The World Without US: Parts III & IV
Andy Allen
Amy Williams
S. Khang
The Fate of Ancient and Modern
The English Chunnel
 Animals such as reindeer from Norway and wolves from
Romania could potentially travel the English Chunnel
into Britain.
 The chunnel is protected by a buried bed of marl and has
one of the best chances of surviving for millions of years
without humans.
 It would likely flood, with rising waters entering the
Coquelles, France entrance, and remain intact, but nonfunctional.
The Great Wall of China
 4,000 miles long.
 Comprised of rammed earth, stones, fired brick,
timbers, and glutinous rice used as mortar paste.
 Requires human maintenance.
 Will easily succumb to tree roots and water, eroding
until only stone remains.
The Panama Canal
 Separates North and South America, eliminating the need
for ships traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific to travel
around South America.
 Like a “wound” on the earth. Requires extensive
maintenance to keep from “healing.”
 Without humans, the dams would fail and the Rio Chagres
river would reclaim it’s natural path and Lake Gatun would
drain, causing the Panama Canal to dry up.
Mount Rushmore
 Completed in 1939 by Gutzon Borglum.
 Carved in fine-grained 1.5 billion year old Precambrian
 Erodes only 1 inch every 10,000 years.
 At that rate, Mount Rushmore could last for 7.2 million
The World Without War
 Wars can destroy ecosystems.
 War can also be beneficial to ecosystems. For example, during
Nicaragua’s Contra War of the 1980s, shellfish and timber
exploitation was halted along the Miskito Coast, and the lobster
and pine species rebounded.
 The Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, which marks the divide
between North and South Korea is a strip 2 km on each side that
has not been inhabited since 1953. Many species who would
otherwise have disappeared seek refuge in this area, including the
Amur leopard, Asiatic black bears, Eurasian lynx, Musk deer, etc.
 Without humans, the rest of the world could follow this pattern.
Wings Without Us
 In a world without humans the passenger pigeon would be the most abundant
bird on Earth. They flock 300 miles long and they would number in the billions.
They would eat immense amounts of acorn, beechnuts, and berries.
 A way humans have kept the population of passenger pigeons is by cutting down
forests and limiting their food supply. Another way is by shooting them with
lead pellets.
 In 1850 when most of the heartland forests had been cut down passenger
pigeons were taken into New York and Boston by the box car. When word came
around that their numbers were dropping it drove hunters to slaughter them
 By the 1900’s the fate for the passenger pigeon was over. A few were kept at the
Cincinnati Zoo, but by 1914 the last one died.
 Other great birds to be extinct because of humans were Moas that stood 10 feet
tall and the Dodo of the Indian Ocean’s Mauritius Island.
 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services reported in 2000 that 77,000
towers had to have aircraft warning lights because they are higher
than 199 ft. These blinking aircraft lights attract birds and it was
estimated that about 200 million birds had made collisions with
these towers. Many of these birds being found dead that hit these
towers tend to be birds traveling at night.
 Another type of infrastructure that is keeping the population of birds
down is the wires that run through every pole in every town. Bird’s
wings are able to brush by an un-insulated transformer or bad wiring
and it sends a shock that most times stops their heart. Other birds
die simply by flying into the power line poles themselves.
 The two big killers to birds are the automobile and the window.
Centuries ago people were traveling by horse and buggy, now their
driving 80 mph getting ready to cream Tweety. Windows are not
recognizable by any sized or type of bird, and a collision with a
window can either break the bird’s neck or damage its beak.
The Pampered Predator
 As the human population has grown so has the cat population.
Between 1970 and 1990 the cat count rose from 30 to 60
 Fact about cats: They not only kill birds for food, but they do
so for pleasure as well.
 Simple alley cats are credited to up to 28 kills per year. Other
cats that live on farms and rural areas can triple those of an
alley cat. In Wisconsin alone around there are 2 million freeranging cats killing up to 219 million birds per year. The
nationwide count is in the billions.
Hot Legacy
 If humans suddenly vanished, we would leave behind
approximately 30,000 nuclear warheads.
 These warheads have almost no chance of exploding without us, as
they require that the fissionable materials be slammed together at
a speed and precision which does not occur in nature.
 Eventually the bomb housings will erode, exposing the insides of
the warheads to the elements. The plutonium within could be
disastrous to animals who come in contact with it.
 It would take 250,000 years before the plutonium was completely
 In the 1930s, humans began using large amounts of CFCs
and in 1985, it was discovered that these CFCs had created
a hole in the ozone layer.
Today, we use milder forms of CFCs, called HCFCs.
If humans disappear, the CFCs and HCFCs that are found in
things such as air conditioners and refrigerators will
eventually be released into the atmosphere as these things
The result will be slow and chronic, not fatal, for remaining
Plants and animals would have to naturally select for higher
levels of UV tolerance in order to survive.
 Uranium-238 is created by converting the more potent
Uranium-235 into a gas compound, then separating the
different atomic weights by spinning it in a centrifuge.
 Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.
 In the US alone, there is at least a half-million tons of it,
which is used primarily for fashioning bullets.
