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What Earth Without People Would Look Like 671

Posted by Zonk
from the earth-sans-peepul dept.
Raynor writes "Imagine a world without people. What if every human being, all 6.5 billion of us, were suddenly abducted and the planet was left to fend for itself? The planet would heal. 'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,' says John Orrock, a conservation biologist. Pollution would cease being created. It would remain around for many years, CO2 taking as long as 20,000 years to be restored to it's natural level, but will decrease. Even if we were all whisked away and our nuclear reactors melted down, it would have a surprisingly little effect on the planet. Chernobyl gives hope to this end. 'I really expected to see a nuclear desert there,' says Ronald Chesser, an environmental biologist. 'I was quite surprised. When you enter into the exclusion zone, it's a very thriving ecosystem.' In the grand scheme of the world there would be little evidence of our existence at 100,000 years. The most permanent piece is the radio waves we've emitted of the last century. As the article puts it, 'The humbling — and perversely comforting — reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.'"
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What Earth Without People Would Look Like

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:43PM (#16493503) Homepage Journal

    If so I'd like to recommend Kim Jong Il

    If they could, the other species we share Earth with would surely vote us off the planet.

    They could try, but we'd be the ones building the voting machines [slashdot.org].

    even though buildings will crumble, their ruins - especially those made of stone or concrete - are likely to last thousands of years. "We still have records of civilisations that are 3000 years old," notes Masterton. "For many thousands of years there would still be some signs of the civilisations that we created. It's going to take a long time for a concrete road to disappear. It might be severely crumbling in many places, but it'll take a long time to become invisible."

    Like the ancients, it's how we bury our dead which will be most telling to the next crop of intelligent life to evolve on Earth.

    "They're all in these frames of petrified wood with evidence of metal rails, hinges and nails around them. Do you suppose they spun these things and then suffocated inside them? Or was this some way other creatures stored their food? They couldn't possibly be so vain as to try preserving their bodies after they died, HA HA HA!"

    'The humbling -- and perversely comforting -- reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.'"

    Oh, I dunno. The planet itself might, with the help of perhaps another ice age to drive the remnants of our cities into so much rubble.

    • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:10PM (#16493925)
      Like the ancients, it's how we bury our dead which will be most telling to the next crop of intelligent life to evolve on Earth.

      Burials are certainly a rich source of information but believe it or not some of the most interesting archeological discoveries have come from ancient rubbish dumps [ox.ac.uk].
    • Re: (Score:4, Funny)

      by ottothecow (600101) <ottothecow@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:13PM (#16493959) Homepage
      I was really hoping the article would come with a picture.
    • Re: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WhiplashII (542766) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @10:20PM (#16495929) Homepage Journal
      There are presumably millions of planets like ours in our galaxy alone - what would be the point in having another one without intelligent life? Why do people think that a world without humans is better than one with humans? Why is a green, leafy planet inherently better than a radioactive wasteland?

      Because of human values - the same human values that the author is talking about eliminating in such a positive light.

      You green guys are so wierd! Earth has no value except to be used by humans - I can understand preservation and conservation in the context of preserving value for future humans, but the humans must come first, not nature (or other animals)!
  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:44PM (#16493527) Homepage Journal
    "What if every human being, all 6.5 billion of us, were suddenly abducted and the planet was left to fend for itself? The planet would heal."

    This excess anthropomorphising has reached a new heights for slashdrivel.

    We are not hurting the planet with pollution. We are primarily hurting each other. As TFA notes, we have left very few permanent traces on the earth. Pollution is - or ought to be - a tort.

    PS: and we should continue as the dominant species on the planet. If we don't the chimps will take over.
    PPS: and if Mr. Orrock, the writer of the article, thinks that the global demise of the human species is a good idea, I invite him to act locally. Very locally.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by syousef (465911)
      slashdrivel - I like that.

      What would the earth be like without people? The fluffy pink ponies and unicorns would come out to play. Won't you plese think of the ponies.

      How is this a slashdot article let alone a front page one? When I think of the stories I submitted that were rejected then think of this one it just annoys me.
  • Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chacham (981) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:45PM (#16493545) Homepage Journal
    'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,'

    But for what purpose? That's like never opening a package, so it never gets finished.

