Science & Technology
Man-made materials outweigh all life on Earth
December 9, 2020 | 8 comments
Human civilization has taken over the Earth in more ways than one. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 BriYYZ
According to new research, man-made materials now weigh more than the entirety of our planet's biomass.
Over the last few centuries our species has produced so much plastic, concrete, asphalt and other artificial materials that, when combined together, they exceed the total weight of all life on Earth.
Even the plastic alone weighs more than all the animals on land and sea combined.
These were the startling findings of a recent study by Ron Milo of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and colleagues, who examined changes in both biomass and human-made mass over the last 120 years to examine the reality of the balance between man and nature.
The crossover point at which man-made materials have overtaken the planet's combined biomass, they argue, has been driven by a combination of enhanced consumption and urban development.
"Since the first agricultural revolution, humanity has roughly halved the mass of plants," the study authors wrote. "While modern agriculture utilizes 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."
What this ultimately means for the future remains uncertain, however it is clear that we should be taking steps to re-shift the balance away from a world dominated by man-made materials.
"This study joins recent efforts to quantify and evaluate the scale and impact of human activities on our planet," the study authors wrote.
"The impacts of these activities have been so abrupt and considerable that it has been proposed that the current geological epoch be renamed the Anthropocene."
"Our study rigorously and quantitatively substantiates this proposal."
Source: The Guardian
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