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Humans Are Survivors

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"Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they've crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts, and now here they are amongst the stars, waiting to begin a new life, ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable!"
The Doctor, Doctor Who, "The Ark in Space"

In fiction, no matter how many other races are kicking around, if there's one species that seems to have a knack for avoiding extinction it's us. Genocidal aliens? We fortify our position and fight back with everything we have. Earth becomes uninhabitable? We either head into space to find somewhere new to live or artificially create enclosed environments that are habitable. Our planet gets blown up? Again, time to take to the stars. Global ice age? Been there, done that.

Differs from Last Stand in that while Last Stand is to do with refusing to surrender even when the odds are heavily stacked against them, with the possibility of extinction not always being a factor, Human Are Survivors covers the way that humans as a species tend to be very, very hard to kill off, regardless of whether the ones attempting to do so are enemies, Mother Nature, the universe in general or even our own stupidity. There is a fair bit of overlap though. Can sometimes overlap with Humans Are Special. See also Humans Are Warriors and Had to Be Sharp, and Fighting for Survival for a list of the ways that humans can show that they're good at surviving. There's a contrast with anyone who is immortal or nearly indestructible; humans are survivors because they developed the virtues of survival in order to overcome the state of affairs where they are mortal and die rather easily, while an immortal being just never has to face a survival-threatening problem.


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    Comic Books 
  • Legends of the Dead Earth: Humanity survived the destruction of Earth and settled on more than a thousand different planets throughout the galaxy.

  • In Child of the Storm, Dumbledore considers this to be humanity's hat and that it is what makes them so dangerous. Thor at first thinks that Humans Are Warriors, then considers Tony Stark, and revises his point of view.
  • For Love of Magic and it's sequel A Discordant Note deconstruct the idea, citing that while humanity is great at overcoming challenges, they also need to have challenges to overcome or they'll "grow sick in spirit, causing entire societies to grow warped and rotten".
  • In Renegade (a Mass Effect//Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series Fusion Fic), mankind survived living on a planet where, thanks to the Scrin and their Green Rocks, the ground was trying to eat them. Naturally, this coupled with humans constantly being at war made humanity even tougher. Even the krogan respect humans.
  • Humans in Humans Don't Make Good Pets quickly become seen as being as indestructible as the Vulza which is basically a space dragon whose presence on a battlefield will cause an immediate retreat. The human in protagonist can ignore any weapon that isn't an anti-tank rifle or stronger, barely even notices being infected with several of the worst diseases in galactic history, and a poison designed to kill anything in a matter of seconds only knocks him out for a few hours. Even being injected with a cocktail of the three deadliest plagues known to the galaxy at wide only leaves him mildly sick for two days. Several medical researchers state that a human's immune system could wipe out most life in the galaxy, let alone all the viruses and bacteria they carry on them. Lastly, humans are apparently the only sentient omnivore in the galaxy, and in fact any kind of omnivore is astronomically rare due to being exposed to both flora and fauna based diseases and toxins.

    Films — Animated 
  • Humanity in Titan A.E.. Aliens try to kill them off by blowing up Earth; years later, those who were evacuated before said Earth-Shattering Kaboom are still hanging in there despite the loss of their planet, being on the bottom of the galactic totem pole and the fact that the nearest thing they have to a home is a bodged-together space colony made out of old ships, not to mention that the aforementioned aliens are still out to get them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This is a major theme in Pacific Rim. As soon as it's made clear that no one is safe from the Kaijus, humans create the Jaegers to defend themselves and they prove incredibly effective. The only reason Kaijus are still a threat is because stronger versions of them keep appearing after increasingly shorter intervals. Midway through the movie, it's revealed that the Kaijus are beings engineered to actively destroy humanity but humans do such a good job at surviving that they manage to kill their creators. Ironically, the attacks started because humans inadvertently facilitated the invasion of Earth by polluting the atmosphere.
  • Predator: According to Expanded Universe and Word of God, the titular alien hunters enjoy hunting humans because, despite our inferior physiology and technology, we're ingenious survivors and we're not bound by rigid codes of honour. In expanded material, they especially value two different species as prey: "Pyode Amedha", which is "Soft Meat" and refers to us, and "Kainde Amedha", which means "Hard Meat" and refers to the Xenomorphs. In other words, a race of super-strong, armed-to-the-teeth Proud Warrior Race Guys have arguments about whether or not we're more entertaining quarry than a race of Lightning Bruiser bug monsters with acid for blood, simply because cheating is our bread and butter. Makes you proud in a weird way, doesn't it?

