Last Supper is the fourth episode of season two of Life After People: The Series. It originally aired on January 26, 2010.
1 DAY AFTER PEOPLE - Now that the last supper has been served, in the over 100,000 grocery stores around the world where humans came to buy their ingredients, an eerie silence prevails. Automatic sprinklers keep the produce moist, but gone are the sounds of cars squeaking down the aisles. And registers ringing up sales. Hidden among these shelves, is one item that will last for thousands of years. But for now, everything appears appetizing enough to eat. And there are plenty of mouths to feed. Microscopic organisms and insects have already arrived. In fact, many of them have always been here. In the time of humans, small levels of bugs and animal parts were even allowed in grocery store food by the US Food and Drug Administration. 8 rodent hairs in a package of noodles, 8 fly eggs in a can of tomate sauce, 150 insect fragments in a jar of peanut butter. It was estimated that humans unintentionally ate 1 to 2 pounds of insects each year. Now, without humans to consume these products, insect eggs hatch, bacteria multiply, and animals ready themselves for an aggressive assault.
2 DAYS AFTER PEOPLE - Sugar begins to show a side that's not so sweet. 10 million tons of sugar was anually pumped out of 30 refineries scattered across the United States. Just a fraction of the 18 billion pounds consumed in the US every year. Granulated sugar is made by converting the juices from sugar cane and sugar beets into crystals. But the process creates clouds of dust, and the sugar dust can be flammable. These clouds of sugar dust become a ticking time bomb. Even in the time of humans, there were 4 plant explosions in the United States, due to a buildup of sugar dust in the air. Human engineers tried to alleviate the risks through various means, including proper ventilation and minimizing the overheating of machinery. But without workers around, these safety measures are no longer in operation. Now, in one refinery, static electricity ignites dust inside the conveyor belt. The dust fuel fireball travels to 2 100 foot silos, contributing to the growing disaster. Mounds of sugary sludge squash out and solidify like cement.
Around the world, food has inspired architecture large and small. Some say this building, in Taiwan's capital city of Taipei, looks like a towering stack of takeout containers. Known as Taipei 101, it was once the second tallest skyscraper in the world, and was home to some of the highest restaurants on the planet. To stabilize the 101 story skyscraper in high winds and earthquakes, engineers devised a technology that moves. A tuned mass damper system was installed, the largest in the world. It's a 720 ton steel pendulum, made of 41 circular plates. It's suspended between the 92nd and 88th floors, by 8 cables. In a life after people, will this sphere of steel be the building's savior, or will the mass damper become a weapon of mass destruction?
Across the Pacific, at Randy's Donuts in Los Angeles, this whimsical building stands as a monument to mankind's love affair with sugary foods. At 32 feet high, the rooftop donut is one of the largest in the world. The recipe for this 20 ton treat: rolled steel covered with concrete. But the rooftop icon clings precariously to it's perch.
3 DAYS AFTER PEOPLE - Around the globe, dogs are starving, for both food and attention. This labrador retriever had a special bond wth his human companion. He's a highly trained seeing eye or guide dog, who's accustomed to spending 24 hours a day by his owner's side. Labradors were often used as guide dogs because of their non-aggressive obedient nature. The dog's behaviour has been shaped by a year and a half of intensive instruction. But the absence of his master his puting his food-avoiding training to the test. After 3 days, the guide dog's will power is gone, and once the food in the house runs out, this canine has na advantage over others in the neighbourhood: he's the only one that has ever seen the inside of a grocery store. And knows the way by heart.