 It could possibly emit radiation for the entirety of the
Earth’s existence.
 In the United States alone there are millions of tons of
nuclear waste.
 The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern
New Mexico is the storage area for detritus from nuclear
weapons and defense research. It contains 6.2 million cubic
feet of waste.
 humans protect it and other waste storage facilities from
wildfires, but without humans, it will most likely catch fire
and send clouds of radioactive ash across the continent or
even further.
 If everyone on Earth disappear, 441 nuclear power plants
would overheat and burn or melt.
 This would emit radioactive material into the air.
 Radioactive lava would be released and would later cool and
become cemented.
 It could remain deadly for species that approach it for
thousands of years.
 Typical human activity is more damaging to biodiversity
than nuclear power plant disasters. In places such as
Chernobyl, certain species have shorter life spans, but
multiply at higher rates, so their populations are not
 Over time, animals would develop a tolerance to radiation
emitted after we are gone and would thrive without us.
Our Geological Record
 In the Northwest territories of Canada, ice ages have gouged
cavities into the land. These cavities contain permafrost.
 This permafrost is melting due to diamond mining in these
holes. If it continues to melt, it would thaw ice that forms
around methane deposits, or clathrates, and 400 billion tons
of methane deposits would be released, elevating global
warming to levels unknown since the Permian extinction,
250 million years ago.
 Since the 1970s, humans have been sheering away the top
third of mountains in Appalachia in order to mine coal.
 If humans remain for a few more decades, most of the coal
would be gone. We would dig it up and burn it.
 One plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to seal it in
stone by injecting it in saline aquifers that lie under
impermeable depths of thousands of feet. These deposits
would remain as a marker of human existence.
Archaeological Interlude
 The Mayan civilization lasted for at least 1,600 years, with
unrivaled achievements in mathematics, literature,
architecture, and astronomy. They collapsed and vanished
within a period of 100 years beginning in the 8th century.
 The Mayans lived in equilibrium with the land, participating
in minimal war and doing little damage to the landscape.
 The civilization eventually collapsed under the weight of the
excess of nobles who demanded thrones, excessive riches, and
temples, which exhausted resources.
 The fate of the Mayans shows just how possible it is for
humans to become extinct. If something throws off the
balance between ecology and society, civilizations can
 Fossil records show that 252 million years ago, the planet
was abundant with trees, insects, amphibians, and early
carnivorous reptiles. Then, 90% of these species went
extinct. This is known as the Permian Extinction.
 Mass extinctions are common throughout Earth history.
 The current explosion of extinctions might be indicative of
another mass extinction, which might take humans with it.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Would We Be Missed?
 “If humans were gone only a third of all birds on Earth would notice” –
Steve Hilty (ornithologist). The birds he is referring to are the ones who
don’t stray away from places such as the Amazon jungles or Australian
 Other animals that would notice would be hunted, stressed, and
endangered animals but they would not mind our disappearance. The
most intelligent species of animals such as pigs, dolphins, and
chimpanzees would miss the human existence very little.
 Animals that would miss the human existence would be domesticated
animals such as dogs, cats, and other household pets. Humans would also
be missed by humanus capitis and pediculous humanus humanus (head and
body lice). There are 200 other bacteria that live and feed off dandruff
and dead skin that would highly miss the human race.
Preserving the Human Body
 Mike Matthews (professor at University of Minnesota’s Mortuary Science
program) states, “In much of the modern world, we begin with
embalming.” Embalming delays the decomposing process and is usually
only used for funerals.
 Embalming wasn’t common until the Civil War when it was used to send
fallen soldier’s home. The soldier’s blood (which decomposes at a rapid
rate) was replaced with anything that had that wouldn’t decompose. Most
times it was a bottle of Whiskey or Scotch.
 Arsenic was also used until it was banned in the 1890’s. What
archaeologists today are finding is that the bodies still decomposed but the
arsenic was left behind. After arsenic came today’s formaldehyde, which
oxidizes into formic acid (same toxin in fire ants and bee stingers).
 Eco-burialists have been protesting formaldehyde because of the amount
of pollution it is putting into our water tables. Eco-burialists also
challenge the process of being buried in a tomb after death and then being
put into the ground. They believe in “from dust back to dust”.
 The funeral industry puts a large emphasis on preserving the body and
sealing it away. Some caskets are made to withstand practically anything,
and even in a flood the caskets would float to the top. Although these
caskets are luxurious and indestructible, the truth is there will be little to
no remains of the human being after it decomposes.
Being Wiped Out All at Once
 Dr. Thomas Ksiazek (chief of the Special Pathogens Branch at the
US Centers for Disease Control) states that it would be highly
unlikely for a disease to spread that would wipe out all humans.
 Dr. Ksiazek gives the Ebola and Marburg viruses in Africa as an
example. Although these viruses killed many villages, missionary
groups, and healthcare employees the viruses were able to be dealt
with once the hospital staff began thoroughly disinfecting
themselves and wearing protected gear when dealing with an
infected patient.
 The one virus we do have to worry about is a strain of Ebola –
Reston. As of now it only kills primates but if the virus were to
mutate humans would have a serious problem on their hands. Also,
if the AIDS virus became air born it could wipe out our species but
the chances of that happening are highly unlikely.
