One of my watched, now defunct, shows on television was called “Life After People.” It was a fascinating deer-in-the-headlights look at what the Earth would become if people weren’t around to exert their influence. Based on science and some real life examples of abandoned places, “Life After People” showed how quickly everything in the environment at large would change, if people, if society, were no longer here.
During its two seasons, “Life After People” teamed scientists, structural engineers, and other experts who speculated what would happen if all humans instantly disappeared from the Earth. Everything else is left behind, from office buildings to household pets. Set mostly with scenes of the United States, the show also included CGI renditions of some of the worlds most famous structures, such as the Sphinx, and how these symbols of centuries gone by would fare without modern human touch and maintenance.
“Life After People,” which can currently be seen on Netflix, never speculates how we all became extinct. In this premise, we just did, suddenly. That is what becomes so haunting, and probably one of the truest underlying themes.
Skip the sometimes poorly done, although still interesting, CGI of structures collapsing, and focus on the real impact, such as the sadly decaying homes and buildings of Gary Indiana, a once bustling area supported by the steel industry. An economic collapse, and we are left with a ghostly reminder of how things could go down for the rest of the country. It is both less dramatic and more terrifying than typical doomsday scenarios.
An apocalypse that is devastating enough to wipe out every human being will most likely also wipe out every living thing; it would wipe out the planet we live on, as well. When you examine statistics, though, this speculative outcome may be the least likely thing to come to fruition. Chances are that any disaster that hits us will leave human survivors. The question is, who will be left and how will they live?
The short answer: Those survivors who have prepared by putting away case lots of food, ammunition, fuel medical supplies, protective gear, and survival skills will up their odds of continuing life.
The longer answer: Speculative shows and movies, such as “Life After People,” are meant to shock and entertain, but within their structure, there are moments of truth that show how life might be like for the survivors of a devastating disaster. Often we think of the need to get through an initial situation, and then learn to settle in. Our main concerns are protecting our supplies and our lives from the threat of other survivors, but “Life After People” shows how quickly the downward spiraling chaos of the environment could become a major threat. Just three quick examples:
When modern equipment and structures are not regularly maintained, chemical spills, and deadly levels of radiation and toxins can be released into the environment.
Nature is fierce and when it takes over, the results are crumbling buildings, broken roads and burst dams that become hazards.
Pets will likely become feral gangs and may pose additional threats.
The lessons learned from this, the chestnut of doubt within the sensationalism, tells us that we should make sure that in addition to protecting ourselves from people, we prepare to maintain life among hazards that are the result of nature reclaiming what man has built.