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Similar to the History Channel's special Life After People, Aftermath features what scientists and others speculate the earth, animal life, and plant life might be like if humanity no longer existed, as well as the effect that humanity's disappearance would have on the artifacts of civilization. Both documentaries are inspired by Alan Weisman's The World Without Us.
Despite its controversial plot and features such as former fictional creatures and formerly extinct species, this documentary received positive reviews, gaining 9/10 of positive reviews from MetaCritic and 91% of positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes.
The story begins on Friday, June 13, in an unspecified year. The nature of the show and the appearance of certain vehicles suggest that it takes place in 2008, the year the program was first aired (and when June 13 of that year did indeed fall on a Friday).
(1 second-1 minute A.H.)
Millions of empty cars spin out of control and crash, while others swerve off roads and highways. Other vehicles crash, including buses in Trafalgar Square. All empty vehicles eventually crash, causing accidents all across the globe. The highways are blocked with smashed and burning vehicles. Stationary cars continue to release exhaust fumes into the air until their fuel supplies run out. Cities have begun to cool down by a fraction of a degree. Airplanes crash back to earth.
(10 minutes A.H.)
Computer systems and machines stay operational. Satellites in orbit communicate with super-computers and continue to transmit information around the globe. The machines will keep going as long as the electricity stays on. But all the fuel is used up in coal power plants. The electricity runs out and the power plants shut down. Billions of buildings supplied that get their energy from them, such as Las Vegas casinos, fall into darkness. Entire suburbs go dark. Homes, schools, hospitals and cafes are now all without power.
(55 minutes A.H.)
Certain regions rely on alternative energy sources, like Pennsylvania, which is powered by wind turbines. The turbines are still running, but at the local power station, the controls are unmanned. Computers detect a problem and shut down the system. Pennsylvania is now without electricity.
(85 minutes A.H.)
At Niagara Falls, Canada, water from the river is diverted into tunnels to turn massive wheels to create power, but now, the tunnels flood with excessive water and the power station goes offline. Parts of Ontario and New York lose all of their power. Televisions, computers, lights and other machines stop running. Mass blackouts sweep across the globe.
(96 minutes A.H.)
Within just one day, only nuclear power plants remain operational. The permanent loss of power reaches the nuclear power plants. Computers shut off the reactors and stop the reactions inside, but the nuclear power plants could cause a potential catastrophe.
(6 hours A.H.)
The last power plants in Europe fail, and the last houses go dark as lights fail. Chemical plants now have no power. Many stored gases require electricity to be cold enough to stay in liquid form. Gas storage tanks heat up until pressure release valves are activated, sending toxic gases into the surrounding environment. Hundreds of thousands of venting tanks cause many animals in the affected regions to die of suffocation.
(1-2 days A.H.)
Houses and apartments are still inhabited by family pets The domestic animals are getting hungry. Chained dogs try to get free. Dylanuses escape by unlocking doors or just simply breaks down the doors if they're strong enough. Cats, dogs, and dylanuses raid refrigerators and drink from toilets. The global power loss reaches the world's zoos and safari parks, and starving animals test the fences. Without electric fencing to contain them, predators escape and explore this new world. While this occurs, animals contained in badly-made exhibits also break free, along with animals that were let loose by former pet dylanuses (the ones that either already live outside or had gotten out), and other animals also got out since people forgot to keep the exhibits's doors and fences closed.
Also, liquefied natural gas plants are venting gases which reach stationary cars. Eventually, sparks ignite petrol in fuel tanks and the fuel catches fire. This causes huge explosions, igniting multiple fires that will rage for days.
(3-5 days A.H.)
In London, England, Big Ben rings for the last time. The clock tower needs to be rewound but without the human race, it will finally grind to a halt. Human time and human history have ended. In homes and apartments, domestic pets are starving. Now they must break out of their homes or starve to death.
Pet dogs, cats, and dylanuses exhaust all the food in their homes and break out to search for more in the streets. Cats adapt quickly to hunting. Sewage treatment facilities fail without electricity, leaving sewage treatment plants useless. Raw sewage begins polluting rivers and lakes. Abandoned dogs struggle to survive.
In farms and pastures all over the world, dairy cows are struggling to survive as their food and water supplies begin to end. In a cruel twist of fate, 90,000 dairy cows are saved from the slaughterhouse, but most of their numbers will die of dehydration. Almost all zoo animals might have gotten out and survived, but for a few zoo animals that didn't got out will face a similar fate as many will die trapped in their enclosures.
