I'm kinda wondering if man is going to be alive
He's taken everything this old earth can give
And he ain't put back nothing in."
On a futuristic Earth, or similar location, plants, animals, and naturally clean water are things of the past. Something terrible has happened - civilization's negligence of the environment, a strange natural disaster, or even a combination of both - to turn the world into a wasteland. This isn't (usually) the Earth That Was, as the planet is still populated (usually overpopulated), but it's on its way there.
Real food is a luxury for only the rich while the general populace lives off of synthetic food, Food Pills, or a new kind of meat. Forests are gone, replaced by concrete and steel jungles, more commonly known as cities, which are dark and dirty. If there is any undeveloped land still left, it's a desert wasteland, spoiled beyond recovery. What was once coastline is now underwater. If the story takes place/has a scene in a coastal city, expect to see the tops of skyscrapers sticking out of the water. Sometimes this is reversed: seas become salt deserts, with the remains of beached ships scattered about. The problem of overpopulation may be solved with the promotion of suicide, or special clinics.
The general populace is detached from the natural world, having had no experience with it. However, if a character has the chance to see what is left of the green, or what the world once was, expect it to be a powerful moment. If the world is really far gone, they may simply see it as strange or alien.
A Sub-Trope of Dystopia and Crapsack World. Sister Trope to Just Before the End, Earth That Used to Be Better, and Green Aesop. "Cousin" Trope to After the End, as society is usually still hanging on, if barely, although it can go with it, (usually, this trope is either the reason why the world ended or whatever ended the world causes this trope). Frequently seen in Cyberpunk settings.
- Toward the Terra: In a distant future, humankind has destroyed the natural habitat of its homeplanet Terra and colonized other stars.
- Space Battleship Yamato: In the original series, the surface of the earth is a radioactive desert and humanity is forced to live underground.
- Towards the (chronological) end of Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix, Earth is pretty much a dying, overpopulated hellhole. Space travel is possible, but everywhere else is worse.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion - Second impact wiped out most of humanity and knocked off the Earth's orbit. Seasons no longer exist, and are only shown in flashbacks.
- One Piece is famous for its Scenery Porn, because The World Is Just Awesome. But when the crew gets to the country of Wano, things changed. Because of toxic runoff from Kaido's factory, there's a huge wasteland where the animals and water are poisonous, which means the people are starving because the only source of clean food is a heavily guarded farm under the villains' control.
- Lyrical Nanoha has the planet Eltria, as seen in The Gears of Destiny and its movie adaptations Reflection and Detonation. Most of the planet has been reduced to a barren wasteland due to pollution and natural resource exhaustion, and almost the entire population has moved to a space colony that orbits the planet. The plot of both stories is set in motion when the younger daughter of a terminally ill scientist studying how to return life to Eltria comes to Earth looking for something called the Eternity Crystal, which supposedly has the power to heal both the planet and her father.
- A comic in Odyssey Magazine had a wandering robot discover a civilization that had drained its own homeworld of geothermal energy, and despite their very advanced technology, they died when the last pocket of air froze.
- An alternate-future interlude from Hellblazer has scenes set in a coastal city's flooded-out ruins, and characters mention a "Storm Decade" in which climate upheaval caused hurricanes that contributed to the damage.
- WALLE: Earth is left almost completely lifeless after rampant consumerism, forcing humanity to leave on giant ships to the stars.
- Thanks to the Phantoms roaming the Earth in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, nearly all life is dead, and mankind is limited to several shielded cities to protect themselves.
- 9, although it's unclear whether the whole world is like this, or just the city where the film is set.
- The Ice Age short "No Time For Nuts", Scrat encounters a Time Machine that takes him and his acorn through several time periods. It ends in the shade of what appears to be a huge oak tree full of acorns, but Scrat discovers to his dismay that it's actually a bronze monument to the last oak tree.
- Alien: Earth has been reduced to an over-polluted slum, and one character in Alien: Resurrection refers it to as a 'shithole.'
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: While Star Trek's Earth is generally positive, some sort of environmental faux pax resulted in whales going extinct. Which becomes a problem for Earth in the movie.
- Specifically Humpback whales and possibly Blue whales. Other species of aquatic mammals are shown to still be alive an well, such as dolphins (official materials suggest Dolphins and Whales serve aboard the Enterprise-D as navigators.)
- Lost in Space: The 1998 film has the family searching for a new home for humanity after Earth has suffered irreversible ecological damage.
- The Running Man: The intro mentions how Earth's resources, such as food, are in short supply.
- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: The human population has been reduced by ecological collaspe, and most of New York City is under water. It gets worse, At the end, all of Earth is frozen over, and humanity is extinct.
- Blade Runner:
- Blade Runner: Real animals are a luxury, and people are trying to get off of the dying Earth, which is polluted and irradiated.
- Blade Runner 2049 indicates that things have gotten even worse over the decades: the entire biosphere has all but died off, the only animals left on the planet are artificial, and everywhere outside the smog-filled cities is a desolate wasteland.
- Judge Dredd: A public service robot goes about proclaiming how good recycled food is for the environment, or what's left of it.
- Avatar: While outdoors Earth is never seen in the theatrical cut, tidbits of information throughout the movie (and explicitly in Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora) say that it is an ecological mess, including the quote at the top of the page.
- The alternate opening from the extended cut shows that most people wear masks while walking outside. There is also a mention on how a species of tiger, which has been extinct outside of captivity, is making a comeback thanks to cloning.
- Unlike the book it is based on, Cornel Wildes 1970 adaptation of the Sam Yourd novel No Blade of Grass strongly suggests that the Chung-Li virus was caused by none other than pollution and humanity itself.
- Soylent Green: There's a year-long heat wave, New York City is home to fifty million people, real food is precious, and cheap food is either processed soy, plankton, or...well. One very emotional scene involves Sol and a tearful Thorn watching videos of what the world used to be, as Sol commits suicide.