    Who would even appreciate it? Is the Earth something so deistic and magical that's its mere existence is good enough by itself? Or, is some alien race (no doubt evilly destroying their own planet) going to come by and appreciate its pristine beauty?

    The planet is here, and we are using it. We are becoming better, and making it more capable. To say that to conserve, take notice, and be proactive, to make it last longer, is not only true, but it is helpful. To say, however, that if we were gone it would be better, is an unproven theory, and would remain unproven, being noone would be here to care.

    Growth takes a toll somewhere. But not for naught. The Earth is here for us, and we have made quite some progress based on her resources. There's no reason to replace our pride with some pessimistic view that promotes nihilism in some strange way.
    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dan828 (753380) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:04PM (#16493829)
      Actually, did you not find it amusing that during the course of all of this speculation about what would happen on the earth without humans, the guy makes the point that he was totally wrong in his thoughts about what the area around Chernobyl would be like?

      The guy basically tells us that his predictions about ecosystems are for crap anyways, so why the heck should we listen to his current one?
      • Re:Moo (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DarkOx (621550) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:44PM (#16494375) Journal
        I think its interesting for other reasons as well. The parent is correct in that the author does indeed discredit his own ability to predict enviornmental impact in an artical about the very subject but the point he makes about Chernobyl is a bit off base as well.

        Chernobyl was a very minor nuclear disaster as the potential for nuclear disasters goes. The Russians basically got very lucky that when the thing went up and blew the cap off the reactor, said cap happend to land more or less back where it was supposed to be. The incided also did not do much damage to the cement shell of the plant either. Basically most of the radiation has been confined to the pant itself and the reactor, very little got out compared to what might have been. I saw a nova sepecial on it once. They indicated that the radiation levels inside where almost 100 times what they are just outside the door. If other meltdowns happen other places there is no reason at all to think those folks would be as lucky interms of damage confinement and by extension no reason to think those areas would not become nuclear deserts.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Quadraginta (902985)
          the radiation levels inside where almost 100 times what they are just outside the door.

          All those inverse-square laws o' physics come in handy sometimes.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The Soviets were very lucky with Chernnbyl, and they knew it from experience. Back in 1957, a waste storage plant at Mayak, [wikipedia.org] near Chelyabinsk, blew up in a non-nuclear explosion estimated at 75 tons of TNT, contaminating hundreds of square miles. From what I've heard, the site was visible on the Landsat photos as a dead spot surrounded by biomass. It's much more dangerous to pass through that region today than it is to visit Ground Zero at either Hiroshima or Nagasaki and will probably be so for decades i
    • by catbutt (469582)
      Very good point. Its kind of hard to define the concept of "better" without humans. Better for the animals? Maybe, in the sense that there might be more of them. Better for the plants? Well, they don't have brains so I have a hard time seeing how they care one way or the other. Better in some Darwinian sense? This guy didn't really seem to think through his premise.
    • Bah! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Greyfox (87712)
      If terrestrial life "wants" to outlive this Sun, it needs us. Or some critter like us that can use its big brain to invent interstellar space travel. Otherwise the whole exericse will be proven pointless in a couple billion years give or take. Of course there are a lot of pointless exercises in evolution and it's entirely possible we're just one of those. We'll just have to wait for the run to finish and see what happened.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      Life on Earth generally got along just fine for several billion years without humans. I can't exactly say that we've done life on earth any good by driving more species to extinction, more than any other thing save (IIRC) about six major extinction disasters in Earth's history.

      The Earth is here for us

      It would be accurate to say that the Earth is here, but to say it is here for a specific species is a bit much because that's an unprovable claim as far as anyone can tell. For example, we might just be here
  • 'The humbling -- and perversely comforting -- reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.'

    Not if I can help it!

  • Humans are Entropy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:46PM (#16493555) Journal
    'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,'
    What's sad about that? Do you cry every night knowing that the time you spent in your house added to its deterioration?

    You can view this as we are abnormalities in our ecosystem. We are atypical organisms living beyond what we are supposed to.

