After watching Contagion in class the other day, I thought about the movie I Am Legend with Will Smith. It’s a similar sort of movie, but in this case the virus did actually cause an apocalypse instead of just the possibility. This movie depicts Smith as the sole survivor of a man-made plague, who happens to be a virologist. He is also the only one who is immune to the virus. The people who caught the virus either died or became creepy vampire-like mutants. He tries to create a cure using his own virus immune blood while the infected are starting to hunt him and set traps for him. Popular Mechanics magazine consulted with teams of scientists to determine what could happen and what certainly wouldn’t in a situation like this, a post-apocalyptic world three years after the destruction of the human population.
The first thing they discussed was the urban jungle being turned into an actual jungle with plants popping up through cracks in the sidewalk and a waist-high field of grass in Time Square. So what would really happen without us? According to Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us, “You’d certainly have a lot of plants growing up through cracks in the sidewalk,” Weisman says. “After three years, you might see some weeds that have made it waist-high in abandoned lots up in the Bronx, but if they’re showing a waist-high field of grass in Times Square, that’s a bit of a stretch.” After three years, as is the time line of the movie, the gutters would be clogged with leaves. This would be a breeding ground for shrubs and weeds and according to Weisman the sewers would also become clogged and within just two days the subway systems would flood. Without fireman the lightning strikes and gas line explosions would cause fires, leaving some buildings charred. The buildings still standing which should be a good majority of them would be a lot greener too due to the moss and lichens growing on them because of the lack of fumes in the city,unlike the normal brick buildings in the movie. Many of buildings would also have missing facing because without heat the pipes would burst causing water damage and any exposed metal would rust.
One accuracy though is the influx of animals back into Manhattan. Without people and automobiles and the like to scare them off certainly deer and other animals would creep back into the city, especially as plants started to grow in the city. Two types of animals you wouldn’t see in a post-apocalyptic metropolis, though, are roaches and rats, which both depend on humans to survive and are extremely common in a modern metropolis. “Roaches aren’t going to do real well if there aren’t any heated buildings,” Weisman says, and rats will starve without trash to gorge themselves on.