- Random tidbit of information, Thorn's actor, Charlton Heston, really was crying, as Sol's actor Edward G. Robinson was dying of cancer. Only Heston knew.
- The Terminator: A deleted scene would have shown Kyle and Sarah, getting into a fight, and rolling into a wooded area. Kyle suffers a bit of a Heroic BSoD, and starts to cry when he sees how beautiful the world used to be.
- Intro to Red Planet (2000): "By the year 2000 we had begun to over populate, pollute, and poison our planet faster than we could clean it up. We ignored the problem for as long as we could. But we were kidding ourselves. By 2025, we knew we were in trouble. And began to desperately search for a new home - Mars." There's a bit in it where the younger astronauts question Terence Stamp's character about what the Earth used to look like.
- Silent Running: All natural life on Earth is dead, save for human beings, who at the beginning of the movie are on ships that are trying to save the last of the trees. Food has been reduced to some sort of artificial goop, and all of the characters except for the protagonist find real food disgusting.
- In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, dogs and cats have become extinct and people use apes for pets and cheap labor.
- All Summer In A Day: The storyline is just like the short story of the same name, but Margot mentions how the Earth is "too crowded now."
- The Matrix: The Earth is completely covered in perpetual darkness caused by nanomachines which blot out the sun, while all plant and animal life is extinct from both that and the weapons of mass destruction that were used in the Robot War which defeated humanity. All that remains are the cold, endless ruins of human civilization and the hive-like machine cities.
- The titles at the beginning of Pandorum indicate that the battle over Earth's resources reached a fever pitch before the Elysium was launched. In one of Corporal Bower's flashbacks, we see him wearing a Plexiglas visor and a head-wrap to shield from a sand storm just a stone's throw away from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
- In The Sixth World, Humans must colonize Mars because Earth is unusable.
- The Day the Earth Caught Fire is one of the earliest examples of this trope in cinema. Two simultaneous tests of nuclear bombs knock the Earth off its axis and completely ruin the climate, resulting in storms, floods, drought and the destruction of entire habitats.
- The Road: As with the book, nearly all life on Earth has been destroyed by an unspecified cataclysm, and the father and son protagonists must search through the ashes for what little supplies remain while evading cannibal gangs.
- In A Brother's Price it is possible that this could be the reason why so few boys are born, as male fetuses are known to be more vulnerable to pollution and other detrimental effects than female ones. Frequent male stillbirths point at the fact that this is not just an evolutionary quirk.
- Night's Dawn: Earth is so overpopulated, that minor crimes will get you sent off world, and pollution has forced cities to build domes.
- The Road: Much like the movie, the unnamed disaster has reduced the Earth to a lifeless rock, populated only by what is left of humanity. This trope leads to Inferred Holocaust as well. Even though the boy is in presumably good hands at the end of the book, unless there is some part of the world that still contains life, the human survivors will be dead pretty soon.
- In The Supernaturalist, by Eoin Colfer, the world drinks sim-coffee, the smog is always heavy, and the sky is never blue unless you fly out of the atmosphere (it is instead colored according to the chemicals in the smog). Also, there are no whales.
- House of the Scorpion: Somewhat implied. The Rio Grande is so polluted that Tam Lin berates Matt when he simply just goes near it. The Gulf of California has been drained to a small river, and Matt finds skeletons of whales within it.
- The sequel The Lord of Opium outright states that the rest of the planet is garbage, except the titular nation.
- Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, filmed as Blade Runner.
- The novel that inspired Soylent Green, Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, features much of the features of this trope, sans the human meat part.
- Much like the movie, minus the pollution part, The Death of Grass by John Christopher has the Chung-Li virus, an Asian-originated, four stage, grass killing disease that serves as the storys omnipresent Big Bad. It wipes out all the crops and to make matters worse, society slowly degrades into barbarism.
- In Star Wars continuity, this is what happened to Nal Hutta, the current homeworld of the Hutts, once they got ahold of it. Formerly called Evocar and home to a race called the Evocii, it was once a lush jungle paradise. Sadly, the Hutts bought up property on it until they owned the whole planet, kicked the Evocii out, and eventually turned into a polluted and barren wasteland, due to strip mining and other foul industries. (Ironically, "Nal Hutta" means "Glorious Jewel" in Huttese.) The Yuuzhan Vong later conquered Nal Hutta during their invasion and terraformed it to suit their own needs; into what, exactly, is not yet known.)
- L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s The Forever Hero features this heavily. Earth is practically uninhabitable due to massive ecological disaster, and the few survivors are quickly dying off. The main character is one of the (very) surviving outside a city, and he ends up spending his life and career trying to restore the planet.
- In Asimov's short story 2430 A.D. the entire earth's land area is covered by buildings which house the planets 15 trillion inhabitants. The oceans are empty, except for plankton which provide both food and oxygen. The plot revolves around plans to kill off the last non-human animals on earth.
- Ursula K. Le Guin's works:
- In the Hainish Cycle:
- Earth is described in The Dispossessed as having been reduced to a less-than-stellar state of existence.
- The Telling. Although the book doesn't take place on Earth, the main character is a Terran, and through her we learn that in her time, Earth was both an ecological and social mess.
- The Word for World Is Forest has humans stripping the peaceful forested planet Athshe of its valuable wood, having mined the Earth into barrenness.
- The first incarnation of Earth in The Lathe of Heaven is wildly overpopulated, global warming appears to have disrupted the ecosystem (Mount Hood is said to be permanently snowless), and near-starvation appears to be the norm.
- In the Hainish Cycle:
- This also happens at some points in Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy - the rampant population growth on Earth necessitates mass movement to Mars. However, this may not be as severe an example as several others on this page for various reasons, such as the fact that it gets somewhat better by the end of the trilogy.