1 WEEK AFTER PEOPLE - Power is out in cities around the world, at grocery stores, this means lights off. And no more refrigeration. Meat and dairy foods require temperature of 41 degrees or less. As the thermometer climbs, many items begin to spoil within hours. Airborne bacteria and fungi accumulate on all dead organic matter. As these micro organisms feed, they secreet enzyme that break down the once living matter, making it easier to absorb and digest. The process of spoiling is just preparing a diferente kind of meal for the microscopic predators. In the produce section, fruits and vegetables are emitting another type of gas: ethylene, which causes them to ripen. As one overripen apple produces ethylene, it triggers receptors in the other apples to emit the gas. Soon, all the fruit is becoming overripe and quickly rotting. The pungente odor send out a welcome call to the world of rodents. Rats actually have a better sense of smell than dogs. In fact, in 2006, experts began rats to sniff out landminesin war torn parts of Africa. Now, rats muzzle their way into supermarkets, and feast their eyes and noses on a 100 course meal. Hordes of insects also join in on the feeding frenzy. Fruit flies are a atracted to the fermenting smell of overripen food. Blowflies are attracted to the smell of rotting meat. In 8 hours, each female lays 250 eggs, which quickly hatch into maggots. Mold also feeds on everything. The green microscopic fungi begin as airborne spores. When they fall onto damp moist food, they produce chemicals that make the food break down and rot.
As man's food supply becomes a feast for new creatures, could it be the last days for the Last Supper?
10 DAYS AFTER PEOPLE - After more than a week waiting for his master to return, this guide dog ventures out of the house. More than other dogs, he is accustomed to routine, and head to a place where he thinks he'll find people and knows he'll find food. But with everything in the store rotting, has he arrived to late? Most dogs have hardy stomachs, which secreet hydrochloric acid many times stronger than humans. The acid kills most of the bacteria, including pathogens like salmonella on raw meat. While most dogs might chase after the rats, the guide dog steers clear. The grocery store will now be this dog's lifeline. But how long will this free lunch last?
3 WEEKS AFTER PEOPLE - Lactic acid bacteria has multiplied into the tens of thousands inside milk containers, which causes the dairy product to curdle and sour. The lack of artificial refrigeration has caused most butter to go bad. But there is one place on Earth where butter survives after people: deep underground in northern Europe. Starting in the mid 19th century, peculiar wooden barrels overflowing with fatty substances were unearthed in swampy irish and scottish peat bogs. Archeologists determined they were containers of butter, from 300 to 3000 years old, some still edible. And these bogs were not ony used to preserve dairy products. The germanic tribes of Iron Age northwestern Europe like to keep other things in them. Like human bodies. Victims of human sacrifice were buried in the bogs. And some believe they may have been pulled out from time to time, to serve as honor guests at cerimonial feasts.
3 MONTHS AFTER PEOPLE - Grocery stores become tombs for culinary corpses. Fruits have shriveled up, non-packaged meat has decomposed, only bones remain. In the time of humans, this horrifying scene had already played out in one american city. In 1999, a Fort Worth, Texas grocery store went bankrupt. The owners decided to abandon the market, leaving everything inside. Within weeks, neighbours began to notice a horrible stench. 3 months after it closed, the citie's department of environmental management entered. And discovered a gastronomical nightmare. Workers in hazmat suits and oxygen masks began the process of cleaning up the toxic mess. Each aisle they turned down, brought a new and nasty suprise. Now, in a life after people, every grocery store in the world is it's own chamber of horrors. Rats have moved from meats to dry goods. Their teeth easilyb rip through paper and plastic packages goods. Creating openings for other creatures to get in or out. In the time of humans, food was often manufactured in sealed with insect eggs already inside. Merchant grain beetles laid their eggs on nuts in the field, the eggs, too small to see with the naked eye, ended up in containers of nuts. Or products with nuts, like chocolate bars, were they would sometimes hatch into larvae. The larvae become beetles like these, which now feed on rice, noodles and cereals. Red ants nimble on dried apricots. Cockroaches check into a roach motel inside plastic containers filled with cookies. The plastic holds out moisture and oxygen to keep the treats fresh for months. If the pests let them last that long. And packaging isn't the only way food was protected. In the time of humans, urban legend claimed this famous snack cake ws filled with preservatives that enabled it to last well beyond it's expiration date of 25 days. Experts had determined these snack cakes could still be edible after 25 years.
