Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Hurricane Rita, New England Blizzard of ’78 & The World Without Us


I’ve been reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. This book, just published, is about what the world would be like if human beings simply disappeared.

( Does that sound like a good idea or not? Would you like to see all people go? Or do you wish you could have run of the planet with a few selected friends and family?)

Once people were gone, houses would collapse from various forms of rot and intrusions of water and pests. Our cities would crumble away from untended infrastructure and from the elements reasserting themselves.

Wild animal populations would rebound and domesticated creatures would be in trouble without human beings.

The reviewer in the New York Times suggested that author Weisman seemed to take a bit too much pleasure in the idea of a world without people.

For three or four days after Hurricane Rita passed by Houston in 2005, damaging areas to the east instead, life here moved at a much slower pace. Millions of people had evacuated and it took time to get them all back in town and for workplaces to re-open.

I’m very sorry for the people who suffered because of the storm, but I did not miss the 24-7 pace that characterizes modern life in a large metropolitan area of the United States.

When I was 10, I very much enjoyed the Great New England Blizzard of 1978. Providence, Rhode Island, where I lived, got 36 inches of snow. Just a few miles north in Massachusetts snowfall totals were even higher.

It was not a time without people—But schools were closed for nearly a week and you could travel by foot only. It was a great week to be 10 years old.

(The above picture is of Star Wars snow figures made by students at MIT in Boston during the 1978 blizzard.)  


September 25, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Houston, Uncategorized


  1. The Blizzard of ’78 in Providence was a fantastic time to be ten. My kids know all sorts of stories about it. I remember walking on cross-country ski tracks for days before streets were ploughed, and how our dog would go off the tracks and sink deep into the snow until we dug her out. And I remember all the snow sculptures at Brown. Someone got the bright idea of spraying them with water mixed with food coloring, so there was a green snow dragon, a brown bear, and about a dozen others on the Green, including a Red Pony (I guess Brown students read Steinbeck – or at least they did 30 years ago). I’ve read some Steinbeck, but not that one.

    Comment by JanetHutchinson | October 2, 2007

  2. I read this book and it changed the way I act in many ways, especially when it comes to plastics. I’ve been trying really hard to eliminate plastic from my life, at least the kind that can’t be used again and again. I got a nice little nylon bag that folds into almost nothing; I keep it in my purse so I don’t have to use plastic bags from the grocery store anymore. I worry, though, that people who are concerned about environmental damage often come across as very self-righteous, like my nylon bag is an implicit criticism of your plastic grocery bag. The chapter on the petrochemical industry that surrounds Houston is also quite sobering.

    I heard Robert Reich talking about his new book, Supercapitalism, the other day and it sounded like a book you’d enjoy. He talks about how we’ve become primarily consumers at the expense of our rights and responsibilities as citizens, and how unions, business and regulatory agencies used to keep each other in check but the balance has shifted to give business all the power. Although nothing new to you, it still seemed like a nice, coherent argument and one that people could stand to hear.

    Comment by Julie | October 2, 2007

  3. Wow this Feb will be 30 years since the Great Blizzard of 78. Looking forward to all the new books and web sites that will come out of it.

    Comment by Bruce Simons | November 23, 2007

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