- Most of Kim Stanley Robinsons more recent novels are set on an environmentally deteriorating near-future Earth, such as Forty Signs of Rain, New York 2140, parts of 2312, and the last part of The Years of Rice and Salt though it's always kept realistic according to current climate science and theyre not total apocalypse scenarios. The emphasis is on how human society might change in order to adapt to these problems and save what can still be saved. And his novel Aurora is set in a giant Generation Ship, where the carefully balanced nature-like environment is collapsing due to unforeseen microbial evolution and due to the system being forced to go on longer than planned, leading to starvation among the crew.note There is a reason he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine and that he got awarded the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Imagination in Service to Society in 2018.
- Norman Spinrad's Anvilicious He Walked Among Us basically revolves around whether the future will be this, or Ecotopia. (Or both possible futures might just be the ravings of an insane comedian.)
- Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper: In the section of the book set in the future, the wilderness and all its animal species are wiped out (even the oceans) to make way for crop-growing facilities and housing for the rapidly growing population. People live packed on top of each other in tiny apartment 'boxes' and eat artificially processed food.
- Bill McKibben's Eaarth, which describes how we have irreversibly changed our planet with global warming, etc.
- Oryx and Crake and its companion novel The Year of the Flood have the ecosystem devastated by climate change and overpopulation. The near-total lack of any food neither based on soybeans nor heavily genetically engineered is frequently mentioned.
- Dougal Dixon's After Man attributes our extinction to our having exhausted Earth's resources, after which we died out along with many other human-dependent or vulnerable species. Even felines and canines are extinct, their roles largely taken up by descendants of rats. In Man After Man, this is actually shown happening.
- In The Lotus War, the Shima islands are rapidly going this way. Growing Blood Lotus rapidly ruins the land it is grown on, absent fertilizers the growers cannot afford. The remaining pockets of wilderness are rapidly being destroyed by the Lotus Guild to replace depleted fields. It's processed into an oil-like substance called chi, and burning vast quantities of it has turned the rain black and the sky red. Virtually no one goes outdoors without a breathing mask and protective goggles, or at least a kerchief over their face.
- Jack McDevitt's The Academy Novels, feature a mild version of this. Coastal areas are shrinking, deserts are growing, famines and foot riots are common. But it's not uniformly bleak: Canada and Siberia are becoming temperate, and are stepping up their food production. Nevertheless, much of the world is in a horrible state, and things look to be getting worse, and so far, only one potential new colony world has been found.
- In Hugh Howey's Wool series, the world has been rendered literally unable to support life, and humanity must live in underground silos.
- In "When The World Is All On Fire", global warming leads to mass flooding and crop failures.
- Chronicles of the Emerged World: The Tyrant and his forces have no more regard for the natural world than they do for the people they subjugate, and their hunger for resources to fuel their constant warmongering strips new territories of resources in short order. Their rule over a Land is invariably marked by rampant deforestation and immense levels of pollution.
- The Land of Days, one of the most thoroughly subjugated lands, is a desolate, barren wasteland home only to the Tyrant's fortress-cities and a few hardy, twisted plants; some of its main geographical features, Merith Lake and the Forest of Bersith, have by the books' time vanished completely — nothing is left of them but an enormous, polluted swamp.
- The first thing Nihal notices when entering the subjugated Land of the Wind is how the Forest, once a vibrant mass of vegetation too thick to see more than a few meters from your position, has been reduced to a vast field of stumps and charred, lifeless trees.
- In Xandri Corelel, Earth's ecosystem has been almost completely destroyed. The planet is starting to recover, but it's still under strict Population Control, and many areas are infested with disease because of all the pollution.
- In Elizabeth Bear's short story The Hand Is Quicker
, infrastructure is collapsing and the world is extremely polluted (to the point that some girls start to menstruate as infants due to the hormones and endocrine disrupters in the water and food). But everyone who can afford it just uses augmented reality technology to ignore these facts. Then the protagonist loses their job and almost instantly falls through the cracks of society
- One of her lesser-known novels, entitled Carnivalnote , also has a strong environmental theme. Though it's set a couple hundred years after eco-terrorists wiped out most of humanity because things got so bad. Since that holocaust, an absolutely brutal system of population control has been maintained, as well as creating a new culture of strict veganism and using solar-powered nanobot clouds instead of real fiber clothing to save resources, and most of the Earth's surface has been declared a human-free nature reserve and the ecosystem was restored - all in order to keep it from happening again. And yet the Earth government is still desperately trying to annex Earth's old colonies in other solar systems (there was a frantic evacuation wave during the eco-terrorist holocaust), in order to use their resources. Because the A.I. system that the eco-terrorists created to bring the human population back into balance with the rest of the biospherenote is still active in all those personal nanobot clouds and it will cull the population again if it grows beyond its allocated resource budget. The human government can decide whom to executenote , but they do not get to decide how many need to be eliminated. Basically, it's an eco-fascist dystopia that is also very socially conservative, due to the survivor generation consisting primarily of just a few hundred thousand random Africans and South Asians (i.e. generally deeply religious people with traditional values) and due to factors like unemployment and fetishizing of the few pregnancies that are permitted. The plot of the book actually takes place on one of the colony planets, which has serious social problems and injustices of its own, but which is environmentally almost pristine since its just a few thousand human colonists on a whole new otherwise uninhabited planet. However, the main protagonists of the story are a couple of spies sent from Earth and they spend a lot of page space dealing with the culture shock of adapting to circumstances we would consider more normal (e.g. normal food), as well as thinking about the resource-constraint reasons for their ethically reprehensible mission, the massive societal trauma that the survivors of the eco-terrorist holocaust had to learn to live with, and what could have driven the eco-terrorist to do what they did.
- Game of Thrones: The lands Beyond the Wall and the Lands of Always Winter weren't always blasted tundra; "The Door" reveals that these areas used to be lush and green, but whatever magic the Children of the Forest used to create the White Walkers also brought the eternal snow with it (or the Walkers brought it with them). Even worse is the implication that the creation of the White Walkers is also what fucked up Westeros' seasons.
- Terra Nova: Earth in 2149 is slowly choking to death from pollutants, and the only hope for humanity is travelling back in time to the prehistoric era.
- This seems to be the state of the Alphaverse in Charlie Jade.
