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Tear Jerker / Life After People

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In a series dedicated to exploring the destruction of all of mankind's achievements, you can expect a few sad moments.

  • Seeing your home city abandoned and in ruins combines both Tear Jerker and Nightmare Fuel.
  • For pet lovers, the pilot episode of the first month or so takes extra care to mention the millions of cats, dogs, hamsters, and fish all locked inside their houses, waiting for humans that will never show up.
    • And then they had to show cats pawing at the doorknob and dogs scratching at loaves of bread, desperate for food.
    • The seeing-eye dog that continues to follow its daily routine as if its master was still there by its side. The poor thing continues to adhere to its training, ignoring the instinct to raid the cupboards in hunger while it waits for a feeding that will never come. Well-trained dogs will do this almost to the point of starvation.
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    • And for the animals in America who are lucky enough to escape, many of them will fall victim to a rabies epidemic. One that will last a good 300 years before populations die off and spread out enough for it to cease.
  • At the end of the original documentary, it's speculated that while apes may one day achieve a human-like mastery over the environment, the ability to look outside one's self and contemplate one's place in the cosmos may well have been an evolutionary accident — one that will likely never be repeated. Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether anything from the time of humans survives: even if it does, there will be no one to talk about it.
    Narrator: And so, like an abandoned village on a global scale, the Earth will move on without us. There was life before us, and there will be life...after people.
  • Then there's the closing perspective on humankind's "reign" over planet Earth: if the Earth's 4.5 billion year existence were condensed into a 24 hour period, man's time on the planet would be half a minute long. And the 10,000 years it would take the earth to wipe out nearly all traces of our existence? A fraction of a second. We Are as Mayflies, indeed.
    • Since the documentary aired, it's been estimated that the Earth is between 60 and 300 million years older than previously believed. Half a minute? Try a couple of seconds.
    • On the other hand, it's now suspected that the human race itself is 150,000 years older than we thought. Even with the adjustment, however, that's infinitesimal in comparison to the livespan of the Earth itself.
  • The destruction of mankind's greatest works of art. It's not easy to watch the Mona Lisa rot away and the dome of the Sistine Chapel crumble to dust.
    • Along with them are the films and books that preserved our history and culture, from our greatest achievements to our worst mistakes. In less than a century, all of it has been degraded or eaten away.
  • The Real Life fate of the animals in the New Orleans aquarium, nearly all of which died after Katrina because the facility was evacuated and nobody was there to keep their tanks' water from turning foul with wastes.
  • The KEO satellite, an orbiting time capsule, returns to Earth after 50,000 years, carrying messages from the 21st century. But nobody's around to see it or retrieve it. Its ultimate destiny is to crash into the ocean and likely remain there for the rest of time.
  • All of man's attempts at achieving immortality prove futile.
    • The fate of cryogenically-preserved humans. As the liquid nitrogen keeping them preserved boils off, it reaches a critical point where the decomposition process accelerates. People like them made a gamble for a second chance at life, but they're among some of the first to go.
    • The hundreds of thousands of human embryos kept preserved thanks to liquid nitrogen die off quickly as well.
    • After three years of orbital decline, the International Space Station comes crashing back to Earth, and with it, the last digitized samples of human DNA.
    • The final remnant of humanity will likely be our fossilized bones. With nothing left of our civilization, what might some future intelligence say about us? What will they make of our existence and the legacy we left behind?
  • While many had hoped that our radio and TV signals broadcast over the centuries would continue travelling through space forever, calculations have shown that it all dissipates within one or two light years into white noise. Turns out our signals won't even make it past the next closest star.
  • The slow death of every last seed in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. All that potential to generate new life gone forever.

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