Humans have reached another milestone per researchers from the Weizmann Institute in Israel. The study, recently published in the journal Nature, calculated the mass of all living organisms on Earth as well as the mass of all “anthropogenic mass” such as roads, buildings, cars, planes, and all other stuff humans have built using plastic, metal, concrete, bricks, asphalt, and aggregate.
The year 2020 was determined to be the crossover year. This is the year that the total mass of all human-made materials weighs more than the total mass of all living organisms.
These researchers have estimated that the total biomass on Earth is about 1.2 trillion tons and declining due to deforestation and other human activities. Half of that biomass is made up of trees.
Human-made mass has been accelerating since the era of post-World War II prosperity. Around the turn of the 20th century, all human-made materials totaled about 35 billion tons. By the mid-20th century, that mass had doubled. By the end of the 20th century, anthropogenic mass had reached half a trillion tons.
Anthropogenic mass is now doubling every 20 years according to researchers: “On average, for each person on the globe, anthropogenic mass equal to more than his or her bodyweight is produced every week.”
Elhacham, E., Ben-Uri, L., Grozovski, J., Bar-On, Y. M., & Milo, R. (2020). Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass. Nature, 1-3. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-3010-5
Zalasiewicz, J., & Williams, M. (2020, December 9). Anthropocene: Human-made materials now weigh as much as all living biomass, say scientists. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/anthropocene-human-made-materials-now-weigh-as-much-as-all-living-biomass-say-scientists-151721