This is a story of what happens to the world we leave behind after hypothetical extinction.
Day One (02:15)
One day after people, we consider what will become of America's national treasures in Washington, D.C. with nobody to maintain them. Moisture will begin causing deterioration.
Zoo Animals (02:19)
One week after people, we ask how long L.A.'s tallest building will last. Two weeks after people, many zoo animals are dying, but elephants break out.
Ocean and Desert (03:12)
Garbage travels through sewers to add to the load in the ocean. How long before the ocean frees itself of human garbage? As artificial water fails, L.A. returns to its desert state.
In D.C., floods come when there are no people to use water and subterranean water pipes fail. D.C. was marshland before settlers came; beavers make their return to the Potomac.
Eternal Flame (01:08)
The Eternal Flame at JFK's grave is powered by a natural gas line; when the D.C. power grid fails, the first heavy rainstorm will snuff the flame.
Mosquitoes rapidly reproduce in L.A.'s abandoned, stagnant swimming pools, as they did during the 2008 foreclosure crisis.
National Monuments (03:05)
Ongoing deterioration of the Washington Monument accelerates unchecked. The U.S. Capitol stays strong until paint wears down. The leaky roofing system is the Lincoln Memorial's vulnerability.
Plant Growth on Freeways (02:07)
Three years after people, plants cover L.A. highways, which are excellent seed corridors. Within ten years, native desert plants return and those reliant on artificial water, such as palm trees, die.
Fires in Los Angeles (02:01)
Forest fires spread to Los Angeles, burning buildings. Cement with celebrity hand prints survive, as do the steel letters of the HOLLYWOOD
Earthquake in Los Angeles (02:40)
The Big One hits Los Angeles; after fire damage, the U.S. Bank Tower cannot fend it off. L.A.'s city has base-isolated anti-earthquake mechanism, but fire and lack of maintenance have similarly worn it down.
Great Pacific Garbage Patch (01:08)
A water bottle from the coast will float many years before entering, which continues to grow for 100 years after people. Plastic will long stay intact, making it a more lasting human marker than much of our great architecture.
Washington After 100 Years (01:52)
The Constitution at the National Archives hangs on despite weakening of its encasement seal. Beavers build using new tree growth on the Potomac. Birds' nests and rust corrode the iron Capitol dome.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall is corroding despite its stainless steel. Rain transforms parts of freeway overpasses into a water world after failure of drainage systems, with dozens of ecosystems and easy migration paths.
Elephants and Ruined Buildings (02:17)
Descendants of escaped zoo elephants flourish. The Lincoln memorial is falling apart, the Capitol's Statue of Freedom is collapsing the building, and sunlight dries the Constitution's ink after the National Archives roof collapses.
Lightning Strikes Washington Monument (01:14)
Lightning threatens the decaying Washington Monument. Its aluminum pyramid top with copper spires is designed as a lightning rod, but loses that ability.
Angkor Wat (02:18)
After 600 years, brick and stone are the only remaining markers of architecture. This has happened in real life in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the world's largest religious monument.
Jungle Takeover at Angkor Wat (03:12)
Angkor Wat and surrounding temples were abandoned in 1431 after enemies ransacked them. Forest took over; tree roots ripped stone structures apart.
Trees' Method of Destruction (01:05)
A silk cotton tree now holds up an entire shrine in Cambodia, as roots have grown beneath it. Roots reach into stone structures seeking moisture, prying it apart and collapsing the structure.
Wildlife Takeover at Angkor Wat (01:43)
Termites ate away at wooden ceilings at Angkor Wat. Tigers live in destroyed temples.
Fall of U.S. Bank Tower (01:41)
By 600 years after people, destruction of capitals are almost complete. Due to its concrete central core, the skeleton of the U.S. Bank Tower in L.A. still stands before an earthquake brings it down.
Garbage Patch, and Sea Level Rise (01:32)
Sunlight has degraded plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch into a poisonous stew for birds and fish. D.C. is being buried by sea-level rise, capsizing monuments; ruins of the Capitol rise above the waves.
Washington Monument Struggles On (00:56)
Encroaching seas attacking the foundation of the Washington Monument are causing it to sink. Submerging is its only chance to survive intact; the aluminum pyramid may survive tens of thousands of years.
Credits: The Capital Threat: Life after People (00:29)
Credits: The Capital Threat: Life after People
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