- In the Speculative Documentary Earth 2100, not only have countless creatures been wiped out, but the worst part is because knowledge has been lost, it will take thousands of years before humans can begin to repair what they've done.
- Subverted in the Speculative Documentary Life After People, humans disappear suddenly, resulting in ecological disaster when no one repairs hazardous waste storage facilities and the like, but centuries later, there is surprisingly little evidence humans once ravaged the environment.
- There's a Space: 1999 episode where the Alphans make contact with Earth, where several centuries have passed due to relativity or something. Everyone on Earth lives in domed cities because the atmosphere is now poisonous and nothing can live outside. Still, as they say, "who needs nature?"
- Stargate SG-1 visited at least one planet where unchecked industrial growth had destroyed the environment — to the point where the atmosphere was not just toxic, but downright caustic. The last survivors were living inside a force-field dome, waiting for the planet to recover...
- This happened at least twice, though in the other instance the people on the planet had been kept in stasis to await the planet's recovery and when SG1 arrived the planet was habitable but the leader of the planet was keeping this information hidden from everyone else.
- Another example would be the Tollan. Their homeworld was ravaged by a disaster caused by sharing technology with the inhabitants of a neighbouring planet, who promptly weaponized it and blew up their world, throwing off the orbit of the Tollan homeworld. And the characters that turned up on earth had never seen any animals before. They move to somewhere nicer.
- Discussed (and parodied) during a "Precious Roy" segment on The Sifl and Olly Show advertising "Disaster Suits". The pitch for the product is, in a nutshell, Olly having a nervous breakdown, lamenting how "volcanoes are popping up like strip malls" and claiming that "California fell off the damn country last week."
- The Alternate Universe in Fringe was suffering from a bad case of this due to the breakdown of the laws of physics. There's a blight devastating vegetation; Sheep and Wallabies are extinct, along with presumably other species, and changes in atmospheric conditions have altered the way light refracts through water droplets. There hasn't been a rainbow in over twenty years.
- In Travelers, the titular time travelers come from such a future and are trying to prevent it ultimately without success. Details are only alluded at for most of the series, but we know that there were both massive natural catastrophes and resource wars, until the human population had been much reduced in numbers and that they are forced to live in hermetically sealed shelters under thick glaciers, where they are endlessly recycling their air and grow food gruel in vats. And their energy resources are running out. The Travelers that are newly arrived in our time are always filled with wonder at seeing trees and animals and eating even crappy hospital food.
- In the scarily realistic vision of the near-ish-future US as shown in Incorporated, Climate Change is raging rampant, turning the southern US into barely inhabitable "dust states", and New York City had to be abandoned to the rising seas. Agricultural production depends on GMO seeds because of heat and drought, and real meat is too expensive even for middle class people. Canada has built a wall to keep out environmental refugees from the US and there are large camps for internally displaced refugees outside the still exiting northern US cities, with the cities themselves being split into walled "Green Zones" for corporate employees, and vast lawless slums without any public services called "Red Zones" for everyone else who is lucky enough to at least have local citizenship. FEMA has long since given up, the government is a sham that almost no-one still bothers voting for, and international Megacorps have taken over as de-facto rulers, complete with sending out private armies to fight over the last fossil fuel resources in places like Siberia. Unsurprisingly in a media landscape where all that matters is advertising revenue from large corporationsnote , this quite important show was not pushed towards the audience's attention much and then was quickly cancelled after its first season.
- The filk song No Such Thing (as sung by Kathy Mar, among others). A mother tells her daughter that dolphins and whales are just fairy tale creatures, but knows that eventually said daughter will grow up and "In spite of all our lying, she'll know what we have done."
- Snog's "The Human Germ":
- All the birds and trees and things they are a-losingEverything, everywhere is vanishingWhen I lay me down at lastMy body tired, my time passedWe've eroded the soil from the groundA rocky grave is where I'll be found, causeWhatever direction you may turnYou'll see my friend, the earth's been poisonedBy the human germ
- "They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot..."
- Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush"
Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970sLook at Mother nature on the run in the 1970s
Flying Mother Nature's silver seed to a new home in the sunFlying Mother Nature's silver seed to a new home
- Then at the end
- "Terra Incognita" by Project Pitchfork:
He says: Imagine these beings poisoning their oceansShe says: Imagine these beings destroying their environmentIt says: Imagine these beings polluting their airThey shake their heads and think how funny
Welcome to the futureThe air is thick with smokeEverything is on fire nowNo life apart from us(last chorus)What we saw was what we got, there was no turning backWhile we tried to feel alive, we've beaten our world to death
- Ditto "Drums of Death"
- Tiamat's Gaia progresses from this into Gaia's Vengeance:
A new serum eradicates the illness, an old man rises from his wheelchairWhen suffering unknown attacks the painless and common animals are becoming rareAs water spins in circles twice, spiders, snakes and the little miceGet twisted round and tumble down - when Nature calls, we all shall drown
- Marvin Gaye, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" from the album What's Going On. In part:
Woo ah, mercy mercy meAh things ain't what they used to be, no noWhere did all the blue skies go?Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and eastWoo mercy, mercy me, mercy fatherAh things ain't what they used to be, no noOil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas, fish full of mercury
- Rammstein's Donaukinder ("Children of Danube") is a song about the ecological disaster in Baia Mare, Romania. In January 2000, a dam at a gold processing plant broke and released 70 tons of cyanide and other toxic waste into Tisza, a river tributary to Danube. As a result, countless animals died of poisoning, five species of fish went completely extinct and water supplies of many cities in several countries were polluted. While the chorus of the song is ostensibly the lament of the poisoned people, it can be interpreted as the river's grievance as well, mourning its countless "children" killed by humanity's greed and stupidity.
Wo sind die Kinder? [Where are the children?]Niemand weiß, was hier geschehen. [Nobody knows what happened here.]Keiner hat etwas gesehen. [Nobody has seen anything.]