    Or you can acknowledge that if other organisms were intelligent enough to make their existence better for them (at the expense of others), they would. That's one of the laws of nature and we're just reverting back to our primal instincts. Now, we're fairly civil and modest in reproducing and killing, so we're a bit better than the animals in that respect. If we chose to acknowledge that we're destroying earth for the rest of the organisms, it would probably be both civil and intelligent. Unfortunately, about half of us don't give a shit. Well, that's what we deal with.

    Every organism is in competition for resources with every other organism in some way. A symbiosis rarely occurs and when it does, it's usually forced (humans raising cattle for milk).

    Is there any scenario we can reach where we won't destroy the environment?

    Probably not but, in my opinion, humans are entropy.

    The humbling - and perversely comforting - reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.
    And, if you acknowledge the very long history of the earth, we are remarkably new to the earth. The dinosaurs had a longer reign and they are forgotten with the exception of their bones.
    • by iocat (572367) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:15PM (#16493993) Homepage Journal
      We're not abnormalities. We were created by the eco-system. Then we gamed the (eco)system and beat it. Think our lack of fur makes us unable to survive ice-ages or cold climates? Fuck you, eco-system, we're going to kill some animals and wear their fur! No wings? Fuck you, eco-system, we're making planes! No gills? Again, fuck you eco-system, we're busy evolving Jacques Cousteau and a crazy machine that lets us breathe underwater! Antibiotics -- win for us. Language -- win for us. Brains filled with the ability to learn -- win for us. Crazy-ass opposable thumbs -- win for us. Neil Armstrong -- win for us.

      We're the winners. We rule. As a species, we're at the top of every single food chain on earth, local irregularities notwithstanding (for instance, I would not try to argue this point with a bear, shark or tiger). As long as, as a species, we act smart, we're likely to stay there. That means being responsible, not wrecking things for the next generation, conserving what we have, acting sustainably, and if needed, figuring how to removing unstable elements and memes from our global society (religious fundementalists, dictators with nukes and itchy trigger fingers, etc.). (Oh, and figuring out how to get off this rock long term, so we can beat the sun at its "burn out after a billion years" game too.)

      You're free to disagree with me, but I like being on the winning team as a species. I am much happier as a videogame-enjoying human than I would be as an anonymous ferret or weasel or whatever.

      • ... the chorus would be "Humanity. "#$% yeah."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by quanticle (843097)
        I agree with most of your points, but, I do have to point out one exception:

        Antibiotic resistant microbes: Win for ecosystem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dasher42 (514179)
        In other words, you're happily dependent on infrastructure based on rapidly dwindling resources, living in a largely simulated world. When was the last time the power went out for a week where you're at?

        Somehow, I can't consider consumption of the world to the point of widespread destruction "winning", but some people never get past just counting the frags.
    • by GrahamCox (741991) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:26PM (#16494183) Homepage
      We are atypical organisms living beyond what we are supposed to

      "Supposed to" as decided by whom? Like any evolved creature, we just do what we can to maximise our own advantage, without any real consideration of the consequences. Then, if a certain route turns out to be sufficiently disadvantageous, we modify our behaviour accordingly. Nothing is ever thought through properly because a) we don't know enough facts to make prediction possible, b) our brains are not sophisticated enough to do it and b) the system is chaotic in the mathemeatical sense anyway, so maybe it just cannot be predicted.
      Basically, we push until it gets fucked up, then the balance is shifted in favour of some other behaviour, or perhaps even another species. It's what has always happened, and it's what will always happen. The planet and its ecosystems don't "care", it just IS.

      Didn't you hear? We just jumped out of a tree.
      • by elucido (870205)
        All the while, when we were killing ourselves, in specific our tribal versions, we basically killed off the people who knew how to take care of the earth, destroying thousands of years of knowledge that likely was passed down form word of mouth.

        Go back further, during the inquisition and during other times of war, entire libraries with thousands of books were burned, knowledge which could have advanced us much sooner was vanished out of existance due to religious reasons. Now it's still happening, as we are
    • There is an interesting fact that people seem to forget. Cars are the clean option. Let me explain. At the end of the 19th century, all major cities were covered in horse shit. It was everywhere. You couldn't step on the street without stepping in maneure. It was a health nightmare, and was responsible for a good amount of the lower life expectancy back then.

