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Sierra Magazine
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Sierra's July/August 2007 Let's Talk selection:
The World Without Us
A book by Alan Weisman
Review by Jennifer Hattam

What it's about
If people disappeared from the face of the earth, wind and rain would eventually destroy our homes, but some of our plastics might linger for millennia. In imagining a humanless future, journalist Alan Weisman examines how nature has reclaimed places abandoned due to conflict or contamination, how other big mammals became extinct, and how we have evolved--and speculates on who, or what, might come next.

Where to get it
After its July 10 publication date, The World Without Us will be widely available at libraries and bookstores. You can preorder it now from Powells.com.

About the author
Alan Weisman's writing has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Audubon, Discover, Harper's Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Mother Jones, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications. He is a senior producer for Homelands Productions, which creates documentary features for public radio, and teaches journalism and Latin American studies at the University of Arizona. The World Without Us is his fifth book.

Discussion questions

  • What do you think about the author's approach? Did it make you consider environmental issues in a different way?

  • What part of Weisman's scenario surprised you most? Will certain things last longer or fade sooner than you would have expected?

  • Have you personally experienced the unexpected impacts of something that people created or witnessed examples of nature's resilience or rejuvenative power?

  • In his prelude, Weisman wonders if there's "a way for nature to prosper that doesn't depend on our demise." Do you think he finds one?

  • Did you feel hopeful or disheartened at the end of the book? Why?

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