- Synthpop group Austra have a song on this subject, aptly titled "Gaia".
- "Cernunnos" by Faith and the Muse, given from the point of view of the titular Celtic deity could be considered this, overlapping with Humans Are Bastards:
But with the passing of daysA new wind came blowingWith whispers of change on its wingThis tide of corruptionLaid siege to my worldUsurping the throne of a king
- Hypocrisy: In "Fractured Millennium", some rageguy from a parallel universe does the lamenting for Gaia, but it amounts to the same.
Dying planet.Mother Nature bleeding,She will die.
- The Youtube songwriter Ruth Mundy has a hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking song called "Love in the Time of Coral Reefs", which she wrote for her future children, thinking it would speak to them when they reach her age. Just 4 years later and its her own generation and those only a decade younger who are out in the streets rebelling against the betrayal of their chance for a future
If only I had known you,In the time of coral reefs,Before we lost the permafrost,When there were bears up thereWe could have met, fallen in love,Could have got married and had kids,If we wanted it could have been simple for us, too.Do you think we could have traveled?Could we have managed a mortgage?Sent our kids to local schoolsAnd campaigned to change the rules,So that we wouldnt pull the ladder upBehind us like our parents did to us.Could we have been better?Done better?If wed loved before the sea swallowed the coast,Before the wild fires spread,Our heads only full of love,I would have loved youWe wouldve made our vows while theIsland nations drowned.Wed let them go.Cause we were richer, they were poorer,We were better, they were worse off.So we watched them sink without a word,Ignored the screams,Ignored the Gulf Stream slowing down,Ignored the drip of melting ice,The drip, drip, drip of melting iceDo you remember when we still had time,If not to reverse things,Well, at least not to cause worse things,And we decided not to?It was easier not to
- The video for Disturbed's Another Way To Die has the world depicted as this in the Bad Future.
- The Vocaloid song/video "The Near Future City."
- *Hello, Planet. The song is about an android leaving its shelter and searching for its creator. The world outside the shelter is shown to be a lifeless wasteland. Humanity, and all other animal life appears to be extinct, and the only known plant is a seed in a pot that hasn't germinated. Subverted by the ending, which shows the environment recovering and implies that there may have been human survivors.
- Utterly subverted in this routine by George Carlin, wherein he notes the utter arrogance of the idea that we, as a species, could "destroy the planet". What we are doing, in actuality, is simply making it uninhabitable by us. And after we're gone, the planet will rebuild and cleanse itself.
''The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isnt going anywhere. We are!
- It Could Happen Here: In the narration, the former United States is wrecked by the consequences of climate change (and the states that remain in the power vacuum are unable to deal with it as effectively as the federal government would have.) Wildfire season is said to be 6 months out of the year, the coastal areas are flooded by rising tides, and the South and Midwest are left uninhabitable by constant mudslides and tornadoes.
- Shadowrun: Nuclear plant accidents, industrial pollution and side effects of the return of magic have caused massive environmental damage.
- GDW's Dark Conspiracy. In addition to the usual cyberpunk environmental damage, there are areas called "Demonground" with evil extraplanar monsters.
- R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk 2020. Name any ecodisaster you can think of and it's highly likely to have happened there, including the Middle East to have been nuked into a glassy, irradiated wasteland.
- Risk 2210: Players place down "devastation zones" on the map, which are nuclear fallout markers and are impassable. Other features included the Amazon Desert. Going by that, 23rd century Earth isn't doing so hot.
- Dark Sun: Corrupt magic and war have turned Athas, a once beautiful world, into a desert wasteland.
- Even worse than Athas is the hellish realm of Maladomini in standard Dungeons & Dragons. According to ancient lore of the most recent edition, the campaign setting's version of Hell was once part of Heaven, and Maladomini was the most beautiful and ideal part of it and indeed, all of Heaven. When Asmodeus fell, he and the whole place was corrupted, and Maladomini fared worst. The insane archdevil who now rules it has made it one giant industrial wasteland full of smog, sludge, poisoned rivers, and continually decaying ruins. (As in, he keeps building upon the ruins with a concrete goal in mind, but is never satisfied with them, orders it torn down, and starts again.) Gaia no longer laments here, as she was murdered, and her body burned, spit on, and defecated on. But then, it is Hell.
- Like everything else, Warhammer 40,000 turns this Up to Eleven. Earth, or rather Holy Terra, has become the biggest Hive World in the galaxy, to the point where the "Hives" (giant conglomerations of skyscrapers that act as cities) have spread out to encompass the entire planet. All of its resources have been depleted (even the oceans are completely gone), and its atmosphere is choked with pollution. All that's left are layers and layers of cities, coating every inch of the planet in city, filled with countless holy relics and sites.
- In BattleTech several planets have been reduce to this due to the massive battles of the Succession Wars. The planet Mallory's World was once a lush agricultural world, when the First Succession war began, it was fought over by the Successor States, which left three out of the four continents into war torn wastelands.
- Can be invoked by the player in Spore with a hostile use of terraforming tools. Depending on the strength of the player during the attack, can be an effective way to easily conquer or destroy an enemy colony in lieu of powerful weapons, or just flashy, but fun as reducing the T score to 0 will destroy all but one city.
- SimEarth: Sentient species can cause this if their energy uses favor fossil fuels, or they start a nuclear war. The player can do this by bombing the planet with nukes, asteroids, setting off volcanoes left and right, or messing around with the planet trait sliders.
- Earth in Terranigma starts out like this, but you restore it in the beginning of the game. Towards the end though, as humans become more powerful, dialogue reveals that the environment is starting to head downhill.
- Touched upon in Illusion of Gaia. When Will sees the vision of modern society, he seems to be a bit disturbed at the concept of natural environments being replaced by sprawling cities.
- Metro 2033: The only place in game where you can breathe without a gas mask is in the titular Metro system (and there are even some places there where you need one!). The surface of the world is a frozen toxic wasteland, and you cannot survive up there for long without a mask. A side conversation heard between two NPCs reveals that the surface won't habitable for at least 50 more years.