      Then cars came along. Cars did not eat or poop. They didn't chew through street lamp poles while idle or spread disease amongst eachother. Car
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, although definitely not one of Clancy's best, deals with a enviro-nut case group that wants to eradicate all human life on earth (except their own cult, of course).

    As you might predict, it never gets off the ground, but if you can get past the almost comic plot, there's a lot of semi-informed commentary and discussion about "what if" and just how quickly the Earth would rebound.
  • by mr_majestyk (671595) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:47PM (#16493575)
    ...nobody would be running Windows.
  • How fickle is that? After all we've done for it, too. We've made a good start at cleaning up the mess left behind by the dinosaurs -- all those fossil fuels! And we've exposed ourselves to toxic flourocarbons in order to get rid of the even more corrosive and dangerous layer of ozone obscuring the sun.

    And to think that after all that, the earth is just going to forget about us. Well, not if we dump her, first!

  • even better! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quadraginta (902985) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:48PM (#16493595)
    Bah, this fellow lacks imagination.

    Imagine how beautifully clean and preserved the planet would be without life of any type! No more messy leaf litter, buzzing flies around dungheaps, the occasional lightning-sparked forest fire besmudging the sky with ugly smoke...
  • by pestilence669 (823950) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:48PM (#16493599)
    Is all the environmental hype about styrofoam over blown? Will some ancient civilization mine for it like we mine for oil? ... or will it disappear?
  • Alien perspective? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Retardican (1006101)
    Humans have altered the environment extensively throughout our existence. An alien species visiting us 5000 years ago would have noticed all the farming, extensive irrigation, not to mention a pyramid or two sticking out. Without humanity, would Earth be as interesting?
  • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:50PM (#16493623)
    In 1.5 billion years the sun will start to grow into a red giant and solar winds winds will strip the Earth of its atmosphere.

    Then in about 5 billion years after that, the sun will have consumed the Earth and whatever life remains on it.

    (Source)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Sun_Life.png [wikipedia.org]

    This is of course barring large iron metorites or collision with large space bodies and of course a passing of another solor system or galaxy in the meantime.

    So if man went away tomorrow... Life would be peachy for nature for a while, but then it would die by itself due to reasons far beyond non-intelligents life control (unless dolphins evolve into space faring creatures on their own)

    So nature has to put up with man for a while to we figure out how to get off this rock... Or get used to not being around in a few billion years.
    • by Quaoar (614366)
      I think the point is that nature will only take about 20,000 years to even things out, which is only 2e5/1.5e9 ~ .01% of the years the planet will have before its atmosphere is stripped.

      You're also forgetting that man himself only needed ~50,000 years to mature from animals to advanced civilization...who's to say that nature won't create another creature who will be as advanced as we were in the time the Earth has left?
  • no (Score:5, Funny)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:52PM (#16493665) Homepage Journal
    "The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,'"

    not to me.
  • Hold on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by numbsafari (139135)
    While I kill myself to repent...

    What a stupid and lame discussion. Of course we have an impact on the earth. So do insects, cows and bacteria.

    The rocks would be happier without the moss.

    The questions shouldn't be about what if we all leave, they should be about how can we maintain an environment hospitable to us. That includes reducing pollution and expanding the "wild zones" and "gardens" of "terra firma".

    Should we all just stop existing because, oh dear, we might actually have an impact on the rest of the
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dedazo (737510)

      What a stupid and lame discussion. Of course we have an impact on the earth. So do insects, cows and bacteria

      Not to seem pedantic here and all, but man is the only animal species that actually destroys ecosystems and causes the extincion of other species that are not in his food chain. We are also the only species that is incapable of existing in an ecological balance. We have an inordinate amount of impact on the planet. Elk and bacteria haven't yet industrialized the production of resources (and the eli

  • by admactanium (670209) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:55PM (#16493701) Homepage
    Falling trees would never again make a sound. So sad.
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:55PM (#16493709)
    If you're interested in what the United States would be like without humans, there is a nifty map developed by A.W. Kuchler in 1964 and refined periodically since of what would grow where without human interference. It is called Potential Natural Vegetation of the Coterminous United States and can be found at the US Forest Service. [fs.fed.us]
  • or other "intelligent" life, then the Earth and the rest of the universe is a big waste of space.
  • This is funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:55PM (#16493715) Homepage Journal
    Chernobyl gives hope to this end. 'I really expected to see a nuclear desert there,' says Ronald Chesser, an environmental biologist. 'I was quite surprised. When you enter into the exclusion zone, it's a very thriving ecosystem.'

