Does anyone remember a short story about all of humanity vanishing from Earth, and the story describes what happens over time, as industrial infrastructure collapses (nuclear and chemical plants, pollution, etc.)? The storyline is not about people, or why they vanished, but about the infrastructure left behind that causes massive damage for millennia. For some reason I am thinking of a short story by Douglas Coupland, but I can't locate it. Thanks for any tips!

  • Given that we've ruled out Girlfriend in a Coma, are there any other features of the story that you can remember?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 19:54
  • You could improve this question by going through the checklists here and editing in any relevant info you can think to add.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 19:54

2 Answers 2


The World Without Us is a 2007 non-fiction book about what would happen to the natural and built environment if humans suddenly disappeared, written by American journalist Alan Weisman and published by St. Martin's Thomas Dunne Books. It is a book-length expansion of Weisman's own February 2005 Discover article Earth Without People. Written largely as a thought experiment, it outlines, for example, how cities and houses would deteriorate, how long man-made artifacts would last, and how remaining lifeforms would evolve.

Could you be remembering the science article, or perhaps an excerpt from the book?

  • 1
    I do remember this, but I don't think this is it. The narrative I am thinking of was written in a style similar to the Genesis creation story (stylized and broken down by time periods, but destructive and not religious, of course). Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 21:04

Could this be Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland? Not a short story, but the descriptions of failed reactors, etc., are dealt with quite promptly.

Every day is like Sunday. Nothing ever happens. We watch videos. Read a few books. Cook food that comes out of boxes or cans. No fresh food. The phone never rings. Nothing ever happens. No mail. The sky stinks – when everybody died, they left the reactors and the factories running. It’s amazing we’re still even here.

  • This might be it. I'm going to dig up a copy and follow up when I know more, thanks! Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 0:55
  • This is not it, but thanks for the suggestion! Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 19:54

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