Most of us can agree that the human race has done a real number on planet earth; whether it’s the plastic we’ve put into the oceans, the urban sprawl that’s eaten up most of nature or the growing hole in the ozone layer, it doesn’t look as though we’ll be getting our security deposit back. But, to quote comedian George Carlin, “the planet isn’t going anywhere. WE are!”
So what would happen to the planet if humans were to suddenly disappear altogether? How long will it take the earth to recover from our time here? Here’s what experts think would happen, in approximate chronological order, if the human race disappeared overnight:
The lights will go out
Within just a few hours, most of the world will go dark should mankind cease to exist. Nuclear power systems will detect a drop in usage, automatically go into safety mode and stop emitting power. Fossil fuel plants will soon run out of fuel and stop working, wind turbines will eventually stop turning without maintenance and solar panels will be covered in dust.
However, hydroelectric plants like Niagara Falls or the Hoover Dam that rely only on the flow of water could continue to provide power for months or even years without human maintenance.
Subways and streets will flood
Underground tunnels and subway systems will likely begin to flood in just a matter of days. Many subterranean tunnels sit below water table levels and require pumps to keep groundwater out. With no electricity and no one around to operate the pumps, underground tunnels will soon begin to fill with water. The flooding will eventually find its way to the streets, turning many well-known avenues into temporary rivers.
Many animals will starve
Without humans around to care for them, millions of house pets, farm and zoo animals that are not accustomed to hunting down their own food will starve within a few weeks. Creatures such as rats, cockroaches and lice that depend on human activity for survival will also die out or even become extinct.