Thursday night: I've been back in the U.S. since Monday night. One of the first things I did on Tuesday was to pick up Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us."
Talk about a page-turner.
As the reviewers have said, it is an incredibly provocative 'thought experiment' - what if the carbon-based life-forms with the big brains disappeared today?
What distinguishes this from the books written by most science nerds is that Weisman is a journalist, so he does not pretend to be the expert. Instead, he travelled the world, interviewed the experts, and synthesized a compelling story.
It all comes to two simple ideas. The first one (the consequence agenda, I would call it) makes up the bulk of the book:
As we throw the resources of this planet into the black hole of consumption, humans, who are simply tethered to everything, will be dragged in, too. Extinction is an equal opportiunity employer.
For the second one, he uses the same strategy that Dawkins and Crichton have used so effectively: plant the real agenda in the book's coda. I call it the causal agenda: the root cause of all of these problems is putting too many mice in the little experimental box - overpopulation of a finite planet. It is inevitable: at some point, a planet reaches its capacity to support life... the only question is where the line is and how fast we get there.
Weisman reveals that there are people working on this... well, at least thinking about it. And one solution is presented: pull the population of the planet back to early 20th C levels by limiting every woman on the planet to one child.
The Chinese policy, as it turns out, was right.