The World Without Us audiobook cover art

After enjoying the post-apocalyptic and informative Life After People, I was eager to crack open The World Without Us, which I understood to be the same idea just more in depth, being, as it was, a book and not a homogenized TV special. And I hit the audiobook because I don’t have time to read actual books these days, sadly.

Even more sad, I couldn’t make it past Disc 6. That’s why this isn’t a review–because I couldn’t finish it. It was too goddamn depressing.

The book was billed as a look at what would happen to the planet if we were to suddenly all vanish in some unspecified cataclysm, leaving all of our stuff behind. Instead, the book should be called The World Would Be Better Off Without Us. It’s the literary equivalent of somebody trying to talk someone else into jumping off a cliff. Because yes, there’s some information about what would happen after us, but it’s surrounded and hemmed in by long, drawn out accounts of all the crap we’re doing to the planet. How pretty much everything is killing something somewhere and will be doing so for thousands of years after we’re gone. And more importantly, how we’re fucked and there’s nothing we can do to save life on the planet. Except vanish, apparently.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not arguing the point that mankind is a shitty houseguest on the planet. That would be foolish for many reasons. And I’m glad that author Alan Weisman makes the point that the planet really isn’t in danger. The planet will be fine. People wanting to save the planet are fooling themselves–they’re trying to save the human species. Which is admirable–again, don’t get me wrong.

My problem, and what pisses me off, is that this parade of woes is trotted out with absolutely no information about what we can do about it. Okay, Alan, plastics are killing the oceans. Great. Wonderful. You’ve made it clear that me reusing a plastic grocery bag a few times is going to mean fuck all in the long run. What can we do about it? What is being done about it? Is there any bright spot in this shitstorm? Or are you just writing the equivalent of an environmental treatise as envisioned by Cormac McCarthy?

Not helping matters is Adam Grupper’s reading. He plods through like a bad newscaster, driving home the “We’re fucked” point with earnest.

Now, granted, the last four discs might have been helpful in this regard. But I tried to make it–and just couldn’t. One too many “Here’s another scientist who’s going to tell you why you should slit your own throat” bits with no redeeming qualities for humanity. Some might say that this book isn’t meant to provide solutions, just raise awareness. And I say it was meant to talk about what it was billed to talk about. So we’re even.

Rent Life Without People instead. It has a happier ending.

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