I picked up a copy of The World Without Us by Alan Weisman a few months back. It was surprisingly boring. Yet I found myself thinking about it a lot in Flint. I don't want to overstate this because Flint is definitely alive and kicking, but the city's dwindling population, industrial tax base and housing stock have led to numerous "renaturalized" areas, to use the term being floated by public officials these days.
Here's The New Yorker's brief take on the book:
"Teasing out the consequences of a simple thought experiment—what would happen if the human species were suddenly extinguished—Weisman has written a sort of pop-science ghost story, in which the whole earth is the haunted house. Among the highlights: with pumps not working, the New York City subways would fill with water within days, while weeds and then trees would retake the buckled streets and wild predators would ravage the domesticated dogs. Texas’s unattended petrochemical complexes might ignite, scattering hydrogen cyanide to the winds—a “mini chemical nuclear winter.” After thousands of years, the Chunnel, rubber tires, and more than a billion tons of plastic might remain, but eventually a polymer-eating microbe could evolve, and, with the spectacular return of fish and bird populations, the earth might revert to Eden. "
The backyard ghetto palm forest of an abandoned house in Carriage Town, courtesy of an out-of-state homeowner.