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Nobody Home: Earth Without Man Would Recover

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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.