World without people - it could do without us! - NIKIN CH

World without people - it would also work without us!

In view of climate change, natural disasters, wars and overpopulation, one can occasionally get to thinking. Is the "human model" a discontinued model? A few thought experiments on an interesting topic...

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 knowledgeable), there were early humans who prepared the way for us.

Where do we even come from?

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

Monkeys with skull

Different stages on the way to today's Homo Sapiens

From Homo erectus onwards, the process of becoming human takes place. Particularly impressive was Homo neandertalensis or Neanderthal man, so named after the finds from the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf in Germany. Neanderthal man was ideally adapted to the cold climate of the interglacial period, during which he colonised Europe, due to his stocky build. He was displaced by Cro Magnon man, the forerunner of today's Homo sapiens, who were already very similar to us. However, Neanderthal man is not completely extinct. Most of us carry his genetic material in us, because the human races have certainly intermingled.

Homo sapiens - and the environment

With Homo sapiens, a type of human entered the world that created culture on a large scale for the first time. Cave paintings, small ivory sculptures and incised drawings take us into the world of these early humans. At first they inhabited caves, like the Neanderthals. But soon they started building houses, settling down and farming. This marks the beginning of encroachment on a nature with which they had previously coexisted.
Forests were cleared to make way for fields. Formerly wild animals were domesticated and modified through selective breeding. Mining of natural resources began - at first, of course, on a very small scale, then more and more intensively as humans spread. The industrial exploitation of nature and wildlife by an exuberant humanity is the final consequence of this development.

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

Science has already worked out how to imagine a world without humans. In the northern hemisphere, it would probably be densely forested. Even in Roman times, Germany could be traversed in the shade of trees.

But even more serious would be: the animals we know today as steppe or mountain dwellers would live unselfconsciously and without shyness in the lowlands and woodlands as well. Bears, wolves and lynxes would feel at home all over Europe, animals that are nocturnal today, such as red deer, would never have given up their habit of grazing in the sunlight if they had never been hunted. The American primitive horse and possibly the American camel would not have become extinct, and African wild animals would never have retreated to the savannahs.

What if man were to disappear overnight?

This question was also posed by the US researcher Alan Weisman. In his book "The World Without Us", he imagines an Earth where there is not a single human being left overnight. Weisman states: once we are gone, the planet will recover quickly. Nature will green up again where man has cleared the ground. No more pollutants and emissions, no more light pollution.

Weisman focuses primarily on zones that humans have deliberately abandoned - such as the protection zone around Chernobyl. Here you can see how quickly nature's self-healing powers go to work. Many animal species would recover quickly - according to Weisman, a billion birds alone would remain alive if they no longer fell victim to high-voltage power lines, wind turbines or the light pollution of cities. Others, however, would have to go: these include cultural successors 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 - that would be the pollutants. Radioactivity, the lead content in the soil, the CO² levels in the air, here it would take much longer to clean up our legacy! Weisman's conclusion, however, is that we do not necessarily have to disappear completely. A more conscious approach to our wonderful planet would be enough to preserve it for future generations.

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