Monday, July 19, 2010

More Life After People

By David Luhrssen
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In the improbable but intriguing premise of the History Channel’s “Life After People,” the human race instantly vanishes, leaving the natural world intact. The how is unexplained, the what if is fascinating. “Life After People” is a plausible set of scenarios on what would become of the earth if we weren’t here to cultivate and manipulate nature—to be its good stewards or its careless caretakers.



Out on DVD, “Life After People: Season Two” gives evidence that even good concepts can run low on gas after the first season. One episode explores the idea that with no faithful to attend to them, the world’s temples would crumble. Really? But other episodes are more promising. Perhaps the best one concerns the untended toxins science has synthesized. Within a few months after humanity disappeared, nuclear power plants would flame into red-hot bonfires, spewing radiation to the winds and turning the surrounding lands into dead zones. Without electricity, power stations would stop and sewerage would foul the rivers. In some areas this could trigger methane gas explosions.

The interesting speculation goes on: Many of the more artificial species of household pets would not fare well without their masters. Raccoons and other rodents would feast at first on everything we left behind, causing a litter boom that would eventually turn on itself when human garbage ran out. Most buildings of the Modern Age weren’t built to last and will make ugly ruins, rusty and gape toothed. Even the most cunningly designed structures, like London’s “Gherkin” tower, will eventually surrender to the elements.

Although marred by a penchant for the pornography of destruction, “Life After People” is a reminder that nothing human, even memory, lasts without our ongoing attention. If abandoned to the forces of nature, all of our works will eventually erode and turn to dust

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