    Uh, what? Why would you expect to see a nuclear desert there? Armed with some research papers and some estimates of how much nuclear material was released, it should have been easy enough to figure out that no, all life will not fail. In fact the plants are doing great (and some of the shorter-lived animals) because there aren't a bunch of people running around destroying them.

    Anyway, this is not a big surprise. There are some indications that it might rebound even faster than these studies suggest. One of the major indications is the continued presence of complex animals (like land-based vertebrates) after all the cataclysms which have occurred since they first crawled out of the ocean. I mean we only even know about a few and some of them are major impacts, some are ice ages, etc.

    Just as an example the earth has a built-in mechanism for regulating global temperature. As temperatures rise, the ice caps melt, and sea levels rise. This has two major effects: One, it leads to additional evaporation, which causes cooling; the other is that it covers more land, which results in more light being reflected back into space, which also causes cooling. This pitches things towards an ice age; the globe cools, the ice caps refreeze, the sea level falls, evaporation decreases, more land is exposed, the earth retains more sunlight and the planet heats up. The cycle continues.

    Of course, we may not be too happy about this, and there are things that we can do to make a difference and maybe (at some point) stabilize the system. Every year we put out (as a species, on average) something like 20 times as much CO2 as active surface volcanoes...

    • by shmlco (594907)
      He's surprised because he's been indoctrinated to believe that ANY amount of radioactivity is bad, bad, bad and will kill anything and everything within miles and miles for thousands upon thousands of years.

      Heck, I probably get a higher dose going to Aspen for the weekend...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drinkypoo (153816)
        Yeah I was just reading a paper on the reactors used on naval surface vessels (there being fairly little released material on those in submarines) and it was talking about dosages, the difference between aspen (or some place like that, I forget) and D.C. was like an order of magnitude greater than the exposure from working right next to one of those reactors. It's so wonderful to be rational, and to be able to make rational decisions, for example knowing that it's safer to fly across the country than to dri
  • by Clueless Moron (548336) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:56PM (#16493723)

    Modern "food" turkeys have such huge breasts that they are physically unable to breed without human help. Even if they escaped their pens, they'd be doomed to extinction.

    Modern bananas have been bred totally seedless, like various grape varieties. They spread entirely by grafting. So they too would soon die off.

    The article mocks Poodles, but I wonder a bit about that. They're actually considered one of the smartest breeds of dog there is, and that must be worth something when a major change in lifestyle is called for.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The article mocks Poodles, but I wonder a bit about that. They're actually considered one of the smartest breeds of dog there is, and that must be worth something when a major change in lifestyle is called for.

      Large poodles might have a small chance to survive, although really the only advantage they have is that they're designed to float on water for longer than most other dogs. Small poodles would be well and rightly fucked, they're just defenseless compared to other small dogs. I mean even dachsunds

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @06:59PM (#16493763) Homepage Journal
    for nuclear.
  • Better? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by venicebeach (702856) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:02PM (#16493793) Homepage Journal
    'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better'
    Better for whom?
  • Always remember, 'better' is a human-formed opinion. The Earth would not be better, or worse, off without us. Just...different. If all life were removed from Earth, it would be far worse... in our opinion. Without humans, their is no know universal qualifier as "better" or "worse;" just "is" or "is not," though without a way to observe, we couldn't be sure...


    All of humanity shares a wonderful ability to briefly transcend their individual lives and apply human qualities across far-reaching matters. That
  • And likely, half a million years after we're gone, chimps or bears will recreate their own special version of the human species.
  • by dominion (3153) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:09PM (#16493899) Homepage
    Probably the biggest PR mistake that environmentalists ever made was that they made their activism about "The Earth", and not about our ability to survive on it.

    Nature is a resilient bitch. We could hardly do the kind of damage necessary to make Earth unlivable by something.

