Puft! You gone. What would be the consequences if the same thing happened to all human beings on earth at exactly the same moment?
This imaginative experience not only explores the impact humanity has on the planet, but also the incredible resilience of nature. The ASAP Science YouTube channel has decided to answer this question.
Let's start from the beginning. The first few weeks would be chaotic, as the plants would run out of power and electric fences would stop working, leaving about 1.5 billion cows, 1 billion pigs and 20 billion chickens out there. Hungry and without anyone to feed them, most of these animals would starve or turn over lunch for over half a million dogs and roughly the same as cats, who now have to turn around alone to eat.
Of course, most of our pet breeds could not adapt to wildlife and would probably end up being beaten by tougher mutts. Not to mention larger animals like wolves and feral cats. Other animals that depend on humans, from rats to cockroaches, would suffer a drastic population reduction. In the case of lice, they are likely to be completely extinct.
In cities, many of our streets would turn into rivers, and without the energy to keep them dry, subway tunnels would soon fill with water. The avenues that are not submerged soon will be overgrown with herbs and vines, also housing larger trees.
But before that happens, entire cities that house many wooden houses would be razed to the ground, since without firefighters only lightning is needed to do huge damage. Inside, the houses would be taken by termites and other decomposers.
After 100 years, all the wooden structures will be gone and concrete buildings, cars and even bridges would not be far from this same destination. This is because steel is mostly composed of iron and, without the constant application of paints and other products, reacts with oxygen from the atmosphere and returns to its original form of iron oxide - which is just rust.
By then, humans have disappeared a few hundred years ago, and most of the world's animal species - at least those that we don't bring to extinction - will return to the levels they occupied before we evolved. However, your distribution will change forever. Camels now ride around Australia, while in North America, dozens of bird species "imported" from Europe will continue to thrive. It is even possible that, in some parts of the world, animals that have escaped from zoos could form new wild populations, leading to the possibility of lions inhabiting the Great Plains or hippos feasting on South American rivers.
Remains of our civilization
In addition, the electromagnetic radiation we create with our radios, satellites, and phones will forever proliferate through space.
However, if there is anything we create that will last much longer than us on Earth, it will be the trash we produce. The chemical bonds that are part of plastics and vulcanized rubber are immune to most digestive enzymes used by bacteria to break down natural polymers and, unlike metal, plastics do not rust. These microplastics seep into waterways or go to the ocean and eventually deposit in sediments.
Hundreds of thousands of years from now, alien geologists may be surprised to find sedimentary rocks full of tiny carbon-based particles that were once part of tires or plastic bags.
The survival of either material depends on the climatic conditions of that environment. Everything will last much longer in the desert, where there is no moisture to accelerate rusting or sustain decomposing organisms. And while the carbon cycle would cause carbon dioxide levels to balance after a few thousand years, local deposits of durable organic chemicals and radioactive material could persist for a very, very long time.
It is hard to imagine what extraterrestrial paleontologists of the future would think about us; How will they explain our level of plastic or the fact that in a geological blink we can get out of Africa and basically colonize all the other habitable places on Earth?
Well, they would surely wonder why, if we were so successful for so long, we disappeared so quickly.