 Humans have been able to survive through sickness and viruses that
plagued villages with death because people eventually build
Les Knight: Founder of VHEMT
 VHMET: Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
 Knight believes that no virus or war could ever wipe out the
human race. He also makes the argument that there is no way
that anything else in life will be able to keep up with the
growth of human population (harvest, wars, and diseases).
 Knight makes the suggestion that everyone just quit
procreating. “Or that one virus that would truly be effective
strikes and all human sperm lose viability.”
 To back up his suggestion he states: in 21 years there will be
no such thing as juvenile delinquency, no orphan would go
un-adopted, abortions would be a thing of the past, and the
living would be able to live the rest of their days in peace.
 VHEMT not only advocates for the extinction of human
existence but is also trying to collect a group of respectful
thinkers and inventors who are trying to colonize virtual space
by developing software that is capable of uploading their minds
that would output into a body. (You never have to die)
 Prominent Transhumanists include Nick Bostrom (Oxford
philosopher), Ray Kurzweil (inventor), and James Hughes
(Trinity College bioethicist).
Art Without Us
 Bronze sculptures will outlast steel constructions.
 Things made from noble metals could likely last forever,
whereas materials from chemical compounds will revert
back to the compound.
 The Statue of Liberty is made from copper sheeting. If it
were to be knocked underwater by glacial waters, it would
oxidize and turn to stone, but would still bear the same
 Some museums etch music recordings onto copper with
lasers, so music may be one of the longest-lasting art-forms
after humans are gone.
 Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 space probes were launched in 1972 and
1973; Pioneer 10 will pass the red star Aldebran in 2 million years;
Pioneer 11 will not pass any stars for 4 million years.
Both probes have gold-plated aluminum plaques attached to their
frame which contain line etchings of a human male and female,
geographic depictions of Earth’s location in the solar system and the
sun’s location in the MilkeyWay, and a mathematic key indicating
wavelengths where humans are tuned in, listening.
The two Voyager Space shuttles launched in 1977.
They contain an aluminum, gold-anodized box which contains a 12
inch, gold-plated copper analog disk which carries greetings in
various languages; voices of animals; sounds such as thunder, a
jackhammer, a mother’s kiss, and crackling fire; photos of human
interactions, DNA, and architecture; and many examples of music,
from Navajo music, to Mozart, to Chuck Berry.
These shuttles could leave a lasting impression of human existence
on intelligent life-forms who may exist outside of Earth.
 Television and radio waves could potentially be detected by
intelligent extraterrestrials.
 In 2005, the signals bearing the sounds and images of the
first episode of I love Lucy had traveled 300 trillion miles
from Earth since 1955. By 2450, they could reach
intergalactic space.
 These signals would have to compete with other sounds,
such as those emitted by the Big Bang, but it’s possible that
they could be detected by intelligent life-forms.
The Sea Cradle
 A large threat to ocean life is what Jeremy Jackson would call
“slime”. “Slime” is when bacteria in the ocean uses up to much
oxygen and chokes out the coral which creates more room for
algae to feed more microbial bacteria.
 Microbes will make it for billions of years after the existence of
humans because they were here way before humans were, but the
only structures that microbes can form are mats of slime.
 The existence of fish life will flourish after the extinction of
human beings.
 Jeremy Jackson and a group of scientists went to Kingman Reef (a
place barely visible off the coast of Hawaii). Kingman Reef when
they went had been barely touched by humans and was flourishing
with life. The scientists learned that a large amount of fish in that
area was carnivorous fish such as sharks and snappers.
 Fish life is not this vibrant in other parts of the sea due to
human pollution, fishing and shark hunting, and other human
error. Enric Sala states, “In a year sharks may attack 15 people
while humans are taking sharks by the millions. It’s an unfair
 Sala also believes that if global warming were to have an effect
and wipe out the ecosystem that reefs would be able to sustain
themselves again within two centuries. “It would be patchy. In
some places, lots of large predators. Others would be coated
with algae. But in time, sea urchins would return. And the fish.
And then the corals.”
Coda: Our Earth, Our Souls
 It is inevitable that one day the sun will expand and absorb all the planets closest
to it. Earth will be one of these planets, and will one day be no more. When this
happens the aliens that do find our sound waves or shuttles with evidence of our
existence in them they will have no recollection of where we as humans
originated from.
 In Buddhist and Hinduism beliefs it is said that the Earth will be destroyed but
will start from scratch again. Christians believe that the Earth will melt but a
new one will take its place where the eternal light of God is their sun.
 Theorist James Lovelock proposes that we all go back into wildlife and live as
animals. The payoff of doing this would be that a new natural ecosystem would
be able to flourish and sustain itself. If humans could not keep up with the
natural way of living they would be swallowed into the black hole that they are
trying to push every other species into.
 If humans can make life better for themselves right now, why can’t they make
life better for everyone and everything else as well? This is the type of mindset
human beings need to push towards in order to enjoy what time we do have left
on this planet.

The World Without US: Parts III & IV