This picture book challenges children to imagine the Earth as it exists now in a future without humans.
Coy opens his provocative thought experiment by reminding readers, “People need water to live. / We need air to breathe. / We need plants to survive. / But do they need us?” Without humans, infrastructure would begin to break down. “Lightning strikes would cause fires that would burn uncontrolled.” The air and water would become cleaner. Between erosion and unchecked nature, humanity would eventually become a dim planetary memory. Capannelli’s accompanying watercolors depict graffiti-tagged overpasses hung about with blossoming vines, a tree sprouting through a factory’s chimney, the skeletal frames of suburban homes ablaze, the rubble of a long-vacant classroom. Birds and animals roam these places freely. Coy closes by declaring that air, plants, and water don’t “need us,” but we “absolutely” need air, plants, and water. “And because we do, / we must take care, / in all the ways we can, / so we’re here on Earth together / now / and in the future." Coy’s persuasive strategy is weak. Earth without humans is so clearly better off it’s hard to imagine children will be anything but profoundly discouraged by this book. A closing note headed “What Can We Do?” encourages readers broadly to reduce consumption and embrace the outdoors but ultimately fails to empower.
Poor Earth. It’s stuck with us. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-10)