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The Earth After Us: What legacy will humans leave in the rocks?

Popular Science
This book imagines the world 100 million years from now – a novel perspective of our reign on Earth, and looks at what future aliens may find as they piece together the history of the planet from the rocks
Uses this approach to show the difficulties of interpreting the Earth's past history from the rocks, and explains the ingenious ways in which geologists and palaeontologists work
Provides a novel way at looking at geological processes and mechanisms – from fossilization to plate tectonics
Asks intriguing questions, such as what kind of fossils will humans leave behind? What will happen to cities, roads, cars, and plastic cups? How thick a layer would the nullhuman stratumnull be? And what clues might the rocks reveal about our demise as a species?
Provides a unique perspective on environmental change – and argues that the geological legacy of Homo sapiens will provide the ultimate verdict on our species and on our relationship with the planet

By: Jan Zalasiewicz (Author)

251 pages, b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Sep 2009 | #180049 | ISBN-13: 9780199214983
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £16.99 $21/€19 approx
Hardback | Sep 2008 | #174073 | ISBN-13: 9780199214976
Out of Print Details

About this book

Geologist Jan Zalasiewicz takes the reader one hundred million years into the future, long after the human race became extinct, to explore what will remain of humanity's brief but dramatic sojourn on planet Earth. He tells how geologists in the far future – perhaps an alien species re-discovering Earth – might piece together the history of the planet, and slowly decipher the fact of humanity's existence, activities, and ultimate extinction from the traces we will leave impressed in the rock strata.

Legacy takes this novel approach to show how geologists unravel the information in the rocks. As the alien scientists start investigating the strata, what story will they tell of us? What kind of fossils will humans leave behind? What will happen to cities, cars, and plastic cups? How thick a layer will the 'human stratum' be? And will it be obvious which species dominated the planet? It reveals a story of an environmental crisis similar in scale to even earlier mass extinction events, yet puzzlingly different: a crisis where extinctions were accompanied by a bizarre global merry-go-round of organisms and by sharp perturbations of climate. The trail leads finally to the bones of the inhabitants of petrified cities that have lain deep underground for many millions of years.

As thought-provoking as it is engaging, The Earth After Us simultaneously explains both the geological mechanisms that shape our planet, and also offers a perspective on humanity and its actions that may prove to be more objective than any other. For our final legacy, Zalasiewicz argues, will provide the ultimate verdict on our species and on our relationship to planet Earth.

"this is a brilliant and unique book"
- Geoscientist

"Informative and even jaw-dropping."
- Colin Waters, The Sunday Herald

"A sobering view of humanity's geological legacy."
- PDS, The Guardian



1. Perspective
2. 100 Million Years AD
3. The Strata Machine
4. Tectonic Escalator
5. High Water, Low Water
6. Dynasties
7. Echoes
8. Traces
9. Body of Evidence
10. Meeting the People

Further reading

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