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  • Here's a thought experiment.

  • Every single human on the planet has gone.

  • We don't know howthat doesn't matter.

  • What we'd like to know is, what happens next?

  • What would a world without humans be like?

  • Within days, the electricity grid fails as fuel supplies run out and there's nobody to override the powerstation's failsafe mechanisms.

  • Within a week, the subways we've built under the water table flood.

  • The 47 million liters of water that was pumped out of the London Underground every day inundates tunnels.

  • Without heating or air-conditioning, mould flourishes on moist surfaces in homes and offices, and ice bursts pipes.

  • Within weeks, plants begin to take over buildings as the strongest species compete for space.

  • No one's there to cut them back.

  • Fast forward in time.

  • The lines between city and countryside are blurred.

  • Windows fall out of rotten frames and wildlife recolonizes towns.

  • Farmland is blanketed by scrub and then trees.

  • And scattered on the surface are the things that will never degrade.

  • Metals corrode, plastics start to break down and disperse.

  • But stainless steel pans, stranded granite worktops, and billions of car tires remain.

  • Nuclear facilities fail as their fabric degrades.

  • Some explode, irradiating the local ecosystem and causing many animals to die.

  • The radiation leads to mutations in others, creating new evolutionary lines.

  • Meanwhile, the tiniest of plants are stubbornly breaking up even the motorways.

  • Mosquitos are having a great time.

  • They've lost their enemy in us, but they've moved on to other animals.

  • And they're busy pollinating plants as they love nectar as well as blood.

  • Endangered animals have a chance and space to multiply again.

  • Lions and elephants could even reach Europe, the strongest swimming across the Suez Canal.

  • Massive whirlpool islands of plastic carry on spinning in our oceans.

  • Each piece of plastic is ground down until microscopic grains of it are everywhere.

  • Bacteria may evolve to digest plastic, but this will take millions of years.

  • Could the Earth ever recover?

  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the vegetation that carpets the land.

  • Global temperatures and sea levels begin to fall.

  • As chemical pollutants break down and sink into the earth, rivers become cleaner.

  • Animals and plants flourish.

  • Is this a new Eden?

  • Perhaps.

  • The Earth is a breathing organism that has lived with us for a fraction of its life.

  • Our human ingenuity has led to extraordinary changes to the world.

  • The planet would surviveindeed, thrivewithout us.

  • But it would never be able to forget us.

  • We'd have left our mark.

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Here's a thought experiment.

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