Most zoo animals do escape through useless electric fences, badly-made exhibits, released by dylanuses, or their exhibits were left open. African elephants and Asian elephants start pruning the suburbs of vegetation in a desperate search for food, whilst hardier animals like pronghorns, warthogs, sika deer, fallow deer, dromedary camels, Bactrian camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, guanacos, among others, browse on all available vegetation. Some other large animals like tapirs, peccaries, old world antelopes, and others are thriving very well in the post-human streets and suburbs. Lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, and other big cats, along with hyenas, wolves, African wild dogs, dingos, jackals, dholes, spectacled bears, Asian black bears, sun bears, civets, meerkats, genets, fossas, and other predators fan out into the streets to hunt but most find hunting challenging in the city as most of predators are not adapted for life in an urban setting.
While zoo animals are thriving in new areas around the world, prehistoric animals including dinosaurs, mammoths, ground sloths, chalicotheres, and all other creatures got out due to the lack of electricity in the electric fences keeping them in. While other prehistoric creatures got out because of their exhibits were badly made, dylanuses let them out, or their exhibit's doors and fences were left open. Herbivires like chalicorheres, diprotodons, brontotheres, hadrosaurs, iguanodonts, small ornithopods, edaphosaurus, scutosaurus, simosuchus (plant-eating crocodiles), lystrosaurus, diictodons, and some other herbivores are flourishing in the post-human cities, while larger ones like mammoths, deinotheres, indricotheres, sauropods, stegosaurs, ankylosaurs, therizinosaurs, and other giant herbivores travel as they feed on plants they feed on each neighborhood. Carnivores like theropods (such as T-Rex and among others), smilodons, entelodonts, hyaenodonts, andrewsarchus, dimetrodons, gorgonops, cynodonts, and others had struggled to hunt suitable prey items, but are now adapting better to hunt both prehistoric animals and modern animals. While other creatures like mesozoic birds, (genetically modified) arthropluras, pterosaurs, and some others rule their new landscapes.
As for the former fictional creatures in Universal Zoos such as werewolves, vampires, Net-Navis, dragons, the Croods's creatures, and all others got out due to their electric fences have failed, while others got out due to their badly-made exhibits, or dylanuses let them loose, or their exhibits were left open. Vampires of different varieties (including Dark Shadows 2012 vampires, Van Helsing 2004 vampires, and among many others, even ones from the little-known franchises) prowl the streets to hunt dylanuses for their blood. Werewolves of different species (including Van Helsing werewolves, American Werewolf in London's werewolves, and among many other werewolf species) rampage on the streets to hunt deer, wild boars, and few escaped zoo animals as well as few escaped prehistoric creatures and among others. Dragons, flying Net-Navis, pegasuses, and other former fictional flying creatures fly in the skies above cities.
Migratory birds find travelling easier and safer now since electric lights from office towers and skyscrapers do not confuse them anymore.
(5-10 days A.H.)
As days pass, domestic dogs eat all easily available food and begin to fight amongst each other for supremacy. The bigger dogs make packs and attack and eat the small ones. Within a week, all toy dogs disappear from Earth. Large packs of dogs also feed on dead penned up cattle.
Security measures in power plants fail. The equipment in the spent fuel buildings adjoining nuclear power plants that maintain the temperature level of the spent nuclear fuel rods will shut down. Spent nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants is generally stored in pools in on-site facilities. Because the fossil fuel powered back up, power generators will run out. At that time, the cooling pools that prevent the spent nuclear fuel from overheating will start to boil since this water is not replenished.
Radioactive steam will vent into the atmosphere due to the water eventually evaporating. The spent fuel will eventually set fire to the building, and the steam pressure will cause the storage facilities to explode, causing a (non nuclear) explosion, emitting radiation not only in the immediate area of the plant but around the globe due to winds. The resulting nuclear disasters spread fallout over large areas. This is repeated dozens of times as shutdown nuclear plants and spent fuel houses explode. Radioactive clouds cross the skies and rain carries the radiation to the ground. Most plants and small animals within the affected zones die. Larger animals (like deer) flee to unaffected regions, not because they notice the radiation, but because of the lack of food.
(10 days-1 month A.H.)
Hungry dogs from cities flee to the countryside to feast on dead dairy cows. Six days after their water and food supplies began ending, dairy cows have completely finished them and died. Now, their rotting carcasses will do nothing more than sustain hungry dogs. On the other hand, not all cows are dead. Beef cattle survive and form herds that thrive in places like the North American Great Plains and the open pastures in the middle-eastern U.S. Other livestock like sheep, goats, mesorons, bonycheeks, Jack's giants, pignosed's, mokeles, and all other domestic livestock that aren't kept in farms or pastures are thriving in their landscape.