6 MONTHS AFTER PEOPLE - The 15th century fresco, the Last Supper, adorns a wall in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. The paintings depicts the last pass over dinner Jesus shared with his 12 apostles, when he annouced one of them would betray him. The masterpiece doesn't merely illustrate food, it's actually painted with it. The famed artist Leonardo da Vinci used a combination of oil paint and egg tempera, mixed with egg yoke. The stickiness of the egg allowed the pigment to adhere to a surface. But there's a problem. Most frescoes are painted on wet plaster, so when it dries the pigment becomes part of the wall. But da Vinci opted to paint on dry plaster, which made the colors much less permanent. Adding to the problem, the Last Supper was painted on a north-facing wall. In fact, less than 5 years after it's completion in 1498, the Last Supper had already begun to flake. By the 1990's, it had undergone nearly 6 different restorations, the last of which envolved installing a dehumifying system. Now, with that system off forever, how long will it take to finish off the Last Supper?
And which of man's foods will last forever?
1 YEAR AFTER PEOPLE - Produce has almost completely decomposed in grocery stores. And after humans, some foods will disappear forever. Like the banana. The most common and consumed banana in the world is a variety known as the cavendish. Wild bananas originated in south east Asia and Africa, they had large dark seeds. In North America, bananas were bred to be seedless. Which made them appealing to consumers. About 1 billion cavendish bananas were consumed every year. Each banana was genetically identical to the original cavendish plant, brought from south east Asia to the Caribbean in the the early 20th century. But this lack of genetic diversity left it vulnerable to disease.
2 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - Insects finish off the last of the dried goods. But many of these pests have evolved to rely on humans for food. So in a life after people, they are doomed. Canned goods still rest on shelves, protected from pests by their aluminium and steel containers . 2 years after people, most have reached their predicted expiration dates. But the food inside some of them could remain edible for hundreds of years. Most cans are lined with a polymer coating. It prevents the small amount of sulfur present in most canned foods from reacting with the steel or aluminium, which would cause contamination. Still, in hot, humid regions around the world, canned goods can experience a different fate. As they multiply, the thermophilic spores produce gas that builds up, and eventually causes the cans to explode.
3 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - The former guide dog has beaten the odds. He's relocated to a nearby park. But in a sad twist of fate, his several thousand hours of training now hinder his instincts to hunt. As the leftovers of human society become scarce, scavenging is no longer an option.
5 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - Taipei 101, once the second tallest building in the world, is struck by a typhoon bearing 200 mph winds. Glass shatters on the lower levels, allowing water to gush inside. The steel pendulum sways to offset the gale force winds. The massive damper system stabilizes the mega skyscraper, for the moment.
20 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - 20 years without people has taken it's toll on da Vinci's masterpiece. In the time of humans, the Last Supper was damaged during food fights instigated by french troops who took over the convent during the Napoleonic Wars, during WW2, Ally bombs struck the convent, exposing the mural, which had only been protected by a flimsy tarp, and sand bags. Now, the Last Supper is on it's last legs.
25 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - A quarter century after people. The land where mankind grew his food is reverting to nature. It's a future that's already happended to one farming town in North America., where life after people has already begun.