  • In Animorphs, this is part of the reason that Visser One chose to start a secret invasion of Earth—our history has shown that humans will refuse to back down from much stronger opponents and somehow still win. Combined with the fact that humans are a lot more numerous than any other species, even the Yeerks' vastly superior technology probably wouldn't stand a chance.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon, this is stated to be humanity's one true strength;
    "Man is an unspecialized animal. His body, except for its enormous brain case, is primitive. He can't dig; he can't run very fast; he can't fly. But he can eat anything and he can stay alive where a goat would starve, a lizard would fry, a bird freeze. Instead of special adaptations he has general adaptability."
  • Empire from the Ashes: Humans are the only sentient species known to have survived through multiple Achuultani incursions. They're usually down to the population of just one planet, and then they take to the stars again.
  • In Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss, humanity is just barely surviving, but considering that the only other known animals left are highly evolved insects, that's impressive.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's Rescue Party, aliens who've come to try and save as many as they can before the Sun goes nova are surprised to find that Earth's inhabitants have already managed to rescue themselves.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: at the end of the Earth-Minbari War humanity rallies most of its surviving military to hold back the Minbari just long enough to send some more people away to try and survive away from the Minbari. And when the Minbari surrender without explanation or apparent reason, some of humanity's neighbours decide to try and take advantage of Earth's weakness... Only to find out that humanity's warship building program had not only been continuing the whole time producing ships more than powerful enough to deal with their threat, they had been building new models capable of giving the invincible Minbari a hard time. Tellingly, the Narn Regime and the Centauri Republic, Earth's most belligerent and most powerful neighbours, did not try and invade Earth Alliance while it was weak, but rather sold them advanced weapons to fight the Minbari and gave them a huge loan to rebuild respectively because they knew better than underestimate humanity (the loan was paid back in just a few years).
  • Doctor Who: The human race not only outlasts the planet Earth, but manages to survive until the end of the Universe. Unfortunately, things go downhill after that.
    • "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks": Dalek Sec merges with a human to become a Half-Human Hybrid specifically because humans are survivors and wants to impart that resilience to a new generation of Daleks. At first he believes this is because of humanity's ambition and "genius for war", but eventually thinks it's because of humanity's better qualities instead.
  • Star Trek: Humans have pulled themselves from the brink of self-annihilation and survived wars against the Xindi and their Guardians, the Romulans, the Klingons, the Dominion, the Borg, Species 8472, etc. In one novel, Q describes this as humanity's hat.
  • In Supernatural, humans are the bottom of the food chain and often seen as the scourge of the earth by monster races, angels, and demons. But somehow the humans keep thwarting plans for domination and destruction that have been in the works for decades, millennia, eons, etc.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Voices in the Earth", humanity settled on planets throughout the galaxy after Earth's biosphere was destroyed.

  • The song "Pack Up, We're Moving" by My Heart To Fear describes Earth as a 'place of endless pain':
    Where the best of men are broken
    And where the best of men are made...
  • Kero Kero Bonito's Civilisation duology centers around the constant perils and self-inflicted setbacks humanity finds itself enduring (most prominently the themes of environmental destruction), with the ultimate thesis being this idea. The final track off Civilisation II, "Well Rested", expounds the idea that shall humanity continue to care for mother Gaia, an ascension welcomes them all.
    We have survived a hundred apocalypses
    Doomsday hasn't come yet
    You cannot stop civilisation

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition uses this trope as part of its (successful) attempt to take humans from being simply the Jack of All Stats to being Humans Are Special, and it crops up all over the game's human-specific support material. In fact, it would not be far off base to wager that a full third or more of human specific feats, as well as the racial paragon path, are devoted to setting up human beings as hyper-adaptable, survival Determinators, either (read: usually) by adding bonuses to saving throws, or occasionally more directly by adding HP or defense bonuses. Seriously, some of the humans' most iconic feats have names like: Human Perseverance, Die Hard, Human Resolve, Frantic Recovery, Don't Count Me get the idea.
  • The populations of the aptly named "death worlds" in Warhammer 40,000. Due to natural (and sometimes not-quite-natural) selection, these planets are basically breeding grounds for badasses, who fill the ranks of the most renowned Imperial Guard regiments as well as Space Marine chapters.