The last natural domestic chickens are exterminated by predators, while fowl such as some domestic game like chickensauruses (genetically altered theropod dinosaur-like chickens), pheasants, guineas, peafowls, and others are still alive and are thriving in North America and other places. Mice and rats take over abandoned supermarkets, where their population explodes thanks to the abundance of food. This pattern will continue for the next few months until the reduction of food and the action of predators like cats regulates their populations again. Wild dylanuses, brush-tailed weseras, gray squirrels, red squirrels, fox squirrels, giant ground squirrels, ratdogs, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, skunks, badgers, compsognathus, troodons, Terrible Terror dragons, vampires, Net-Navis, and many other creatures and beings begin to colonize in human settlements.
(3 Months A.H.)
Radiation disappears from the air. In cities, air quality and visibility is improved. Packs of feral dogs roam the countryside. Desperate for food, they attack anything, even escaped elephants, but they don't have any success. Without humans, elephants have no real predators anymore, neither do indricotheres, sauropods, and other large herbivores, which are also now thriving in their new landscapes. Meanwhile, the descendants of pet cats are thriving in supermarkets and grocery stores by feasting on rats and mice.
(6 Months A.H.)
Winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere. Zoo animals that cannot survive it, such as ostriches, elephants, etc, must migrate to southern latitudes or die. Meanwhile, without artificial heating, cockroaches die by the billions. Animals from the forests seek refuge in human homes. During their stay, they cause further damage to the abandoned furniture.
(10-12 months A.H.)
Spring rains wash away the radioactive particles from the surface and carry it further into the ground, cleaning plants and objects. Meanwhile, new plants and trees remove the artificial CO2 from the atmosphere as the new plants and flowers sprout in ruined cities and clean up greenhouses faster than in the human time. Without hunting seasons, animals breed undisturbed. Some species in areas with no natural predators, like the white tail deer, see population booms and expand their distribution to new areas, including former cities. Moss starts to grow over roads. Large carnivores are human shy, but without the lights or noise made by humans they would penetrate urban areas from the nearby hills or reserves and hunt the domesticated animals. Also the houses may make wonderful dens, which means that animals like the puma and the tiger would have population explosions. Depending on the area, many common species, such as the White tailed deer would have population decreases due to loss of maintained food supply (e.g. lawns, golf courses, gardens) and increased predation.
(3 to 15 years A.H.)
With no maintenance and the ice of multiple winters, roads appear degraded and cracked. Moss covers their surfaces, and grass grows in the cracks. New trees grow in home gardens. Vehicles and other metallic structures begin to succumb to corrosion that strips away paint and protective coatings, resulting in rust that eats through metal. Many of the 1 billion automobiles will soon degrade into hollow husks.
(30 years A.H.)
Devastated by solar winds, artificial satellites return to Earth in the form of shooting stars. Some of their pieces make it to the ground and start some fires. These satellites have been spiralling to Earth for the last 30 years but now, with the batteries dead and any stationkeeping fuel expended, atmospheric drag causes them to plummet to the ground.
Roofs on houses collapse, allowing trees to grow in their interior. Many homes begin to collapse and fall apart as rotting walls and timbers succumb to rot and rain damage. Broken window panes that blew out long ago allow in dust and debris. Scoured by hurricane after hurricane, the East Coast of the United States is slowly cleaned of buildings. Southern states like Florida are completely swept away. In the ocean, the remains of former ships serve as foundations for the formation of coral reefs.
Cereal fields are turned into grasslands or overrun by expanding forests. The same happens to cities as grass and trees take root on streets and buildings. In New York City, Central Park is getting bigger, taking over Times Square where layers of mounting soil and plant growth cover up automobiles and the surrounding buildings. Panes of window glass fall from buildings to the streets as the clips holding the windows in their frames rust and crack.
Birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, falcons, and other make their nests and hunt smaller animals in skyscrapers. But birds of prey aren't the only ones making nests and hunting other species, Terrible Terror dragons, small pterosaurs (dimorphodons and others), Avisaurus (predatory Mesozoic bird), and others are also doing very well in their surroundings. Paint is weathered away after years of exposure to rain. Metal in cars and other human structures is exposed to oxidation and disintegration. Packs of feral dogs roam the crumbling cities whilst more exotic additions, such as tigers and among others, as well as prehistoric creatures, return and thrive. Former fictional species are also thrivinging. Large animals are thriving once more in the ruins of cities. Moisture causes concrete to collapse.
