What if all humans on Earth disappeared? | BBC Ideas


…we don’t know how –
that doesn’t matter. What we’d like to know is… What would a world
without humans be like? Within days, the electricity grid
fails as fuel supplies run out and there’s nobody to override the
powerstation’s failsafe mechanisms. Within a week the subways we’ve
built under the water table flood. The 47 million litres of water that was pumped out of
the London Underground every day inundates tunnels. Without heating or air conditioning mould flourishes on moist surfaces
in homes and offices and ice bursts pipes. Within weeks, plants begin
to take over buildings as the strongest species
compete for space. No-one’s there to cut them back. Fast forward in time. The lines between city
and countryside are blurred. Windows fall out of rotten frames
and wildlife recolonises towns. Farmland is blanketed
by scrub and then trees, and scattered on the surface are
the things that will never degrade. Metals corrode. Plastics start
to break down and disperse. But stainless steel pans,
stranded granite work tops and billions of car tyres remain. Nuclear facilities fail
as their fabric degrades. Some explode,
irradiating the local ecosystem and causing many animals to die. The radiation leads
to mutations in others creating new evolutionary lines. Meanwhile, the tiniest of plants are stubbornly breaking up
even the motorways. Mosquitos are having a great time. They’ve lost their enemy in us but they’ve moved on
to other animals. And they’re busy pollinating plants
as they love nectar as well as blood. Endangered animals have a chance
and space to multiply again. Lions and elephants
could even reach Europe, the strongest swimming
across the Suez Canal. Massive whirlpool islands of plastic
carry on spinning in our oceans. Each piece of plastic is ground down until microscopic grains
of it are everywhere. Bacteria may evolve
to digest plastic, but this will take millions of years. Could the Earth ever recover? Atmospheric carbon dioxide
is absorbed by the vegetation that
carpets the land. Global temperatures
and sea levels begin to fall. As chemical pollutants break down
and sink into the earth, rivers become cleaner. Animals and plants flourish. Is this a new Eden? Perhaps. The Earth is a breathing organism that has lived with us
for a fraction of its life. Our human ingenuity has led to
extraordinary changes to the world. The planet would survive,
indeed thrive, without us. But it would never be able
to forget us. We’d have left our mark. Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell to receive notifications for new videos. See you again soon!

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