    Video Games 
  • Successfully beating the entirety of any Survival Horror game.
  • The UFO After Blank series is built on this. The Reticulans launched a global Depopulation Bomb that wiped out the vast majority of humankind. But the small percentage that survived were pissed and motivated to both survive and seek out bloody vengeance, and went from a few scattered survivors to a technologically-advanced global military force able to match the Reticulans' superior technology through prying it from their corpses, figuring out how it worked, and turning it back against the enemy. Depending on the ending of the first game, the humans either destroy the Reticulan forces or fight them to a standstill until the Reticulans agree to build a space station to house the surviving population.
  • The Terrans in StarCraft are the descendants of a small group of refugees from earth's death camps who crashed into a bunch of planets after missing their intended destination by some 15 years in warp and later proceeded to fight at least one nuclear war among themselves. In the games themselves, several of their colonies are infested by a Horde of Alien Locusts and/or sterilized by Scary Dogmatic Aliens (and that's before getting into the infighting between different Terran factions.) Despite everything, they still thrive.
  • In the Metro 2033 series (both the two books and the two video games), even after the apocalypse, even when you don't count Artyom, humans are still the toughest and most badass species around. They eat shrimpsnote  with beer, kill demonsnote , on a regular basis, and can slaughter nosalises and watchmen with knives and nothing else with some effort. It's reflected in-game, too: the combat analysis on this page shows how humans excel in all kinds of face-off, even when outnumbered, and don't suffer at all from Conservation of Ninjutsu like the other competitorsnote  often do - in fact, a quartet of humans can only consistently be matched by four other humans or the Player Character.
  • Humanity in Destiny is explicitly described as this in their Grimoire entry. Mankind once lived in a golden age of advanced technology thanks to the Traveler, until the Darkness, its archenemy, attacked and ruined mankind. The current human society is made up of the descendants of the survivors of the collapse, gathered in a single city on earth, desperately struggling for survival and to reawaken the Traveler. They are surrounded by incredibly powerful enemies, including alien pirates, an occupying alien army, a legion of bloodthirsty Magitek Omnicidal Maniacs, and hyper-advanced, malevolent time-traveling robots who warp reality. But despite all the myriad threats they face, this one weakened species and its one small city are slowly, doggedly pushing back, intent on retaking what was once theirs. Even losing the City to the Cabal in Destiny 2 has only furthered their resolve to keep fighting and surviving.
  • The humans in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Aliens have landed on Earth, and are abducting citizens and razing entire cities. Every nation's military is no match. In a last ditch effort, nations from around the world pool all their funding and technology into "The XCOM Project", a secretive Paramilitary organization dedicated to combating the aliens. Even with the absolute best humanity has to offer, they are severely outmatched. The aliens can take large barrages of gunfire, all while tearing through XCOM's body armor as if it were paper. In addition to being outnumbered, the humans are outgunned as well. Countless aliens keep landing, tearing apart more and more of the world. They can bend minds and kill soldiers with just a thought, and yet the humans of XCOM hang on. After managing to kill enough aliens and steal enough tech, XCOM begins reverse-engineering alien tech and supplying their soldiers with gear that can make their soldiers survive even the aliens' deadly plasma guns. The soldiers that keep surviving missions become tougher and tougher, stronger and more determined, until your elite soldiers can survive the deadliest weapons the aliens can throw at you, even powering through alien mind control and lethal wounds though sheer will and determination.
    • In XCOM 2, they fail... specifically because the aliens refused to give them a chance to prove themselves in this timeline. Then the humans cobble together a Resistance movement over twenty years, sabotage hundreds of Human Resources facilities and military networks, do all of the above with an R&D force of one dozen just because they have an education on the fundamentals of the aliens' science, and liberate the aliens from the elders' mind control, causing a massive revolt that leaves the corrupt rulers crippled.
  • A major theme in Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker: The Endsinger threatens the world of Hydaelyn, and the heroes fight to prevent their peoples from giving into despair and letting the Endsinger destroy their world. As explained by the first dragon Midgardsormr, and learned in the Endsinger's realm of Ultima Thule, Hydaelyn and her people are wholly unique in their nature as survivors: the dragons from Midgardsormr's homeworld had been driven to extinction by the Omicrons, the Omicrons suffered such a crippling lack of direction that they fell into eternal dormancy, and the Ea drove themselves to extinction when they learned about the eventual heat death of the universe. Other planets had similarly become lifeless for one reason of another, yet the people of Hydaelyn survive in the face of otherwise insurmountable destruction. Venat, the woman who became the goddess Hydaelyn, knew this eons ago, and orchestrated the World Sundering that led to the creation of the world as it exists now specifically out of her belief that humanity can overcome hardship and emerge stronger for it.
  • In Stellaris games where humans are FTL-capable from the start they're nothing special, but if they aren't Sol III has a high chance of randomly generating as a Tomb World with a better chance of being still inhabited than any other world whose natives had a nuclear war in the past. In which case humans become a useful client race for any Empire that plans to colonize a bunch of Tomb Worlds since they're rather inhospitable to species from other planet types.
    • in the Apocalypse expansion you can start your race off in a tomb world. Damaging unless you get your hands on another tomb world early game, vassalize another race or get your hands on tech that lets you terraform and change planet preferences. If you create a human nation from the UNE template (to give you the human intro) you can create a human nation that has survived nuclear annihilation.
    • In a more literal way, Humans have the Adaptive trait, giving them a +10% Habitability bonus, allowing them to have an easier time surviving hostile environments.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles X, humanity is forced to flee into the stars after Earth is destroyed in the crossfire between two warring alien races. One of those races continues to pursue humanity, forcing them to crash-land on the planet of Mira, a beautiful but hostile world teeming with dangerous alien flora and fauna. In spite of their circumstances, humanity continues to survive, building a colony the size of a small city and settling into their new niche in space.
  • In Mass Effect, humans were the last species to master intergalactic space travel and are new to intergalactic diplomacy. They are seen as overly ambitious upstarts. However, whenever there is a threat to the galaxy, the humans are the first to detect it and always lead the charge to defeat it. Humans are attacked by space gods over and over again and always manage to survive despite alien species and planets being obliterated.
    • In one of the worst-case scenario finales (Director's Cut only), if you fail intentionally, bringing war assets to a bare minimum that causes your superweapon to malfunction from war damage and go omnicidal, it's revealed that despite killing nearly everything in the galaxy, including the Reapers, some humans have barely survived. They're not happy, but a sparse few are still intact and staring at the ashes of their dead.
    • In the other worst-case scenario, humans manage to survive past the Reaper apocalypse, alongside the Asari. No details are given about whether they were preserved or were cloned, but they exist.
  • Playing as a human in Starbound means bouncing back from the destruction of Earth, saving the universe, and making silly jokes in the process.