In northern cities, gutted skyscrapers and buildings are filled with rainwater and snow. Rain pours through floors and rots ceilings. The changing seasons only adds pressure to the buildings. Rainwater seeps into cracks in concrete columns, pillars, and walls, and then it freezes in winter before thawing again in spring. These repeated freeze-thaw cycles split and crack concrete. Metal bars inside concrete gave it its strength, but when water reaches the bars, they expand and crack the concrete. Finally, the support columns give way and the buildings topple. The upper floors rain down, smashing lower floors until the buildings crumble to the ground. Most buildings suffer the same fate. Skyscrapers around the world begin to collapse. Concrete structures such as train stations begin to fall down as the roofs give way and the support columns break.
(60 years A.H.)
Sea life has completely recovered from overfishing and thrives. Though there are still dogs, dog breeds do not exist anymore, erased by generations of free reproduction. In Europe, the largely decreased wolf population expands into the countries where it was completely exterminated. Upon reaching the ruins of cities, wolves come into contact with feral dogs, competing with them for food or breeding with them, erasing the last traces of domestication. There they hunt deer and wild boars that are expanding their territories into cities now overtaken by grasses and tree growth.
(75 years A.H.)
Most cars begin to fall apart. Synthetic plastic and rubber tires could last for centuries, but the body and interior rust and fall to pieces. Soon the seats and controls also disintegrate.
(120 years A.H.)
The oceans and plants begin scrubbing the earth clean of anthropogenic carbon dioxide.
(150 years A.H.)
Winters are colder than in the last days of the human race. Northern cities like Vancouver are slowly buried under layers of building snow and ice. Remains of ships and bridges form dams in the Thames, flooding the ruins of London and turning the British capital back into the swamp it was before Roman times. The Houses of Parliament and the Clock Tower of Big Ben still stand amongst the marshy ruins. Cattle, frogs, dylanuses, troodons, Terrible Terrors, Night Furies, vampires, and many others thrive. Imperial Valley, once the biggest producer of fruits in the United States, returns to a sandy desert. The fruits and vegetable crops grown here were irrigated with water pumped in through a pipe system from the Colorado River, but now the piping has been dry for over a century and the crop fields have been lost. The buildings in the region still stand, but all the wheat crops have withered away. Dry winds still maintain most of Las Vegas's buildings intact. After the power went off, the fountains, taps, and pools ran dry, and with only a few inches of rainfall a year, desert sands are beginning to sweep in and engulf the city. They serve as a refuge for vultures, desert lizards, wild asses, camels, scutosauruses, Sand Wraiths (HTTYD's Night Fury-like desert dragon), and other desert animals now. Shanghai in China is being devastated by nature itself, which now turned Shanghai into an open woodland like how it was when the first Chinese went there.
(200 years A.H.)
Excessive water pressure destroys most of the dams on the Colorado River. The titanic Hoover Dam survives. Miles behind it lies the Glen Canyon Dam. In spring, rising temperatures trigger surging floodwater from melting snow and ice that races towards the dam and overwhelms it. It reaches the Glen Canyon Dam, the spillways let some water out, but the tunnels built into the dam fill with high pressure bubbles that cause high pressure explosions and eat through the dam. Concrete ramps once prevented this, but now they have rusted into wrecks combined with water seeping through the cracks causing erosion. The dam ultimately collapses, the flood races downstream towards the Hoover Dam. The water passes over the dam, forming a roaring cascade of water that thunders downstream, sweeping away other dams and overwhelming everything in the way. For the first time in centuries, the Colorado River once again reaches the Gulf of California as a flood, not a stream, and revitalizes to a vast estuary full of animal life.
The coast of Louisiana is reshaped as the Mississippi River is freed from the dams' grip. Old codfish reach six feet long. All whale species have recovered to their pre-human populations. Without the interference of noisy naval alarms, they can hear the mating calls of other whales from 2000 miles away. Remains of large ships appear on beaches all over the world after two centuries of errant journeys over (and under) the waves. Plants and trees completely eliminate the excess CO2 in the atmosphere.
(230 years A.H.)
Corrosion from rainwater, ice and lightning strikes has completely ravaged the upper half of the Eiffel Tower, and the iron is rusted through and teetering. A strong wind collapses it, and falls into the new marsh on the River Seine that has flooded the remnants of Paris. Thousands of wild boar (descendants of both the domestic pig and wild boar) live under the Tower's legs. The right arm of the Statue of Liberty falls to the ground. The head cracks off and follows the arm some time later. The iron that makes up its skeleton has rusted through, and both parts were too weak to stay up, but its skin of copper plates is cleaner now than before due to cleaner skies and less tarnishing. Taj Mahal of India has finally given up its support due to nature takeover, so it finally collapses.
