We are living in an age of auspicious reality, finally aware that our habits and actions can degrade and erode depending on the severity of our dependence. Changes are being made, action is being taken, and the world is seemingly optimistic.
But the world has evolved into a MacArthur's Maze of tubes, tunnels, generators, plants, dams, and pumps - all of which require a human hand or inputted computer to have dippy birds push their keys and pull their Wonka levers (smile Simpson's fans).
Recently, I read an interesting article from the October 2006 issue of New Scientist (yes, it takes me 10 months to get through a typical NS mag) that asked an important question: As such a dominant species, what would happen to the world - technological infrastructure and all - if every single one of the 6.5 billion people on this planet just disappeared, leaving all our worldly possessions/inventions/chemicals/buildings behind??? How quickly would nature reclaim the planet?
From the article:
If tomorrow dawns without humans, even from orbit the change will be evident almost immediately, as the blaze of artificial light that brightens the night begins to wink out. Indeed, there are few better ways to grasp just how utterly we dominate the surface of the Earth than to look at the distribution of artificial illumination (see Graphic). By some estimates, 85 per cent of the night sky above the European Union is light-polluted; in the US it is 62 per cent and in Japan 98.5 per cent. In some countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, there is no longer any night sky untainted by light pollution.
"Pretty quickly - 24, maybe 48 hours - you'd start to see blackouts because of the lack of fuel added to power stations," says Gordon Masterton, president of the UK's Institution of Civil Engineers in London. Renewable sources such as wind turbines and solar will keep a few automatic lights burning, but lack of maintenance of the distribution grid will scuttle these in weeks or months. The loss of electricity will also quickly silence water pumps, sewage treatment plants and all the other machinery of modern society.
Think the article is a good read? Buy the hardback version, made of 100% tree.
You might as well, cause it'll take back your planet someday.
Here's a review (via Reed Business Information):
If a virulent virus—or even the Rapture—depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished? That's the provocative, and occasionally puckish, question posed by Weisman (An Echo in My Blood) in this imaginative hybrid of solid science reporting and morbid speculation. Days after our disappearance, pumps keeping Manhattan's subways dry would fail, tunnels would flood, soil under streets would sluice away and the foundations of towering skyscrapers built to last for centuries would start to crumble. At the other end of the chronological spectrum, anything made of bronze might survive in recognizable form for millions of years—along with one billion pounds of degraded but almost indestructible plastics manufactured since the mid-20th century. Meanwhile, land freed from mankind's environmentally poisonous footprint would quickly reconstitute itself, as in Chernobyl, where animal life has returned after 1986's deadly radiation leak, and in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a refuge since 1953 for the almost-extinct goral mountain goat and Amur leopard. From a patch of primeval forest in Poland to monumental underground villages in Turkey, Weisman's enthralling tour of the world of tomorrow explores what little will remain of ancient times while anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like.
But my favorite is the Washington Post critic:
Sheesh, Post, lighten up.
With the way Conservatives flock to creationism, you think you'd enjoy a little bit of science fiction.