Human beings have been at the apex of the animal kingdom for almost as long as they have existed. We are integral to the existence of the Earth. Profound notions like these make one wonder what would happen if humans disappeared from the Earth one day.

Morose as the possibility is, it’s one to ponder, with the onset of climate change and global warming. Let’s take a few minutes to consider what would happen to our planet if all humans suddenly disappeared from it.

What would happen to the environment if humans disappeared?

1. The first seconds

If humans disappeared, what would happen to transport? It would come to a sudden halt. With no one to control them, cars will keep moving until they hit obstacles and eventually become wrecks.

Most cars would fall apart. Liquified natural gas would reach them, causing them to catch fire and explode. Wrecked vehicles would block highways, and small aircraft would fall out of the air, with no one to pilot them. These vehicles would burst into flames and emit fumes.

For some time, computers and other artificial intelligence systems would remain operational, but will soon detect problems and shut down.

2. A Pitch Black Earth

A sure thing that would happen if the humans on Earth disappeared suddenly is a worldwide blackout. The majority of the power stations on Earth operate on fossil fuels, so there would be no one to staff them if all humans vanished.

Generators would shut down as they would have no one to run them. Televisions and other electrical appliances would stop functioning. The consequence? Complete darkness.

3. Plants would cover the Earth

In the aftermath of human extinction, vegetation will cover the Earth, becoming sources of food for animals. Forests would return to the state they were thousands of years ago. They would be a source of life for the animals that would now flourish.

4. Animal Population Dynamics would change

That said, a catastrophic human disappearance would help some animal populations and harm others. If the humans on Earth disappeared suddenly, some wild animal populations would thrive. The Earth would experience post-human biodiversity.

Whales would reproduce to their maximum capacity, as humans would no longer curtail their development. Without people to guard them, predators like tigers and lions would break free of their cages and explore this post-Apocalyptic world. However, they would find hunting hard as they would not have adapted to urban settings.

With no humans to feed them or provide water, farm animals will die of dehydration or starvation. Also, domestic animals like Man’s Best Friend would become predatory – big dogs would start eating smaller ones. In particular, the wolf population would grow and compete with feral dogs for food.

After a few hundred years of humans disappearing, some places would become structures for wild animals. Birds of Prey will hunt rodents in skyscrapers. Abandoned structures like the statue of liberty would become homes to wild animals like raccoons and coyotes.

5. Destroyed Sidewalks and Buildings

Abandoned pavements, bridges, and buildings would fall into disrepair, with no one to maintain them. Most concrete foundations will tumble down within 200 years. Moss would overrun and crack the sidewalks. Concrete will fill rivers.

Houses would have sagged, with rodents unchallenged. As the water reaches the metal bars that hold the structures of buildings together, they (buildings) would collapse. Tall ones will fall.

6. Isolation

The human beings who do manage to make it out of distressed areas will retreat to isolated areas of the globe. They will adopt neanderthal or nomadic behaviors, and hunting will be the norm.

7. Creation of Underground Waterways

Places like the Niagra falls would flood tunnels and turn them into underground waterways. These will erode city streets and ultimately drown them as well.

8. Radioactive Contamination

If all humans abruptly disappeared, nuclear power plants will explode, filling roads and waterways with radioactive waste. Animals will die of cancer, and the dangerous spillage would cause random mutations.

9. Satellites will return to Earth

Powered by solar winds, orbiting satellites will return to Earth in the form of shooting stars. They would have already been heading for Earth, but atmospheric pressure would send them plummeting to the ground as meteorites.

10. Climate Change

The Earth’s climate, long-suffering from human impact, will start to recover. It may take several million years, but Carbon Dioxide will return to pre-human levels. With irrigation systems damaged, most areas are without water, and there is very little rainfall.

The desert sweeps into cities, and vultures are a common sight. Though the Earth would recover, it would return to the ice age. Glaciers would cover the northern hemisphere. Animals like elephants and bison would adapt to this environment and take on new forms.

11. Humans leave their mark.

Humans would still leave a mark on this Earth even though they’re long gone. Structures like Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, and Mount Rushmore would remain on Earth for centuries to come.

There will be evidence of space exploration, such as crewless stations on the Moon. Non-biodegradable plastic items would still be intact since they take centuries to break down.

In all, if the humans on Earth disappeared suddenly, what would happen is a catastrophe. But it would also lead to growth and change.

Watch this animation:

Michelle Liew, B.A.

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