Did Dinosaurs Build Cities?
By Heath Shive
Back in the 1990s, there was a cartoon called The Terrible Thunderlizards. The premise? A team of dinosaur-soldiers is given the mission to kill the first humans in order to protect dino-civilization – and the dinosaurs always fail.
These cartoon dinosaurs have cities, helicopters, radios, and even missile launchers.
Remember, this is a cartoon.
It was funny (one of the dinosaurs sounded like Arnold Schwarzenegger).
But it made me wonder: Could dinosaurs really have had cities?
You might say: Of course not!
However, what evidence really could survive 65 million years?
And somebody actually wrote a book about this!
Fragile, Disposable Civilization
Alan Weisman wrote a very readable book entitled The World Without Us. The book is basically a thought experiment. Weisman does not write about dinosaurs – he writes about how easily human civilization (cities, roads, bridges, and everything) would disappear from Earth if humans ever went extinct.
Let’s use New York City as an example. New York was built on an island that originally had 40 streams. These streams are paved over now. The city needs pumping stations to keep subways and foundations dry. Without humans, the water would seep back into the ground quickly. In time, the skyscrapers would start toppling over!
Even the sturdiest bridges would not survive 1,000 years.
For that matter, the area of New York City has been scraped clean by glaciers 3 times in the last 100,000 years. And it will be again in the next Ice Age.
Mount Rushmore (South Dakota, U.S.A.) is carved from solid granite – and it might very well be the last human structure on Earth. By Weisman’s logic, if granite erodes 1 inch every 10,000 years, then the human faces on Rushmore could last 7 million years!
Even Plastic Must Die
According to government sources, disposable diapers and plastic beverage bottles could take 450 years to break down. Fishing lines need 600 years.
But a glass bottle could last 1 million years!
In the end, the last human artifact on Earth might be the first – flint spear heads. Flint is already a very strong rock and could be kept intact against the mix of geological processes for millions of years.
The pensive melancholy of Weisman’s book makes one realize the truly fragile nature of our mighty technology and civilization.
If dinosaurs had cities, they would have suffered the same fate that our cities will meet someday.
This is not meant to be a sad article. The point I want to make is that life on Earth is a wonderful thing. The possibilities seem endless. Even gun-toting dinosaurs can have a chance.
It is humbling to realize the potential of our little planet.
And it can be amazing to fulfill our potentials too.
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Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us. Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.