    Web Original 
  • In the backstory of Stellaris Invicta season 1, the earth was invaded by an unidentified alien species who eventually turn out to be the Tyrum . Though at a technological and numerical disadvantage, humanity managed to nuke the hell out of the alien battleships before leading a guerilla war for decades against the invaders, eventually winning back the earth by sweat, blood and tears.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • In the time that humans have been on this Earth, brief compared to the many, many other extant species that predate us by millions of years, we've experienced global drought, Ice Ages, drastic changes in sea level and weather patterns, numerous global epidemics, natural disasters, and many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many wars. And we're still here. And for better or worse, there's more of us than ever before.
  • Some people, including Stephen Hawking, think we're not trying hard enough at this, and better get it together (read: spread into space). There are still huge problems about space travel that we don't yet have technology to even address. We can send someone past Pluto, for example, but have no idea if such a trip is survivable.
  • On the biological level, humans are incredibly hard to kill, stemming in part from our original evolutionary strategy of chasing things until they died and wandering around until we found something vaguely edible when that didn't work. Other animals may be able to survive longer without water or regrow limbs, but humans are the Jack of All Trades of not dying in a randomly chosen environment or to a random injury, even before we start sewing our fellow human's organs back together, drilling wells in Death Valley, and building greenhouses in Antarctica.