Saturday, December 2, 2023
Contact    |    RSS icon Twitter icon Facebook icon  
Unexplained Mysteries
You are viewing: Home > News > Science & Technology > News story
Welcome Guest ( Login or Register )  
All ▾
Search Submit

Science & Technology

If humans vanished, what would the Earth be like after one year ?

June 13, 2023 · Comment icon 20 comments

What would happen in our absence ? Image Credit: NASA
We have had a profound impact on our planet, but what would happen if we all simply disappeared ?
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if everyone suddenly disappeared?

What would happen to all our stuff? What would happen to our houses, our schools, our neighborhoods, our cities? Who would feed the dog? Who would cut the grass? Although it's a common theme in movies, TV shows and books, the end of humanity is still a strange thing to think about.

But as an associate professor of urban design - that is, someone who helps towns and cities plan what their communities will look like - it's sometimes my job to think about prospects like this.

So much silence

If humans just disappeared from the world, and you could come back to Earth to see what had happened one year later, the first thing you'd notice wouldn't be with your eyes.

It would be with your ears.

The world would be quiet. And you would realize how much noise people make. Our buildings are noisy. Our cars are noisy. Our sky is noisy. All of that noise would stop.

You'd notice the weather. After a year without people, the sky would be bluer, the air clearer. The wind and the rain would scrub clean the surface of the Earth; all the smog and dust that humans make would be gone.

Home sweet home

Imagine that first year, when your house would sit unbothered by anyone.

Go inside your house - and hope you're not thirsty, because no water would be in your faucets. Water systems require constant pumping. If no one's at the public water supply to manage the machines that pump water, then there's no water.

But the water that was in the pipes when everyone disappeared would still be there when the first winter came - so on the first cold snap, the frigid air would freeze the water in the pipes and burst them.

There would be no electricity. Power plants would stop working because no one would monitor them and maintain a supply of fuel. So your house would be dark, with no lights, TV, phones or computers.

Your house would be dusty. Actually, there's dust in the air all the time, but we don't notice it because our air conditioning systems and heaters blow air around. And as you move through the rooms in your house, you keep dust on the move too. But once all that stops, the air inside your house would be still and the dust would settle all over.

The grass in your yard would grow - and grow and grow until it got so long and floppy it would stop growing. New weeds would appear, and they would be everywhere.

Lots of plants that you've never seen before would take root in your yard. Every time a tree drops a seed, a little sapling might grow. No one would be there to pull it out or cut it down.

You'd notice a lot more bugs buzzing around. Remember, people tend to do everything they can to get rid of bugs. They spray the air and the ground with bug spray. They remove bug habitat. They put screens on the windows. And if that doesn't work, they swat them.

Without people doing all these things, the bugs would come back. They would have free rein of the world again.
On the street where you live

In your neighborhood, critters would wander around, looking and wondering.

First the little ones: mice, groundhogs, raccoons, skunks, foxes and beavers. That last one might surprise you, but North America was once rich with beavers.

Bigger animals would come later - deer, coyotes and the occasional bear. Not in the first year, maybe, but eventually.

With no electric lights, the rhythm of the natural world would return. The only light would be from the Sun, the Moon and the stars. The night critters would feel good they got their dark sky back.

Fires would happen frequently. Lightning might strike a tree or a field and set brush on fire, or hit the houses and buildings. Without people to put them out, those fires would keeping going until they burned themselves out.

Around your city

After just one year, the concrete stuff - roads, highways, bridges and buildings - would look about the same.

Come back, say, a decade later, and cracks in them would have appeared, with little plants wiggling up through them. This happens because the Earth is constantly moving. With this motion comes pressure, and with this pressure come cracks. Eventually, the roads would crack so much they would look like broken glass, and even trees would grow through them.

Bridges with metal legs would slowly rust. The beams and bolts that hold the bridges up would rust too. But the big concrete bridges, and the interstate highways, also concrete, would last for centuries.

The dams and levees that people have built on the rivers and streams of the world would erode. Farms would fall back to nature. The plants we eat would begin to disappear. Not much corn or potatoes or tomatoes anymore.

Farm animals would be easy prey for bears, coyotes, wolves and panthers. And pets? The cats would go feral - that is, they would become wild, though many would be preyed upon by larger animals. Most dogs wouldn't survive, either.

Like ancient Rome

In a thousand years, the world you remember would still be vaguely recognizable. Some things would remain; it would depend on the materials they were made of, the climate they're in, and just plain luck. An apartment building here, a movie theater there, or a crumbling shopping mall would stand as monuments to a lost civilization. The Roman Empire collapsed more than 1,500 years ago, yet you can see some remnants even today.

If nothing else, humans' suddenly vanishing from the world would reveal something about the way we treated the Earth. It would also show us that the world we have today can't survive without us and that we can't survive if we don't care for it. To keep it working, civilization - like anything else - requires constant upkeep.

Carlton Basmajian, Associate Professor of Community and Regional Planning, Urban Design, Iowa State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Read the original article.

The Conversation

Source: The Conversation | Comments (20)

Other news and articles
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #11 Posted by kartikg 6 months ago
Well let's find out. 
Comment icon #12 Posted by Edumakated 6 months ago
There used to be a TV show on discovery or history channel where they explored this question...
Comment icon #13 Posted by MysteryMike 6 months ago
Life After People. There's your answer.
Comment icon #14 Posted by MissJatti 6 months ago
Just play the last of us, depicting what the planet looks like 20 years after most of humanity died out
Comment icon #15 Posted by Tatetopa 6 months ago
There was a series called Life After Man on one of the channels some years back.  Pretty cool.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Tatetopa 6 months ago
The article's view point is a city dwelling Western Civilization.   Dogs would probably miss us, we have been together for the past 30,000 years. We are  another in the line of climax predators from the last 300 million years, just another little episode of unfolding nature .   But we are not above nature, we are a part of it and of course, there are a lot of indigenous people who still know that and do live as a part of nature.  To your point though, I must agree a lot of the toxins will dissipate and make things safer for the rest of nature.   Likely that will take far more than a ye... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by SHaYap 6 months ago
For better? You'd be surprised how quickly Nature settles down.  As for "intended" that is a local question but in general, most definitely no more than one generation in human terms.  Competition in Nature isn't really about the strongest or fittest in the long run, it is more like a what is happening, happens, as it happened... Doesn't matter if HuMan is around to see what or think is 'better or worse' or not.    ~
Comment icon #18 Posted by Dejarma 6 months ago
Comment icon #19 Posted by Alchopwn 6 months ago
Honestly, nature and the planet don't care one way or the other.   We are causing our own catastrophe.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Myles 6 months ago
What makes you think "nature" didn't intend for the Earth to be like it is now?

Please Login or Register to post a comment.

Our new book is out now!
Book cover

The Unexplained Mysteries
Book of Weird News


Take a walk on the weird side with this compilation of some of the weirdest stories ever to grace the pages of a newspaper.

Click here to learn more

We need your help!
Patreon logo

Support us on Patreon


For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can gain access to a wide range of exclusive perks including our popular 'Lost Ghost Stories' series.

Click here to learn more

Recent news and articles