I’ve commented on the History Channel’s Life After People before but the series holds a strange fascination for me. It’s sort of comforting to know that once mankind is out of the picture, Nature will bring itself into balance again, correcting the damage we inflicted upon the Earth.
It has always bothered me that the show presents the ultimate deterioration of mankind’s edifices and the infrastructure necessary to maintain our civilization as a continuing series of catastrophes. There’s no one left to concern themselves with it. The surviving species don’t care and they probably were never all that impressed with it anyway. It’s just Nature moving on and restoring the balance. Our impact upon the Earth is only temporary.
The series uses the premise that all human beings just mysteriously vanished, leaving the lights on, phones off the hook, and cars in the street. Every other species remained as we left them. Our pets patiently waited for us to return until hunger led them to realize that maybe we weren’t coming back.
I realize that scenario was a convenient device to set up the premise of the show. For the purposes of the program what happened to us isn’t important. Still, it leaves some loose threads. In the episode I watched today, they said that zoo animals were a great unknown. They assumed that many of them might somehow find their way out of the zoo and roam the streets, adapting to their new environments. I think under the show’s scenario of all humans just suddenly disappearing, most zoo animals would succumb to death from starvation, dehydration, and disease since there would be no one to feed and water them or to clean up after them. The same fate would befall most of our pets as well, particularly if they were indoors at the time of the mass exodus of humanity.
More realistically, the decline of mankind will probably be more gradual. A catastrophic event might wipe out most humans but there would be groups of survivors who would scavenge and might fall prey to predators or disease. In the meantime, maintenance of the infrastructure would be a low priority and fall by the wayside. The remaining people would witness the beginning stages of the deterioration.
As it’s stated in the show, “Everything that man designs contains the seeds of its own destruction.” To that I would add, “Maintenance is essential. Without it, everything falls apart.” It intrigues me that in our culture, maintenance is seen as something we’d rather not pay for or be bothered with, a necessary evil that is taken for granted until things start breaking down.