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9/2/09

Alan Weisman: The World Without Us

In that classic movie, On The Beach, the submarine crew finally discover the source of the erratic Morse code they had heard in Australia. Arriving off the coast of California, they take a launch to a deserted industrial site. Prowling its grounds, they discover a window draw string that the breeze has wrapped around the lever of a telegraph key. When the wind blows, the key taps out its "code." In San Francisco, they had looked through a telescope at a deserted city. It was all gone. The United States was gone. The world was gone. Fallen to nuclear holocaust.

Picture a world from which we are all suddenly vanished. Tomorrow. For a few days, there would be silence as grass grows in neighborhoods, street lights burn at intersections, and static hisses on radios and televisions. In a few months, weeds take over. In a few years, wild animals prowl the neighborhoods. Colonies of cockroaches make homes in kitchen cupboards and scamper across floors.

"How would the rest of nature respond if it were suddenly relieved of the pressures we heap on it and our fellow organisms? How soon would, or could, the climate return to where it was before we fired up all our engines?"

And again. "After we're gone, nature's revenge for our smug, mechanized superiority arrives waterborne. It starts with wood-frame construction, the most widely used residential building technique in the developed world. It begins on the roof, probably asphalt of slate shingle, warranted to last two or three decades--but that warranty doesn't count around the chimney, where the first leak occurs. As the the flashing separates under rain's relentless insistence, water sneaks beneath the shingles. It flows across four-by-eight-foot sheets of sheathing made either of plywood or, if newer, of wood-chip board composed of three- to four-ince flakes bonded together by resin."

From The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. It can be found here and here

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