Thick forests of trees over 90 feet tall completely cover the eastern half of North America. Human structures still survive under forest humus. From time to time rains and rivers wash away humus, uncovering concrete beams, plastics, phones and stainless steel objects. Tens of millions of reindeer, bison, cattle, horses, diprotodons, chalicotheres, iguanodonts, hadrosaurs, Net-Navis, and some other creatures make up gigantic herds or groups in the Western North American plains. The Great Sphinx of Giza is buried again in the sands of the Sahara to survive for thousands of years in preservation.
(500 years A.H.)
Forests return to most of the states they had 10,000 years ago. While Yuba Sutter areas and Sacramento is now grasslands and forests like it was before humans arrived there.
(1,000 years A.H.)
The Eiffel Tower has lost all but its four legs. The rest of it has fallen down and been covered by soil and vegetation. The Statue of Liberty has fallen to pieces, and only its pedestal still stands, but this concrete pedestal could last thousands of years.
(25,000 years A.H)
Earth enters a new Ice Age, and glaciers expand south covering most of the Northern Hemisphere. The last traces of New York City are completely erased. Most species however adapt and thrive; sea lions, ducks, fish, wolves, horses, cattle, tapirs, elephants, mammoths, diprotodons, chalicotheres, dinosaurs, vampires, and all other creatures and beings adapt alongside many other species. However, evidence left by Moon exploration missions and certain plastic items will survive intact for not only thousands, but millions of years after mankind has vanished. They will be the last legacy of the human race.
- Toronto, Canada
- Vatican City, Italy
- Rome, Italy
- Transylvania, Romania
- Budapest, India
- Taj Mahal, India
- Paris, France
- Berlin, Germany
- London, United Kingdom
- Chicago, United States
- New York City, United States
- Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
- Marysville, California, United States
- Sacramento, California, United States
- Los Angeles, California, United States
- San Diego, California, United States
- Shanghai, China
- Tokyo, Japan
Comparison to Life After People
As with Life After People, the similar special feature on the History Channel, Aftermath does not explain how humanity disappeared but rather what would happen to the Earth after we disappeared. It also shows that humans have disappeared instantly, not a few at a time. Both series depict the possible fates of famous pieces of infrastructure and buildings. It, too, uses CGI dramatizations to depict the possible fate of such icons as the Statue of Liberty and, in both programs, the Eiffel Tower and Hoover Dam. However, it does not emphasize this as much as Life After People does, following much more closely the effects on the natural world and its recovery after mankind departs the scene.
In addition, unlike Life After People, Aftermath depicts what would happen if various modes of transportation, such as automobiles, planes, and trains, are abandoned in mid-motion when their passengers and operators instantly disappear, not unlike the Rapture in Christian eschatology. Life After People does not show what would happen to these vehicles left in motion.
Also, Aftermath shows what would happen if a nuclear power plant's spent fuel rods are left without the cooling equipment governing its condition. Life After People suggest that nuclear power plants would safely shut down with no ill effects, with no mention of what would happen to spent fuel rods in storage. However, in an episode of Life After People: The Series, "Toxic Revenge", spent fuel rods are shown heating up and exploding the reactors containing it within ten days of humanity's disappearance. Aftermath also shows that the nuclear power plants themselves would shut down without incident, but the spent fuel rod storage in separate buildings would eventually blow up and spread radiation into the air and the surrounding countryside after the backup safety devices fail. Life After People also does not mention the release of poisonous gas from chemical plants when their safety features fail, lacking the fuel to run them. Life After People does talk about the Hoover Dam still generating power after people, but neither show talks about the things powered by batteries and solar power. In the Life After People episode, "Crypt of Civilization", watches with batteries are shown to last at least a year after us. In another episode, "Waves of Devastation", one of the landmarks the episode centers around is the ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier that features LED lights that run automatically at night. In another episode, "Sin City Meltdown", Springs Preserve's visitor center in Las Vegas is powered by the sun, and so the recorded voices of man still echo until ten years after people, when silt accumulated on the solar panels causes them to malfunction and shut off the voice of humans for good.
Aftermath does not talk about the International Space Station while Life After People discusses the fate of the Immortality Drive aboard the ISS. Both documentaries make reference to objects on the Moon, although Life After People does this as part of the miniseries episode "Roads to Nowhere". Unlike Life After People, Aftermath does not comment on the Voyager 2 spacecraft. The Life After People episode "Sky's The Limit" mentions the Cassini–Huygens Space orbiter. However no other space probes were noted. It should however be noted that the original Life After People documentary made reference to humanity's radio communications in space.
- Title: Aftermath: Population Zero
- Studio: National Geographic Video
- UPC: 727994753124
- DVD Release Date: August 12, 2008
- Run Time: 120 minutes