25 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - Weather and erosion has gnawed away at much of the land and infrastructure mankind once depended on for food. It's a future that has already happended at na abandoned farming community. This is Tranquille, located in the heart of British Columbia, Canada. Here, in a valley surrounded by rolling hills, nature has quickly reclaimed it's former kingdom. Today, these structures are holow reminders of the food that was made to feed thousands. Ferocious winds and nasty winters have almost blown of the metal top of the silo. Rusted feeding stalls and dried hay is all that remains in the dairy barn, where 350 dairy cows once supplied milk. At the nearby slaughterhouse, only the faint smell of smoke eminates from where pigs were butchered. And then cured. Around the site, neglected farmland has been replaced with sagebrush and weeds. Today, Tranquille is a ghostly reminder of a mysterious community. A town that was forced to reinvent itself time and time again, until one day all honce again.ope was lost. In 1857, the discovery of gold in the Tranquille River, sparked the British Columbia Gold Rush. 2 familes erected a town to supply the miners. Because of it's isolation, the town's people were forced to produce all their own meat and produce. By the turn of the 20th century, the gold rush ended, and Tranquille underwent a transformation. Tuberculosis, a contagious bacterial infection of the lungs, reached epidemic levels in Canada. in 1907, Tranquille was converted into a TB sanitorium, because of it's dry mountain air and endless days of sunlight. It was believed exposure to sunlight helped patients suffering from the disease. In 1929, the Greens Hospital opened it's doors. But residentes in the nearby town of Kamloops objected to the sanitorium being located so close to their community. When a cure for TB was announced in 1958, Tranquille changed once again. The sanitorium became home for 600 mentally disabled. In 1985, the site was closed, a victim of government program cuts that dispersed the mentally ill residents into group homes and other institutions. Today, 90 buildings barely remain standing. At the Greens Hospital, a sterilizer chamber for surgical tools still remains in the wall of an operating room. But now, the only thing needing surgery is the timber frame structure itself. Trees encroach around the buildings. One has even taken root on the roof. For 25 years, melted snow and ice has collected on the flat gravel and tar roof, and then flooded the drain system. Nature is also tightned it's death grip around the main building, constructed in 1910. Inside, nature's demolition team is working over time. Water has eaten through the dry wall ceiling, producing mold and fungi. In turn they release microtoxins, poisonous chemicals that wreak havoc on wood. In inhaled by humans over a period of months or years, this mold can grow inside the lungs, and cause death. Today, developers plan to restore Tranquille back into a self-sustaining agrarian community. But until then, it remains a town of the verge of complete ruin.
25 years after people, as nature hungers to reclaim it's past, what will be the sole survivor from the supermarket shelves?
30 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - In these dilapidated places where mankind came to dine, americans once consumed over 20 pounds of pasta per person per year. 1400 million cups of coffee were once gulped down worldwide. And billions of hamburgers were served up anually. Any semblance of a prepared meal would appear to have vanished from the face of the earth. Except in the case of freeze dried food. Freeze-drying is a dehydration process, it removes 98% of the water in perishable food, to preserve it and make it lightweight for transport in camping, war zones and even outer space. Freeze dried food may still be edible 30 years after people, but the grocery stores that once sold these products have quickly deteriorated. After decades of snow and rainfall, the flimsy roofs cave in.
60 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - The Last Supper has not lasted. Mold and dirt obscure any remaining traces of the masterpiece. And memorials to human food are on the verge of collapse around the globe. In Los Angeles, rain water is eating away one of the largest donuts in the world. With it's hollow steel structure corroding, Randy's Donuts crumbles.
200 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - Taipei 101, a building that some thought resembled a stack of takeout containers, is now being taken out by corrosion, in a suprising way. The mass damper system responsible for stabilizing the structure during strong winds, is no longer stable itself. It's rusted acbles suddenly snap, releasing the 720 ton steel pendulum ball. The pendulum ball bulldozes everything, as it falls 88 floors, like a meteorite, the wrecking ball crash lands below ground level. Taipei 101 is no longer the world's second tallest skyscraper.
4000 YEARS AFTER PEOPLE - No trace of a grocery store remains. Yet there is one 21st century item that could still be edible. Unbroken jars of honey are found scattered in locations where cities once stood. In the time of humans, archaeologists had found jars of edible honey in Egypt., one dated back to 1400 B.C. Honey is a hygroscopic product. This means if it's exposed to air, it absorbs moisture, which can cause fermentation. Bun if sealed in glass, it remains eternally fresh.
Throughout history, food has united communities around the world, driven science, and inspired architecture and art. Now, of all man's packaged foods, only honey remains, as one sweet reminder of the human apetite in a life after people.
In the next episode, Life After People hits home. From humble houses, to magnificent mansions, to the highest residences in the world, there goes the neighbourhood.