Created By: arbiter099 on April 23, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on May 19, 2014

Natural Sprawl

In the absence of people, nature reclaims lost ground.

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For our entire history, we humans have been taking advantage of our environment and manipulating it to suit our needs. We've built massive cities all over our planet, beating back the forces of nature at every turn. But what happens when we're not there to maintain our dominance? Nature returns, often with devastating consequences for the abandoned remnants of whatever we left behind.

This trope comes into play when man or whatever sentient dominant species was around in the first place, has abandoned a location (be it a house, a city, or even a planet) and the natural ravages of plants, weather, animals, and time itself conspire to ruin whatever that society built and return it as close as possible to what it would be if people had never been there at all.

  • I Am Legend showcases a New York City that is heavily reclaimed by wildlife and flora.

Live-Action TV
  • Life After People is all about theorizing about the effects of nature on all of mankind's greatest creations if everyone in the world were suddenly no longer there to protect them.

Video Game
  • Call of Duty's Overgrown multiplayer map is in the throes of this process.

Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • April 24, 2013
    Tabletop Games

    Video Games
    • Enslaved has this happen to its whole setting.

    Also, I didn't edit your draft, I accidentally pressed the edit button, sorry.
  • April 24, 2013
    What distinguishes this from New Eden?
  • April 24, 2013
    ^ Hmm, New Eden seems to emphasize the earth turning back to some pristine better shape, while this one seems to be more about human society being wrecked up in the process. Lot of overlap though, I would recommend seperating them out more.
  • April 24, 2013
  • April 24, 2013
    In the Belgariad, Polgara revisits the site of the former city of Vo Wacune and laments that the trees have overrun the site "so soon"- the trees in question being full-grown redwoods.

  • April 24, 2013
    Maybe a little out of line, but both Twelve Monkeys and The Day After Tomorrow feature wild animals running amuck in post-humanity New York City -- in the first one, bears, in the second, wolves -- but they had escaped (or been freed) from zoos amidst the circumstances that started humanity's slide out.
  • April 24, 2013
    The ending of Bill Peet's The Wump World is happy because of this trope.
  • April 24, 2013
    Web Animation
    • This video shows a ruined city overgrown with plant life, but recent enough that attack drones are still functional.

    Real Life
    • Chernobyl, the radiation isn't immediately lethal to the flora and fauna, their lifespans are shortened a bit but they don't really notice. But humans are too scared to come close so nature has reclaimed the city.
  • April 24, 2013
    Two more examples that could be added here are:

    -The third Resident Evil movie (which showcases several abandoned buildings, but what would fit on this trope would be the city of Las Vegas, which has been 'reclaimed by the desert' after the Zombie Apocalypse picked it clean).

    (This example above has some Fridge Logic attached to it, because the whole place looks like it was reclaimed by the Sahara rather than the Nevada desert (compare the movie to one of the episodes of Life After People which shows what would happen. It looks very little alike).

    -Oblivion2013 (the city of New York and the surrounding state, to not mention the rest of the planet. The oddities of the reclaiming can be attributed to the fact of the Alien Invasion war and the liberal use of Weapons of Mass Destruction during it, plus 60+ years of decay... and some Rule of Cool).
  • April 25, 2013
    • X1999 (1996). A vision of a possible future Tokyo shows the city abandoned and the buildings overgrown with vegetation.
  • May 19, 2014
  • May 19, 2014
    • In Mega Man X 5, the space colony Eurasia crashes onto Earth, leading to lots of casualties. Fast forward to Mega Man Zero 4, after several more disasters, it is revealed that, due to Eurasia's environmental conditioning system still active, the ground zero has turned into a very lush green place, dubbed as Area Zero. The plot for said game revolves around protecting this area from your enemies.
  • May 19, 2014
    • In Real Life, this is a part of Ecological succession. Although it's more quickly evident in abandoned farms and other places that already have soil (secondary succession), it can happen on concrete and asphalt too (primary succession) through the same processes that allow life to colonize bare rock. Numerous abandoned structures can attest to this.
  • May 19, 2014
    In After Earth, Will Smith and his son return to Earth many years after it was abandoned. There is no sign left of human civilization.
  • May 19, 2014
    I think we have this already, or something pretty close to it: Ruins Of The Modern Age.