate. Plugged sewers, deluged tunnels and streets reverting to rivers will conspire to waterlog foundations and destabilize their huge loads, toppling structures. Gradually the asphalt jungle will give way to a real one.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Radium Girls
    The Radium Girls
    by Kate Moore
    In 1915, Austrian-born Sabin von Sochocky developed a luminescent paint that used radium to create a...
  • Book Jacket: Long Black Veil
    Long Black Veil
    by Jennifer Finney Boylan
    "This was a long time ago, before my first death, and none of us now are the people we were then. ...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Essex Serpent
    by Sarah Perry

    Costa Book Award Finalist and the Waterstones (UK) Book of the Year 2016
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.