Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The World Without Us
One of my daughters brought a book home from the library called The World Without Us. Author Alan Weisman discusses "how our planet would respond without the relentless pressure of the human presence." He uses New York City as one example and describes in detail how long it would take for human structures to deteriorate and for the environment to return to a naturalized state.
It would happen surprisingly quickly. Ancient monuments such as the Pyramids in Egypt would last far longer than the Empire State Building. Modern man challenges nature, rerouting rivers, building below the water table, using flimsy materials rather than working in harmony with the earth. New York City's decline would begin as filters clogged and water pumps failed beneath the pavement. The subway tunnels would flood and building foundations would be compromised. It takes constant vigilance and maintenance to keep a city from deteriorating. The book is not apocalyptic but instead reveals the regenerative power of nature.
Manitoulin Island has many abandoned farms. Crumbling barns and houses dot the landscape. Across the road from the camp, such a farm stood, the old house far too dilapidated to enter. I wondered what creatures took shelter within the leaning walls. Farm implements rusted in the fields and cement foundations of buildings that were long gone were visible beneath shrubs and grasses. I was fascinated by these remnants of the past and wondered at the complete abandonment of home and livelihood.
Anyone who is a home owner knows the cost and time involved in keeping a place up. The forces of water, ice, light, wind and of small things like insects are cumulative and break down man made things quickly. The author discusses the plague of plastic on the planet, particularly in our oceans. But even plastic will break down eventually.
Our lives are fleeting and our possessions become valueless in a blink of an eye when compared to the timelessness of creation.
Something to think about...and an interesting book to read.