- Another side conversation reveals that outside of Moscow, the area is habitable, but still very dangerous and nothing like pre-war Earth.
- Played With in Metro: Last Light. Moscow's surface is starting to experience a "nuclear spring" with the snow and ice beginning to thaw and rain occurs. Marshes and other wetlands are beginning to develop on the surface and there is a thriving ecosystem... of nightmarish mutants. The air is still unbreathable to human beings. Moscow is recovering... in a new direction that is not necessarily hospitable to humans.
- By the time of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, thanks to the titular alien substance, Earth was basically on its last legs until Kane's Evil Plan, an alliance with GDI, allowed the spread of tiberium to be reversed. Of course before that the world outside the blue zones was the epitome of a Crapsack World Fallout style.
- Fallout: The war that created the setting has devastated the entire planet. By the time of Fallout: New Vegas, 200 years later, the Earth is starting to recover, but it's slow-going.
- Some days after the Great War, rain began to fall in several places, but it was black, toxic and none of it was drinkable. It rained for several days, and the raindrops were laced by radioisotopes, soot and other contaminants. This was the real, permanent destruction of the environment brought by the nukes. The polluted rain killed most of the surviving animals, humans, plants and even micoorganisms. With so much plant life dead, there was nothing holding back the topsoil, leading to desertification on a massive scale and making agriculture difficult. The remaining animals and plants were heavily mutated to adapt to the new, harsh climate. The black rain is a real thing by the way, according to testimony of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- The Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3 is spectacular even by the setting's standard, to the point where it's not even realistic. There is virtually no living plant life, to the point where all the topsoil is gone. There is very little surface water, and the Potomac is abnormally low and choke-full of mud.
- Even before the war the situation was really bad. US government cared little about where nuclear waste was dumped and what consequences it would have, for example they removed Grand Canyon's status as a national park and allowed careless Uranium mining which turned the entire canyon into a radioactive wasteland. Most of those barrels of nuclear waste you see in really weird and dangerous places have been sitting there since before the war.
- Downplayed with Fallout 4. The trees look dead, but the game begins in October, and dead leaves can be found, implying they're merely dormant. All surface water is radioactive, but water pumps and wells can access clean water aquifers. There is more biodiversity, but nearly all of it is mutated. The soil in many places can support subsistence farming, though crops are slightly irradiated until cooked. The Commonwealth surrounding Boston is a harsh place, but it's miles ahead of the Capital Wasteland.
- In the early days of the UNSC, Earth was suffering due to vast overpopulation. However, the burden was significantly eased after the invention of the Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine, which allowed humanity to spread its population across multiple star systems; by the 26th century, Earth's become a reasonably verdant planet again... at least until the Covenant invade.
- At least 100,000 years ago, the Grunt homeworld of Balaho suffered a total environmental collapse caused by overindustrialization. Even nowadays, Balaho has not yet never fully recovered from that disaster, as it is still a frigid Death World where the natives suffer horribly high death rates.
- Reach used to be a rough, but habitable world, with forests, deserts, and a thriving ecosystem. This came to an end when the Covenant glassed the planet. Though the Distant Finale of Halo: Reach shows that by the year 2589 the planet has been terraformed back into habitability.
- Assassin's Creed I: Never directly seen, but implied by the emails in the first game. For example, the term "Hurricane Season" has been abandoned...because now they can occur at any point during the year.
- Battlefield 2142: The manual mentions that global warming hastened the Ice Age which has left most of Earth inhabitable. What is left is now being fought over in a global war. Meanwhile, sea level has gone down, in certain levels, you can find beached ships laying where water once was.
- Dystopia: Mentioned in the wiki's backstories but implied in-game when you find a cafe with nothing but soy food.
- Star Fox 64: The planet Zoness was once beautiful and lush, and served as a vacation spot, but later became a waste dump thanks to Andross's experiments. Also, in the intro, Corneria is mentioned to have been turned into a wasteland by Andross, but has recovered by the start of the game.
- According to the original game's manual, Venom once had "beauty second only to Corneria's" before Andross turned it into "a dark, polluted world".
- Deus Ex: While not as prominent as other fiction, its implied through in-game media that the Earth could have a better ecological record. Coastal flooding has become common and the majority of food the player can pick up seems to be artificial, or made with Human Resources. A conversation heard between two NPCs reveals that grizzly bears have been extinct for decades (The game is set in the 2050s.) If you read an email on Paul's computer, an advertisement, citing "dwindling resources", talks about a suicide clinic that offers its user's family 10,000 credits. News articles also read that the East River had a massive chlorine spill, killing almost all life in it, and that water supplies may be contaminated.
- Baja California is also missing from world maps. Background information reveals that a massive earthquake took place on the west coast in the 2030's. Everything south of Lompoc sank into the ocean.
- A book found in Paul's apartment also reveals that India and Pakistan, after a series of escalating conflicts and political upheaval, collapsed into a nuclear exchange.
- Deus Ex: Invisible War: The sequel to the above isn't any better. Transgenic species have escaped from labs, causing trouble for people in cities and functioning as invasive species. Nanite Swells cause Grey Death-like (the plague in the original game) symptoms in their victims, and in the Omar ending, the environment is outright destroyed in the many wars that happen after the game ends. The Omar don't mind, because their plan is to get the strongest humans possible and make for the stars.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The prequel to the above shows the "Golden Age" of the augmentation revolution. Cities are bright and beautiful, and people are prosperous...as long as you're rich. There's strong rumblings in the background of bad things happening around the world environmentally, as well. The rumblings are strong enough that a gigantic undertaking in the Arctic Ocean involving a massive complex that essentially creates a hole in the ocean to aid with global warming not only seems like a fantastic idea, but is actually serving as a template for other facilities that are planned to be built throughout the world later.
- Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri: Just one of the many things mentioned of Earth before its final destruction. The ending reveals that it is recolonized sometime later though. Also possible on the new planet if you neglect Green technology, which you'll almost certainly be doing if you play as the Free Drones, who can't use Green economics at all.
