2020 is the first year human-made materials outweigh nature!
Materials manufactured by humans now weigh more than those made by nature, a new study finds.
The total mass of man-made “stuff” – including concrete, asphalt, bricks, metals, plastics, wood and glass – now outweighs the total mass of all living stuff – including humans, animals, plants fungi, and all the microorganisms that make up living soil, say researchers who tallied it all up.
In 1900, the weight of human-produced things was only 3% of Earth’s biomass. But the weight of human productivity has been doubling rapidly, every 20 years or so since then, until it finally reached over 100% this year.
How is this possible? 1. We’ve produced more stuff than people. 2. We’ve decreased Earth’s biomass as we produce that stuff.
One of the big living things we’ve reduced is trees. We’ve clear-cut half the world’s forests in the last 150 years to make way mostly for agriculture.
And the crops we’ve replaced those forests with contain only a fraction of the mass of all those dense tree trunks and massive root systems, which are now locked up in buildings, furniture and paper products.
These shifts “in global biomass have affected the carbon cycle and human health,” write the authors of the study out of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.
“Since the first agricultural revolution, humanity has roughly halved the mass of plants.”