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Gail Collins/ The New York Times

21 August 2007


The news that Leona Helmsley died yesterday at 87 reminded me of the time I interviewed her husband, Harry, the real-estate magnate who owned a vast empire of Manhattan hotels, office towers and apartment complexes int the 1980s. He was over 70, the first billionaire I had ever met, and I asked him whether he had ever thought about devoting the final segment of his career to good works, like helping the homeless.

"What the hell would I want to do that for?" he said....



The World Without Us

by Alan Weisman

2007 Alan Weisman

St Martin's Press


A generation ago, humans eluded nuclear annihilation; with luck, we'll continue to dodge that and other mass terrors. But now we often find ourselves asking whether inadvertently we've poisoned or parboiled the planet, ourselves included. We've also used and abused water and soil so that there's a lot less of each, and trampled thousands of species that probably aren't coming back. Our world, some respected voices warn, could one day degenerate into something resembling a vacant lot, where crows and rats scuttle among weeds, preying on each other. If it comes to that, at what point would things have gone so far that, for all our vaunted superior intelligence, we're not among the hardy survivors?

The truth is, we don't know. Any conjecture gets muddled by our obstinate reluctance to accept that the worst might actually occur. We may be undermind by our survival instincts, honed over eons to help us deny, defy, or ignore catastrophic portents lest they paralyze us with fright.

If those instincts dupe us into waiting until it's too late, that's bad. If they fortify our resistance in the face of mounting omens, that's good. More than once, crazy, stubborn hope has inspired creative strokes that snatched people from ruin. So, let us try a creative experiment: Suppose that the worst has happened. Human extinction is a fait accompli. Not by nuclear calamity, asteroid collision or anything ruinous enough to also wipe out most everything else, leaving whatever remained in some radically altered, reduced state. Nor by some grim eco-scenario in which we agonizingly fade, dragging many more species with us in the process.

Instead, picture a world from which we all suddenly vanished. Tomorrow.

Unlikely perhaps, but for the sake of argument, not impossible....

Look around you, at today's world. Your house, your city. The surrounding land, the pavement underneath, and the soil hidden below that. Leave it all in place, but extract the human beings. Wipe us out, and see what's left. How would the rest of nature respond if it were suddenly relieved of the relentless pressures we heap on it and our fellow organisms? How soon would, or could, the climate return to where it was before we fired up all our engines.?

How long would it take to recover lost ground and restore Eden to the way it must have gleamed and smelled the day before Adam, or Homo habilis, appeared? Could nature ever obliterate all our traces? How would it undo our monumental cities and public works, and reduce our myriad plastics and toxic synthetics back to benign, basic elements? Or are some so unnatural that they're indestructible?

And what of our finest creations—our architecture, our art, our many manifestations of spirit? Are any truly timeless, at least enough so to last until the sun expands and roasts our Earth to a cinder?

And even after that, might we have left some faint, enduring mark on the universe; some lasting glow, or echo, of Earthly humanity; some interplanetary sign that once we were here?


From the introduction.

Will You Please Repeat That?

 From  Los Angeles Times

(From the Diamond Organics Catalog. Our feel-good-about-being-green item of the week.) "This is truly sustainable caviar, with no impact on wild stocks....The caviar is sealed in a glass jar with only a very little sea salt...and no preservatives. The result is a caviar that tastes pure with the ideal nutty, buttery flavor.

Rio Frio Organic Caviar, 2.12 oz jar.........$260.00"

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