09 July 2008


in my april 20 entry (check it for commentary), i highly recommended a book called With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change, by fred pearce. the book was relentlessly informative and thought-provoking. i've now discovered another work which asks original questions and poses possible answers that are stunning and, to this sometimes-misanthrope, much to be desired. i refer to The World Without Us, by alan weisman.

the author asks us to imagine what our world was like before we evolved into large-brained, bipedal, opposable thumbed planet-wreckers; and also asks us to imagine how our world might recover if we were to suddenly, hypothetically, vanish overnight. he goes into wonderful detail in describing the processes of decay and collapse of nearly all things human, as well as the processes of recovery and regeneration as nature reclaims our earth, sometimes in quite unexpected directions. it is a grand and imaginative thought experiment, and a window into one possible future for everything we've ever seen or known.

[as luck would have it, much of one chapter (pp. 55-67) describes the career and controversial paleontological thinking of dr. paul s. martin at the university of arizona. paul was my de facto mentor, and remains a good friend, as he has done for hundreds of those who passed through his tutelage at the UA's desert laboratory on tumamoc hill, overlooking tucson from the west. in his environmental education class, he once described a guest speaker, dr. andrew weil, as a true renaissance man. paul is certainly another.]

so. i suppose one might say that while the first book is about the mechanics and consequences of human-caused climate change, the second is about the resulting changes if we were suddenly removed from the scene. equally fascinating, both.

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