The History Channel makes the case for VHEMT.

May 26th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

The History Channel - Life After People

Last January, The History Channel aired Life After People, a one-part documentary that imagined what a world suddenly absent humans might look like:

In the program, scientists and other experts speculate about how the Earth, animal life, and plant life might be like if, suddenly, humanity no longer existed, as well as the effect humanity’s disappearance might have on the artificial aspects of civilization. Speculation is based upon documented results of the sudden removal of humans from a geographical area and the possible results that would occur if humanity discontinues its maintenance of buildings and urban infrastructure.

The documentary features the gradual and post-apocalyptic disintegration of urban civilization in a time span of 10,000 years after humanity suddenly vanished. The hypotheses are depicted using CGI dramatizations of the possible fate of iconic structures and landmarks (i.e. the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, the Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hoover Dam).

Having just received Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us for FSMas, I was super-psyched about the documentary (which aired as part of a block of similar programming, such as Last Days on Earth) – and Life After People did not disappoint. The graphics were amazing, and the time projections – from 1 to 10 days after our disappearance, to 1 to 10,000 years post-h. sapiens – were quite impressive. Perhaps most importantly, and much like The World Without Us, Life After People gave me great hope for the future – or rather, for a future without us. Many of humanity’s so-called “greatest achievements” will prove a small match for the forces of nature, particularly once we’re no longer around to beat nature back. Those species which we haven’t yet driven to extinction will be given a second chance, and the earth will regenerate, reclaiming the land and resources we’ve stolen from it.

As I wrote in a review of The World Without Us,

Environmentalists – indeed, any person [with a] modicum of decency – will be happy to know that much of what we’ve done to the Earth, can be quickly undone. With the exception of those species we’ve already managed to eradicate, many endangered and threatened animal species do stand a fighting chance in a world without us. Many of our “greatest accomplishments,” from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Hoover Dam, will eventually crumble without humans around to maintain them. Forests, grasslands, and jungles will recover lost ground, though native species will be forced into competition with exotic ones introduced by humans. Global warming will slow and the ozone layer will regain molecular equilibrium. Our most enduring legacies will be our most unnatural creations: nuclear waste, plastics, and petrochemicals. Hopefully a world without us will evolve microbes to digest the more than one billion pounds of plastic we’ve dumped into the environment since the late ‘50s. […]

Whether it happens tomorrow or in 900 million years – when our Sun enters a red giant phase and begins to expand and contract, thus heating the Earth and evaporating our surface water – we will disappear. In this regard, we’re no better than the great megafauna of the Holocene epoch – or the lowly cockroaches and rodents that congregate in our fragile urban areas. It’s not a question of if we will vanish, but when; perhaps we should make our exit a graceful one, taking no more of our fellow earthlings to the grave than we already have.

Call me a hopeless cynic if you’d like, but it’s worth noting that Life After People was the History Channel’s most-watched program ever, with an estimated 5.4 million viewers. Something resonated.

Anyhow, while flipping around the teevee this morning, I was happily surprised to stumble upon Episode 2 of Life After People: The Series. Apparently last year’s documentary proved so popular that the History Channel commissioned a 10-part mini-series:

LIFE AFTER PEOPLE: The Series begins in the moments after people disappear. As each day, month, and year passes, the fate of a particular environment, city or theme is disclosed. Special effects, combined with interviews from top experts in the fields of engineering, botany, biology, geology, and archeology provide an unforgettable visual journey through the ultimately hypothetical.

As modern metropolises like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington DC are ravaged by nature; the series exposes the surprising insights about how they function today. Basing this futuristic world on the surprising history of real locations, already abandoned by man, like a century-old shack in the arctic and an abandoned island that was once the most densely populated place on earth are featured in the series.

In every episode, viewers will witness the epic destruction of iconic structures and buildings, from the Sears Tower, Astrodome, and Chrysler Building to the Sistine Chapel – – allowing viewers to learn how they were built and why they were so significant. Big Ben will stop ticking within days; the International Space Station will plummet to earth within a few short years, while historic objects, like the Declaration of Independence and the mummified remains of King Tutankhamen will remain for decades.

The series will also explore the creatures that might take our place. With humans gone, animals will inherit the places where we once lived. Elephants that escape from the LA zoo will thrive in a region once dominated by their ancestors, the wooly mammoth. Alligators will move into sub-tropical cities like Houston  feeding off household pets. Tens of thousands of hogs, domesticated for food, will flourish. In a world without people, new stories of predators, survival and evolution will emerge.

Humans won’t be around forever, and now we can see in detail, for the very first time, the world that will be left behind in Life After People: The Series.

The first episode aired on April 21, 2009; Episode 6 is slated to air tonight. Though I missed the first half of the season, I was able to record all five episodes as the History Channel reran them throughout the day today. Methinks I was lucky, as the History Channel’s schedule doesn’t show any additional “mini-marathons” any time soon, however, knowing THC, they’re likely to rerun the series eventually. (Hells bells, they’re still airing the original documentary.)

Or, you can purchase the series via the History Channel or Amazon (or rent it via Netflix) once all the episodes have aired; currently, the original documentary is available for rent or purchase via these routes.

Either way, I’ll keep y’all updated. Or try to anyway, I can’t promise I won’t forget.

Meanwhile, go check out Life After People’s website, which is chock full of nerdy and/or misanthropic goodness (in my case, both). You can view an episode guide, complete with extended video clips, or try your luck at the timeline puzzles. They’ve even got post-episode quizzes, yo!

From the little I caught this morning, the series looks every bit as interesting as the original documentary; in particular, Episode 1, “The Bodies Left Behind,” strikes this Jessica Mitford fan’s fancy: “[W]e’ll see what happens to some of the bodies left behind. Most embalmed and buried, some mummified, others cryogenically frozen. Will any of them truly achieve immortality?”

Probably not.

May we live long and die out.

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