- Likewise in Sid Meiers Civilization IV, the over-use of nuclear weapons can start to cause desertification across the world, not to mention all the radioactive fallout.
- Half-Life 2: The Combine occupation of Earth has reduced much of it to a wasteland, populated by hostile alien life forms. Food has been reduced to what must be very revolting, as one NPC says to the player, "You gotta be damn hungry to wait in line for this crap."
- Actually, that's pre-packaged food made by the Combine. The Resistance living outside the cities use alternate food sources: while the Xenian lifeforms wrecked the planet's ecosystem, at least headcrabs and leeches are edible to humans and vortigaunts. It's unknown exactly what Combine soldiers and Elites are fed but it's likely they get the same saline solution used by Stalkers.
- The Combine are also in the process of stripping the planet of all its resources, especially water. The canals and coastline around City 17 all show signs that the oceans have fallen by five meters, filled with garbage, rusting wrecks and radioactive waste everywhere.
- Ironically, both Portal games seem to subvert this. The first game takes place completely inside except the brief ending where the Aperture grounds look relatively verdant and Combine-free. The previews for Portal 2 show GLaDOS's chamber entangled by plants and in the end Chell emerges from the facility into a lush wheat field.
- In the game Rogue Trip, the Earth is an irradiated wasteland, and the only green spots left are vacation areas controlled by a thug named Big Daddy.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog CD all of the Bad Future levels are either this, or in the process of becoming this.
- Subverted in Cuban Missile Crisis: The Aftermath: much of the northern hemisphere is left as a nuclear wasteland forcing The Anglo-Americans, Franco-German, USSR, and China to relocate in the Southern Hemisphere. And they bring their monuments with them.
- Final Fantasy VII deals with a group of eco-terrorists named AVALANCHE fighting to liberate the world from the ruthless exploitation by the greedy Mega-Corp Shinra who never stops draining the life energy of the planet (and thus the very cycle of life itself) for their own money and power. The trope is driven home when the player first leaves Midgar, and is able to see the surrounding lands are indeed grey and dead, there isn't even a blade of grass for miles around. Most of the rest of the world is still doing okay for now, but the underwater reactor at Junon has apparently wiped out the marine life that used to support the fishing town nearby.
- Just for emphasis, the land around other Mako reactors tend to look brown and craggy. The area immediately around Midgar is jet black.
- Mega Man Zero: the entire world was laid to ruin as a result of the Elf Wars before the start of the series. It isn't until the final game in the series that you see non-artificial nature.
- Between Contra 3 and Contra: Shattered Soldier, the Triumvirate set off a superweapon that caused "environmental collapse on a global scale", for which Bill Rizer was falsely convicted and sentenced to cryo-prison.
- The Nazi Zombies mode of the Treyarch Call of Duty games has the characters inadvertently destroying the Earth and most of humanity, but as the missiles were full of Element 115, which reanimates dead cells, the Zombie Apocalypse has begun. Black Ops II 's story is about the characters working to survive and save humanity. The Earth is now a fractured, lava-filled wasteland. It's pretty sad to see the blue marble reduced to a black sphere of charcoal with only the lava to make a difference in color. The main cast must choose to aid either Dr. Maxis or Richtofen in healing the Earth. It turns out it was Evil vs. Evil all along: Richtofen doesn't do a thing to help humanity and ends up trapped in a human body anyway; and Maxis has had his followers help him so he may completely destroy the Earth to reach Agartha.
- A big theme in the Oddworld series is how the Magog Cartel facilities are absolutely destroying the world, hunting many species into extinction and polluting the environment into inhospitable wastelands. Seeing Oddworld's natural splendor (via huge amounts of Scenery Porn) as it used to be is one of the factors that spur Abe into returning to Rupture Farms 1029 to shut it down in Abe's Oddysee.
- In Stellaris, there are a number of ways the player can encounter worlds that once supported thriving ecosystems, or outright cause this:
- The Terraforming Candidate worlds are Barren worlds that once supported life, but for whatever reason, no longer do. As the name suggests, terraforming them is a possibility.
- The Mass Extinction event chain is all about surveying worlds that were rendered uninhabitable by either massive disasters or their natives' negligence, in order to ensure the surveying species does not suffer a similar fate.
- Several of the various possible precursor event chains reveal that the species' homeworld was annihilated by the same disaster that caused their fall.
- The fate of any world taken by the Prethyon Scourge; they devour the entire ecosystem, and the planet must be glassed to remove them. (The world can be terraformed back into habitability, however.)
- Tomb Worlds, the result of a nuclear war. These can be colonized, but unless a species is radiation-resistant (a rare trait found on uplifted species only), robotic, blessed by the Worm, or just incredibly resilient,
- It's possible for every planet in a system that isn't a Gas Giant to be turned into a Tomb World by the Worm. This is a mixed affair, especially since it makes previously barren worlds technically habitable and the Worm also grants Tomb World habitability to its favored species.
- Machine Empires in Synthetic Dawn can, with an Ascension Perk, deliberately glass planets into Machine Worlds that are completely inhabitable to even the most basic of biological life but serve the needs of synthetics perfectly.
- Among the preset empires, the Chinorr Combine's description says that their homeworld was Chicora was once covered in verdant rainforest and they evolved as canopy-dwelling ambush predators, swinging through the trees with their powerful limbs and dropping down on prey to inject a deadly neurotoxin. They ruthlessly strip-mined their planet into an Arid World as they civilised and are wholly unsentimental about the destruction they caused, claiming it to be a necessary sacrifice for progress.
- Downplayed Trope and Implied Trope late game. With enough Galactic Community decisions prioritizing industrial development, and the planetary administration passing the "Project Cornucopia" decision, planets can take a -45% Habitability penalty.
