30 seconds of fame

Caitlin Brown

London Bridge is falling down. Isn’t someone going to do something? Well, no, not if the reason it’s falling is because we’re not here.

Last Monday my roommate and I watched the History Channel’s interpretation of humanity’s biggest hypothetical question: What would happen to planet Earth if the human race were to suddenly disappear forever? Since no one really knows, all scientists and scholars can do is look at cases such as Chernobyl or simply use their background to make several educated guesses and predictions. My roommate and I had a question of our own, however — why the fascination?

The History Channel’s show, titled “Life After People,” hypothesized that bridges would fall into great disrepair, skyscrapers could become their own ecosystems for the animals who managed to survive and after thousands of years, landmarks such as the Sphinx would be buried by sand or vegetation. Eventually, the world would return to its natural state — breaking down and covering everything man-made. But why do most of us care so much? Isn’t the point that we’re going to be gone? Is it because we think we have such an impact on the world, when really it would do just fine without us — in fact, it would flourish?

Another question addressed by the show was the fate of the animals. What will happen to poor little Pookie? Sorry, but that yappy Chihuahua won’t have long to wait before he’s dog chow. Literally.

Animals that have been displaced from their natural homes such as bears, wolves and deer, would begin to migrate back to their original habitats. Who would mourn us? The cockroaches? How comforting to know that they will live to dance — or crawl — on our graves. Which is another question — what kind of situation would ever arise where we would all just disappear, leaving no adverse effects on our surroundings? As in no nuclear fallout or bodies everywhere? The best thing I could come up with was alien abduction, but even that I’m not so sure about.

The show makes us look at the impermanence of our lives — the blip that we have been on the face of the Earth. After all, the narrator told us, if the history of the world were condensed into a 24-hour period, the time humans have been roaming around would be a mere 30 seconds.

The time it takes you to shampoo your hair.

Watch a YouTube clip.

Make plans for dinner with a friend.

All things that wouldn’t be necessary if we were gone. I think the fascination comes from our love of ourselves — and why shouldn’t we love ourselves? The human race is an astounding thing. But is intelligent life more impressive than a planet? Not if the planet proves to be more intelligent than we were.

After all, in the end, it will be the one that survives.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn

Would scarcely know that we were gone.

— Sara Teasdale, “There will come soft rains”

Caitlin Brown is a freshman nursing major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].