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Nobody Home: Earth Without Man Would Recover

Sep 8, 2007 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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If humans vanished from the Earth, plastic, radio waves and reruns of I Love Lucy would be mankind's most enduring legacies.

Days after people disappeared, New York City's subways would flood, and in 10 years, Lexington Avenue would be a river. Streets would buckle and domesticated dogs would fall prey to predators.

Those ghostly images are described in vivid detail in The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, a freelance journalist who has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine and NPR. The non-fiction book, which is a combination of science reporting and speculation, explores what would occur if mankind disappeared, concluding that the Earth would gradually consume man's massive infrastructure and heal itself despite humanity's indelible — and destructive — imprint.

Using examples of places already devoid of people — the Korean demilitarized zone and Chernobyl, among others — Weisman reveals the planet's capacity to heal itself. Since 1953, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea has been a refuge for the almost-extinct goral mountain goat and Amur leopard. Nature, Weisman finds, always finds a way to survive no matter what obstacles humans put in its path.

Scott Simon spoke with Weisman about how the world without people would change.

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