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World without people – it would also work without us!

Posted on June 07 2019

In the context of climate change, natural catastrophes, wars and overpopulation, it is possible to start reflecting on things occasionally. Is the "humanity model" an obsolete model? How did we get this far anyway? What if we didn't exist at all? And what if we no longer existed? A few thought scenarios on an interesting topic. 

 Welt ohne Menschen

Where do we even come from?

We humans, as we are today, are merely the end product of a long evolution. Before "Homo sapiens" (the "knowing" human being who is probably not so knowing), there were early humans who paved the way for us.

Our earliest ancestors came from Africa - the link between man and monkey was probably the Australopithecus, which, however, still resembled the apes more than today's humans. From the area of the Afar-Ditch in Ethiopia come our more human-like ancestors. They were first clearly identified thanks to the fossil "Lucy", a woman who probably walked upright. From Africa, Lucy's descendants populated the whole world. The Homo erectus or "upright human" conquered Asia, where he probably met other early human species, which soon became extinct. The Neanderthal came to Europe. And the Cro-Magnon human.

Different stages on the way to today's Homo Sapiens

From Homo erectus on, the transformation into human takes place. The Homo Neandertalensis or Neanderthal, named after the finds from the Neanderthal near Düsseldorf in Germany, was particularly impressive. The Neanderthals were ideally adapted to the cold climate of the interglacial period, during which they settled in Europe, due to their compact physique. He was displaced by the Cro Magnon people, the pioneers of today's Homo sapiens, who were already very similar to us. However, the Neanderthal is not completely extinct. Most of us carry its genetic material in us, because the human races have mixed thoroughly.

Homo sapiens - and the environment

Homo sapiens was the first human type to enter the world to create culture on a grand scale. Cave paintings, small ivory sculptures and engravings take us into the world of these early humans. At first they settled in caves, like the Neanderthals. But soon they started building houses, settling down and farming. This was the beginning of their intervention in a nature with which they had previously coexisted.

Forests were cleared and made room for fields. In former times wild animals were domesticated and changed by selective breeding. The exploitation of mineral resources began - first naturally on a very small scale, then more and more intensively as humans spread. The industrial exploitation of nature and wildlife by an exuberant human race is the last consequence of this development.

What would the world look like if it had never existed?

Science has already played out how to imagine a world without people. In the northern hemisphere it would probably be densely wooded. Even in Roman times you could cross Germany in the shade of trees.

Even more serious, however, would be that the animals we know today as steppe or mountain dwellers would also live unbiasedly and without shyness in the lowlands and woodland. Bears, wolves and lynxes would feel at home all over Europe; today night-active animals such as red deer would never have abandoned from their habit of grazing in sunlight if they had never been hunted. The American original horse and possibly also the American camel would not have died out, and African wild animals would never have retreated into the savannahs.

What if the human disappeared overnight?

This question was also asked by the American researcher Alan Weisman. In his book "The world without us" he imagines an earth on which there is not a single human being overnight.

Weisman states: "Once we are gone, the planet will recover quickly. Nature will green up again, where humans have cut clear the earth. No more pollutants and emissions, no more light pollution.

Weisman is primarily oriented towards zones that humans have deliberately abandoned - such as the protection zone around Chernobyl. Here it can be seen how quickly nature's self-healing powers are at work.

According to Weisman, one billion birds alone would survive if they no longer fell victim to high-voltage power lines, wind turbines or urban light pollution. Others, however, would have to go: this includes cultural followers such as lice, but also rats.

Our cities would probably be overgrown again within twenty or thirty years, settlements near the coast would be washed away by the sea, buildings would begin to crumble and collapse.

The only thing that would remain of us would be the pollutants. Radioactivity, the lead content in the soil, the CO²-values of the air, here it would take much longer until our legacies would be processed!

However, Weisman's conclusion is that we do not necessarily have to disappear completely. A more conscious handling of our wonderful planet would be enough to make it suitable for future generations.


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