This week, we embark on a thought experiment: what would happen if humans suddenly disappeared from the Earth? This journey into the improbable (but intriguing) disappearance of humans is inspired by Alan Weisman’s book “The World Without Us”. What legacy would our species leave behind? How long would our footprint on Earth’s surface last? What will be the long-term effects of our brief (but dominant) time on this planet?
We will focus our exploration on two particular chapters: Chapter 3 (“The City Without Us”) and Chapter 9 (“Polymers Are Forever”). The former explores the fate of New York City, while the latter explores the fate of plastics in the environment. In my mind, these two chapters do an excellent job of highlighting both the fragility of human civilization (you’ll be amazed at how fast New York falls apart) and the long-term environmental consequences of our species (plastics, in particular, will last well into the geological future).