How our world would look without people

Published 7:41pm Saturday, May 25, 2013

The other day while I was driving along U.S. 231 and started up the hill that bypasses downtown, I was struck by one of those out-of-left-field thoughts that often invade my brain for no apparent reason. Something about that wide, smooth stretch of blacktop gave birth to one of my “what if” moments.
I wondered what the highway would look like in a few years if all (or at least most) of us disappeared and there was basically nothing left but the plants and animals. How long would it take for weeds and trees to force cracks and fissures in the asphalt? How many years would elapse before forest and meadow reclaimed the hillside all the way to the river?
When I mentioned my random mental wanderings to one of my coworkers, David Goodwin, he asked if I had ever looked at any images of abandoned areas of Detroit. I hadn’t, but I soon remedied that lack.
After searching for “abandoned Detroit” and “forgotten Detroit,” I quickly became fascinated by the many photographs available for viewing. The number of sites that have been abandoned is difficult to comprehend.
There are large skyscrapers, huge churches, theatres, hotels, giant industrial complexes, entire neighborhoods and more that stand empty. In some places, buildings were razed and meadows and trees have taken their place.
Where the man-made structures remain, nature is encroaching, through both vegetation and weather. Streets and roads are narrower than they should be, as plants and grasses press inward from the shoulders. The images are saddening in many ways, but also awe-inspiring since they exhibit the power and relentlessness of nature.
Of the Detroit photos, a series of shots of a previously magnificent church/ cathedral were amazing. All of those soaring arches and wide-open spaces … just empty. I also found the photos of the remains of Tiger Stadium ­interesting.
But perhaps the one that most expressed the vast difference in Detroit’s situation now and in the past is of Michigan Avenue at a time that would previously have been the afternoon rush hour. More than a half-dozen lanes are simply empty.
Take a look sometime – the photos are interesting and thought-provoking.
Until next week …

Peggy Blackburn is managing editor of The Wetumpka Her­ald and Elmore County Weekend. She can be reached at 334-567-7811. Her email address is

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