What if Everyone Left?

I just came across a thought-provoking article from New Scientist, October, discussing what would happen to Earth if all Homo sapiens were suddenly removed. It’s a nice look at our influence and permanence/transience. Bob Holmes writes

Humans are undoubtedly the most dominant species the Earth has ever known. In just a few thousand years we have swallowed up more than a third of the planet’s land for our cities, farmland and pastures. By some estimates, we now commandeer 40 per cent of all its productivity. And we’re leaving quite a mess behind: ploughed-up prairies, razed forests, drained aquifers, nuclear waste, chemical pollution, invasive species, mass extinctions and now the looming spectre of climate change. If they could, the other species we share Earth with would surely vote us off the planet.

Now just suppose they got their wish. Imagine that all the people on Earth — all 6.5 billion of us and counting — could be spirited away tomorrow, transported to a re-education camp in a far-off galaxy. (Let’s not invoke the mother of all plagues to wipe us out, if only to avoid complications from all the corpses). Left once more to its own devices, Nature would begin to reclaim the planet, as fields and pastures reverted to prairies and forest, the air and water cleansed themselves of pollutants, and roads and cities crumbled back to dust.

(continue reading at New Scientist)

Makes you think, huh? There was also a similar article in Scientific American several months ago, though the title escapes me at the moment. I’ll see if I can find it in my old issues.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, you may also enjoy watching “Das Rad” (nominated for the 2003 Academy Award for best short film). I’ve mentioned it a couple times before, I know, but I thought it was really well done. I included it at the end of a previous post.