Green is the new black. At least, that’s what the marketing machine is telling us. Global warming, hybrid cars, organic products, shopping locally, thinking globally, recycling, composting, low VOC, bamboo…has anyone else noticed that you can make absolutely ANYTHING out of bamboo?! It’s all a little overwhelming and a lot scary. But BookSexy is not about sticking your head in the ground just because the view is unpleasant. So, I’ve been searching for a book on the environment that won’t send me crashing into a bleak, black pit of despair. (Good luck with that).
And then I realized that what I needed was to shift my thinking. Going green is about the planet – not about us. So maybe it is time to take “us” out of the equation.
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman is a fascinating and surprisingly hopeful little book (thinner than its 336 pages would suggest). The premise is simple – what if every single human being disappeared from the planet Earth? The author wisely avoids the question of why or how – it’s not really relevant to this conversation.The important thing is that we are left with a planet, sans humans, and a question…what would happen to the stuff we left behind?
And we would be leaving behind A LOT! (Next blog entry – Organize It!: How to Unclutter Every Nook & Cranny In and Outside Your Home by Mervyn Kaufman). There’s the obvious landscape of buildings, roads and subways – which are much more fragile than you probably realize. What happens to them is pretty interesting. But it’s the small things we never notice, think about, or really even need that may have the biggest impact on the planet.
Plastics aren’t necessarily forever – but they might as well be. And they are EVERYWHERE! For example, remember that great scrubbing body wash you bought that smells nice and leaves your skin smooth and silky? Well, more than likely those little beads loofah-ing away the dead skin are made of teeny tiny pieces of plastic which end up in the oceans. Once there they are eaten by plankton, which in turn is eaten by whales and fish, which in turn… I think you get the point. Plastic q-tips (and plastic tampon “applicators” – ewww!) don’t bio-degrade. It seems that a large amount of these end up floating in the oceans and up onto the shore. Speaking of floating in the oceans… there are huge land masses of plastic being formed as we speak, and plate tectonics have NOTHING to do with it.
Here’s another surprise… what’s taking the most room in our landfills? You were going to guess plastic, weren’t you? Or Kevin Federline CD’s? Well, it might just be paper. Can you imagine?! One of the easiest things to recycle… and its filling up our landfills!
And the list goes on.
So… I mentioned hope. Well, it seems, if humans disappeared tomorrow….
(Segue: My personal theory is Zombies… everything becomes more interesting when you add zombies. A zombie virus strikes. The human race becomes an army of the undead and eventually disappears as the food supply of un-infected brains dwindles…)
….If humans disappeared tomorrow… the good news is that the planet would go on without us. Animals would adjust. Apparently, just like us, some wouldn’t make it. Some would. Many endangered species could make a rebound. A lot of the animals we’ve domesticated wouldn’t stand a chance on their own. Much of the land would revert to what it was like before we got here. Deciduous forests (the non-evergreen ones) would make a comeback. In many ways, the Earth would reclaim and rebuild itself.
The good news is that much the same could happen with us still here. Because, while much of what we’ve done is not reversible, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world either (no pun intended). Something as simple as recycling is a great step in the right direction – a more important one than I think most people credit. And there are so many other things, on an individual level very little things, that could make a huge difference. The message here is that we could still rebuild – like the bionic man we could make it better. Unless, of course, the zombies show up…
Suggested reading locations: Coffee shops, internet cafes, Green Peace rallies, hiking through Montana or sitting by the fire at a historic lodge in the middle of a National Park. Any New England or Northwestern State. Parks. What’s nice about this book is that the idea of a world without humans gives a slight science fiction vibe – keeping things light. At the same time, its still an environmental book that just might get the attention of that granola girl at the local Hava Java sipping her organic, free trade Kenyan coffee latte. Good luck!