Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Imagining the World Without Us

I saw this in the Seattle PI Tuesday morning, and thought it was pretty fascinating. It did not seem morbid to me at all, but somehow comforting.

Timeline for a world without people, from The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

After two days: With no one to run the pumps, New York subways flood.

Seven days: Generators that cool nuclear reactor cores run out of fuel.

One year: Human head and body lice grow extinct. Wildlife returns to sites of melted-down nuclear reactors.

Three years: In colder climes, walls and roofs start to separate, pipes burst, roaches die.

20 years: Panama Canal closes up. Garden vegetables revert to wild strains.

100 years: Feral housecats devastate populations of small predators. Elephant population grows 20-fold as ivory trade ceases.

300 years: New York bridges fall, dams fail worldwide, cities built in river deltas, such as Houston, wash away.

500 years: Forests overtake suburbs in temperate climes, but plastic and metal debris remain.

Thousands of years: Underground structures such as the Chunnel across the English Channel are the last intact human-made structures.

35,000 years: Lead deposited by smokestacks finally is cleansed from the soil.

100,000 years: Carbon dioxide returns to prehuman levels -- maybe.

Hundreds of thousands of years: Microbes evolve to eat plastic.

7.2 million years: Traces of Mount Rushmore images remain. PCBs and other toxins remain but are buried.

10.2 million years: Bronze sculptures are still recognizable.

3 billion years: Life still thrives on Earth, in new forms.

4.5 billion years: Depleted Uranium-238 reaches its half-life. Earth begins to warm as sun expands.

5-plus billion years: Earth burns as dying sun swells to envelop inner planets.

Forever: Our radio and TV broadcasts travel through space.


Wow. There is a poem in here I think.


T. said...

It's always good to get a bit
of perspective like this, don't you think?

Emily Lloyd said...

Peter, this is super-cool! I'd heard of the book but haven't had time yet, etc, etc: this was a great way to get a quick preview. I especially find "Thousands of years" interesting: how the last existing man-made structures would be those underground (the traces of Mt. Rushmore at 7.2. million is mindblowing, too). Thanks.

Joannie Stangeland said...

I, too, appreciate the preview. I take comfort in the idea of garden vegetables reverting to wild strains. However, I think that the coyotes and racoons would keep in check (or completely eat) the feral cat population--at least in what used to be my neighborhood.

Montgomery Maxton said...

i want to turn myself into a radio or tv broadcast signal.

Peter said...

MM: Yes! Perhaps even just the electrical discharges our brains make will go on an on in space without us.

SarahJane said...

fascinating, yes.
and I would like to be an elephant. please.

Unknown said...

Or is it the world that is imaginating us ?.