- Warframe: While by the time of the game the Earth is covered in a vast forest, some journals from the time of the Orokin Empire imply that it was a polluted wasteland that had been abandoned long ago. It was an Orokin scientist who created the forest, mostly to make it useless for industrial purposes. Something of a scientific Gaia's Vengeance.
- One of the trailers for Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood starts with newsreels of deforestation and strip mining. Another follows some red leaves blowing across a torn-up field into an industrial zone until the protagonist picks one up only for it to turn to ash in his hand, then it cuts back to the tree bleeding.
- After Armageddon Gaiden takes place after a nuclear war as destroyed human civilization. The Earth has been left a barren wasteland where even trees are rare. The protagonists are later amazed when they get a glimpse of nature in its original form and restoring the Earth becomes one of the goals in defeating the villain.
- Project Aura takes place in an Earth that has been rendered uninhabitable due to ecologic collapse. Sometime around the late 21st century, as it became increasingly clear that people would continue polluting the planet in the name of profit and progress, scientists from all over the world formed the titular Project Aura, built tons of sealed sea platforms equipped with a protective energy dome, and put them under the rule of an AI that manages a huge reserve of cryo-preserved people. The world environment eventually collapsed completely and life was almost wiped from the planet... except the ones that took refuge in the Project Aura. 20,000 years later, the Earth is still uninhabitable but managed to self-recover just enough to make these colonies viable, the sea colonies are finally activating, and your mission is to build one of these colonies and bring Humanity back to life.
- Kenshi takes place in a Death World rendered this way in great part due to industry and a cataclysmic war that almost wiped Humanity from the planet. Fertile, temperate land is pretty much restricted to a tiny valley in the middle of the continent; everything else ended up at best as a dry, barren desert, in the middle as a black toxic wasteland with permanent acid rain, at worst a place where no life can exist because it's constantly bombarded by Kill Sats.
- Metal Walker's Rusted Land used to be pristine, but after the disaster the world is mostly desert and destroyed towns, with lakes full of mud or acid. There's only one spot in the entire game with trees and grass.
- Cyberpunk 2077: This world has it bad. There are mentions of sharks having gone extinct in the wild a decade earlier, a pet iguana is a valuable worth executing a highly elaborate heist to steal, and the urban animals in Night City were deliberately hunted to extinction in order to prevent the spread of disease. However, what really hammers it home is that next to no-one seems to think this is a bad thing. When a conservationist goes on TV to advocate for not hunting seagulls to complete extinction, she is forced to debate a mother who lost children to Avian Flu, and is pretty much booed off-stage.
- Reversed Star seems to have this, with characters in some settings being forced to wear gas masks outside.
- In Romantically Apocalyptic, the end of the world was going to be caused by the Good Directorate's refusal to stop the pollution of Earth and the dangers of highly advanced A.I. ANNET. Engineer's attempt to stop what he assumed was ANNET trying to Take Over the World (actually a desperate attempt to fix the damage) via nukes only sped it up.
- Pave the Earth!, founded in Usenet, have not just a plan but The Plan (TM) to geoengineer this themselves.
Some see the vessel as half full; others see it as half empty; We pour it out on the floor and laugh.
- Nightmarishly inverted in this◊ thread by (who else?) the madmen on 4chan's /tg/ board. Long story short? Humans Are Bastards, and far from suffering from it, Terra thrives on it. And now, both are casting their hungry, jealous gaze towards other, more peaceful and harmonious worlds...
"Tremble, galaxy, for Earth and her children behold you.""And we find you wanting."
- Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72:
- In his zeal to create a truly free market, Rumsfeld removes almost every environmental regulation, and actively encourages coal pollution and climate change. He even pushes for environmentalism to become recognised as a mental illness.
- The conflicts in Southern Africa see so many dirty bombs and chemical weapons detonated, that whole areas become uninhabitable wastelands.
- The Christian Values Party uses nukes with reckless abandon. Their attempts to stop Cuba from taking Florida and crush pockets of resistance have left large areas of the country severely irradiated.
- According to various comments heard throughout Futurama, by the year 3000, pine trees, poodles, cows and anchovies will be extinct; there will be jungles on Mars but not on Earth; and with petroleum reserves depleted, cars will run on whale oil.
- Played for laughs on The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Wedding". Set in the future, trees are apparently extinct, as shown by a holographic image of a tree, with the description: "In memory of a real tree."
- Played for laughs in the MAD parody of The Lorax, "I am Lorax" Will Smith made so many action movies that include explosions it left Thneedville(Hollywood) as a barren wasteland. But it's all fixed in the end when all the trees are redrawn.
- Schoolhouse Rock!: "The Energy Blues" is a literal example. The Earth itself, played by Jack "I'm Just A Bill" Sheldon, sings about the history of energy consumption, the depletion of its energy resources, and the need for conservation until alternatives are found.
Energy . . .We're looking to try and find some new kindsEnergy . . .Exploring to try and make a new findNuclear and thermal and solarIf we miss we'll get colder and colderEnergy . . .We've got to stop using you up
- Steven Universe: The Kindergarten, where Gems like Amethyst and Peridot are artificially grown, is a bleak, lifeless canyon due to the Gem production process draining the life force of the surrounding area. If the colonization project hadn't been shut down, the whole planet would've followed suit.
- The Oblongs: The Valley portion of Hill Valley is a horribly polluted landscape thanks to runoff from Globocide. The air is toxic, the land befouled, there's garbage everywhere, and birth defects plague the residents.
- Not matter how bright or beautiful a star is, they all end up as dull white dwarfs.
- This is somewhat of an aversion, as white dwarfs still glow and can be a host to solar systems with even life (even if it's only microbial or non-carbon based). Also, some stars get too big and become black holes, which is much worse, as we don't even know where black holes lead to.
- The other two planets in the Goldilocks Zone in our Solar System, Venus and Mars, are shells of their former self. Venus went on an overdrive and now has thick, poisonous clouds, while Mars is on average a cold, barren desert with ice and radioactive rocks. However, Mars has a good chance of harboring life, as there is liquid water and the temperatures and features are more Earth like than Venus.