New Scientist on a post-human Earth

Once there were parking lots
Now it’s a peaceful oasis
—Talking Heads, “Nothing But Flowers

How long would it take for the Earth to forget we were ever here?

That’s a question that New Scientist reporter Bob Holmes tackles in a fascinating, thorough examination of what would happen if all 6.5 billion of us humans were “spirited away tomorrow, transported to a re-education camp in a far-off galaxy.” (He’s trying to avoid dealing with corpse complications, but this sounds a lot like the Rapture, except I guess most of us won’t be going.)

OK, so the article’s only tangentially about food, but the news is actually rather cheering. Our physical traces — electrical lights, buildings, roads, even landfills — would soon be hard to find. Most monocultural ecosystems would eventually work their way back to a natural diverse state. Others, such as in Hawaii where introduced grasses have asserted survival superiority over native forests, might never return to the original. Feral descendants of domesticated animals would thrive, but GMO crops would probably not. Global warming would continue for a while, but then probably halt.

I’m not in favor of our species ending with either a bang or a whimper, but it’s nice knowing we haven’t yet wrecked the planet entirely for the billion others we share it with.

(Via Gristmill, which has a lively debate going on about whether humans are a “cancer” on our planetary host)

One Responseto “New Scientist on a post-human Earth”

  1. Matt says:

    Thanks for the link.

    Although our traces will disappear relateviely quickly, there will be a continued global warming effect, as there is a lag between the production and effect of pollution.