    We can, however, make life very unpleasant for mankind. And that's why we need to preserve the environment as best as possible. For us, not the environment.
  • I'm not aware of how the Earth, taken as an entity, can 'lose' before the rest of humanity 'loses', ignoring planetary colonization (one would think the technology required for this would be enough to clean up whatever problem we cause at home). The planet is certainly far durable than we are, and we're getting along fine right now so it can't be worse than us.
  • I don't buy it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rob Kaper (5960) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:13PM (#16493961) Homepage
    We find dinosaur bones after a hundred of millions of years. But there wouldn't be a single trace of the gigantic structures we've built? Sounds unlikely. I'm surely one of those concrete buildings will accidently not get meddled with too much (and in turn shield its contents a little better). If in just a few million years our presence would go unnoticed by an intelligence similar to our own, then wouldn't that imply that for all we know this hypothesis actually did happen to the dinosaurs and possibly species before (or even since) them?

  • What if every human being, all 6.5 billion of us, were suddenly abducted and the planet was left to fend for itself? The planet would heal.

    This coming from the eco-hystericals who focus entirely on humans as being solely responsible for anything that happens on the entire planet, which is usually bad. That's some lopsided power.

  • "What if every human being, all 6.5 billion of us, were suddenly abducted and the planet was left to fend for itself? The planet would heal. "

    I think i have heard similar things from earth first terrorists here in boston. The only difference being this "scientist" talks about alien abduction whereas the earth first freaks talk about the more realistic way of doing the same thing, killing thier fellow humans.
  • The planet will heal whether we get out of the way or not. It will take us offline, as a necessary step towards self-correction.

    Thinking we have control from the top is a mistake - that is like a giant clam feeling remorse for eating too much plankton. We are simply one part of one large mechanizm that will do whatever it needs to make corrections.

    It is only our hubris that allows us to think we are part of the system, yet somehow unique.

    We are not unique and it is just a matter of time before the
  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladvNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:19PM (#16494067) Homepage
    "The planet is doing just fine... it's the people who are fucked."
  • so what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:19PM (#16494077) Homepage Journal
    this is assuming humanity is some sort of scourge, a fungal growth. first off, you reading this right now are human, so to think of humanity in this way is just some sort self-hatred like a depressed teenaged wanker

    fine, go hate yourself. but don't think that your self-hatred is a component of all of us or has any power over your fellow man. i for one have faith in humanity in doing the right thing. am i stupid? am i crazy?

    i don't know. humanity could fail. but i also know that giving up on humanity entirely guarantees that you will fail. so have some simple faith in your fellow man. or, frankly, shut up. because you're not helping anything with empty pointless doubt and pessimism

    constructive criticism is helpful. but empty gloomy pessimism is worth absolutely nothing at all. it is self-fulfilling prophecy to doubt the future of mankind. if you don't believe in the future, you sit there, and you do nothing, and therefore ensure that there is no future. that means you are just damage to be routed around. you're not helpful or useful to anyone else in any way if you don't believe in a future

    and you are quite arrogant if you think no one else believes in a future either, that your lack of faith is supposed to have any meaning to anyone around you. lack of faith does not beat faith. lack of faith doesn't grow anything, it doesn't spread, it just dies. it's just damage to be routed around. faith is something that creates and grows and spreads. faith always beats lack of faith, because it acts and creates. lack of faith just sits there, inert and useless

    join in humanity in faith, or go away, and shut up. seriously, if you don't believe in the future of humanity, why are you talking? there's no future right? so what's the point of trying to add anything? you're not being constructive. being constructive is based on the supposition that it's the worth the effort, that there is a future worth working towards

    so make up your mind:
    1. keep talking. therefore affirming that you were wrong. that there is good in humanity worth working for after all
    2. shut up. therefore reaffirming your stated belief that humanity is doomed


    but to continue talking, and not believe in a future, is not a logically cohesive position for anyone to take on the subject of humanity. it's an unfounded and incoherent position in life. so work it out, teenaged human, and get back to us later when you are worth something to yourself and others and have words worth our time for us to listen to
  • Just plain stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr@terralo[ ].net ['gic' in gap]> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:20PM (#16494083)
    This is just plain stupid. Nice he harps on CO2.

