The World Without Us by Alan Weisman: This book's premise is beautifully simple: what happens to the earth if mankind suddenly disappeared. How we disappear is irrelevant. We're just gone. What would life on earth become? Drawing upon the collective knowledge of engineers, archaeologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders, scientists of varied disciplines, and many other professionals, as well as by turning to the past to study what the planet was like before we arrived on the scene, Weisman paints a convincing picture that our resilient planet will start healing itself immediately. I enjoyed the book for the hope it instils in the indomitability of nature, although Weisman saves the worst news to the end, such as the ramifications of the 30,000 intact nuclear warheads and 441 nuclear plants we leave behind, among many other lethal substances. There is a chapter devoted to Africa which may answer why so many of us undergo personal epiphanies there, especially those of us who think that the planet is better off with animals back in charge. With the exception of Antarctica, Africa is the only place which has not suffered a major wildlife extinction, an irony when you consider that Africa has been occupied by humans, the agents of extinctions, longer than anywhere else on the planet. It remains the last continent where big mammals survive, and with us gone, they will most certainly inherit the earth. Nostalgic safaris which duplicate the era of the great white hunter attract much business to East Africa. The operators promise their clients that they will experience "Africa the way it used to be." What might be a more valuable marketing tool at this point in time is to equate "Africa the way it used to be" with "Africa the way it will be."
Why do East Africa's big mammals still exist when in less than a millennium man decimated America's and Australia's mega-fauna? According to Weisman, because man and big animals evolved together in Africa, wildlife had time to adjust to man's predations and come up with ways to survive. Examples of this are a zebra's stripes, which make it difficult for an individual to be singled out in a crowd; the way wildebeest use large herds for protection; and the forging of alliances between species to take advantage of each other's superior eyesight or smell. On the contrary, mega-fauna elsewhere in the new world were at a disadvantage when man arrived because they were unaware how dangerous we were.