Massive Problem: Human-made stuff now outweighs all life, water-weight excluded, on the planet

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December 14, 2020 7:00 AM

Humans have wiped out a record number of plant and animal species, contributing to the planet’s diminishing ‘bio mass’.

The outsized impact of the Homo sapiens sapiens is evident from the fact that it constitutes just 0.1% of the planet’s ‘bio-mass’.

To judge the Anthropocene’s impact on the planet, one needs to just look at the rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since the pre-industrial era—a small speck in the timeline of human existence so far, but by far the most significant metric of impact; thanks to fossil fuels, GHGs are at levels not seen for 800,000 years. A study published in Nature says that, now, man-made stuff outweighs all life on the planet, when the latter’s water-content is excluded. That is how enormous humans’ use of the planet’s resources has been. The study, by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science, says that the amount of new material added weekly is the same as the combined weight of all humans alive today.

Humans have wiped out a record number of plant and animal species, contributing to the planet’s diminishing ‘bio mass’. The outsized impact of the Homo sapiens sapiens is evident from the fact that it constitutes just 0.1% of the planet’s ‘bio-mass’. The change is drastic: in 1900, man-made stuff accounted for 3% of Earth’s bio mass. Today, buildings and infrastructure outweigh trees and plastic accounts for twice the weight of animals. If living organisms’ water-weight is included, human-made matter, at the current rate of addition, will outweigh existing bio-mass in just 17 years. And this is just the basic impact. Factor in, for instance, just the toxicity contribution of the production and products, and the impact is crushing. Environment and sustainability experts see disaster ahead—not only are we adding more infrastructure, but we are eliminating more of the planet’s bio mass in the process.

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