    Little does he know. During the Ordovician CO2 levels were 13x to 17x higher than now. The earth slipped into a deep freeze snowball phase during this time. Throughout the Carboniferous CO2 levels were much higher than now. Back in the PreCambrian CO2 was much higher than now... up into the 80,000 ppm range in fact compared to 370 ppm now.

    So not only is the story just plain tripe - it is also based on a poor understanding of the history of the planet.

    I always thought the Dinosaurs were the most dominant life form. Give me a break!
  • by HoneyBeeSpace (724189) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @09:00PM (#16495147) Homepage
    The EdGCM [columbia.edu] project is a NASA Global Climate Model (GCM) ported to run on Mac and Win computers, and wrapped in a point-and-click interface. If you'd like to turn the Sun down by a few percent or remove the CO2 you can do so with checkboxes and sliders

    So if you want to find out what the earth would be like without humans, you can do so yourself. Download, double-click to install, and then...

    You can use the values for paleo-climate to get CO2, N2O, and other greenhouse gasses from pre-industrial and pre-human times. You can set up trends (changes in inputs) for the future. You can take modern values and then at the year 2010 have everything drop to pre-human values. Run the model for a few hundred years (a day or two on a modern computer), and you'll see how long until the Earth reaches equilibrium.

    Disclaimer: I'm the project developer.
  • by sootman (158191) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @09:09PM (#16495229) Homepage Journal
    Earth Abides, 1949 [wikipedia.org]
  • by flowerp (512865) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @06:31AM (#16499023)

    If humankind suddenly disappeared, quite a few nuclear reactors would spin
    completely out of control (can't really trust the automated shutdown systems,
    - see Forsmark).

    The resulting burning nuclear cores might result in severe long term
    contamination of large areas. This has not been accounted for in this
    timeline.

  • Older article (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @08:45AM (#16499903) Homepage Journal
    About 20 -- 25 years ago, Scientific American did a similar article. They picked several American structures like the St. Louis arch, the World Trade Center, and the Hoover Dam, and for each one asked an expert, "What will happen to this if all the humans suddenly disappeared?" For most, the answers were fairly straightforward ("A hurricane will eventually take it out," "An earthquake will knock it over"), but the one for the Hoover Dam was fascinating:

    Eventually, the dam's power systems would notice nobody was around and close all the penstock gates. But the dam needs power to hold the gates closed, and it's no longer making power. Once external power fails (yes, electricity flows to the dam as well as from) and the battery backups fail, the penstock gates will open about a quarter of the way, and the turbines will start to spin up. But the breakers have all tripped, so there's no electricity coming out of the generators. This is important, because without electric power, you can't lubricate the generators' bearings. So after a while the bearings seize, which is guaranteed to be dramatic.

    After the powerhouse destroys itself, the dam itself will probably survive until the end of the next ice age. That's when a lake the size of Montana eventually bursts through the ice and about half its contents slam into the dam all at once, tearing its top off and chewing apart the rock all around it. There will be enough rubble left over for Lake Mead to partially and permanently reform, at a third its original depth.

    Has anybody else ever read this article? That's all I remember from it.

  • by GReaToaK_2000 (217386) on Thursday October 19, 2006 @10:13AM (#16500953)
    Personally, I was driving around about 3-4 years ago up here in Rochester, NY when we had that huge blackout. Exactly what I expected would happen did happen...

    without power ALL of the massively inefficient electric devices STOPPED. In doing so, they stopped producing massive amounts of heat. All of those building AC units, all the electric motors, and a plethora of other devices.

    I was trapped in bumper to bumper traffic because people in this country get all freaked out and impatient. So, they don't handle the the whole "when the traffic light is out treat it as an all way stop" thing.

    In any event, I watched the temperature on a bank display. In the course of about 30 minutes it drop about 5-7 degrees and the wind picked up. Additionally, it was much quiter. It was wonderful. I am not saying we should just drop all technology. I am simply saying that most of our devices are incredibly inefficient and it seems obvious what would happen on this planet if all humans just vanished from the face of the Earth is very straight forward.

    The temperature would start to drop, dramatically. The wind would pick up and in a matter of a few years the Earth would start to reclaim the spaces we used to inhabit.

    I disagree with the article in one area. I don't think it would take tens of thousands of years. I think it would happen MUCH faster then that.

    That's my two or three cents.

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