A new study published in Nature provides a symbolic and mass-based quantitative characterization of the Anthropocene – the geological age of the era of humanity. The study authors split human-made stuff into six categories: Concrete, Bricks, Asphalt, Metal and other materials, like plastic, Wood used for building and paper, Glass. They then compared the weight of all this to Earth's biomass, or the combined weight of all of its living things, including humans and the animals and plants we raise for food.
Earth's biomass has a weight of 1.1 teratons.
2020 is the "crossover point" when human-generated material outweighs nature.
The weight of human impact has been rapidly increasing, doubling roughly every 20 years in recent history. The weight of each person is produced in the generation of stuff every week.
The heaviest human-made items are buildings and infrastructure, which are typically made from brick, asphalt or concrete. Plastic alone outweighs all land-based and marine animals. The paper did not calculate the weight of waste, and, if it had, human generated material might have outweighed biomass by 2013.
In 1900, human-produced stuff only accounted for around 3% of Earth's biomass. Humans have produced more stuff than we have reproduced people, and have also decreased the earth's biomass as we produced more things.
Since the first agricultural revolution, humanity has roughly halved the mass of plants. While modern agriculture utilises an increasing land area for growing crops, the total mass of domesticated crops is vastly outweighed by the loss of plant mass resulting from deforestation, forest management and other land-use changes. These trends in global biomass have affected the carbon cycle and human health.
The researchers hope their findings will spur people into action to lessen humanity's impact on the earth. "We hope that once we all have these somewhat shocking figures before our eyes, we can, as a species, take responsibility." (source: ecowatch.com)
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