The weight of man-made things has now exceeded all forms of life on Earth

According to a study, man-made materials are likely to outweigh living biomass on the planet. The weight has increased so much that now the footprint of entire humanity is heavier than that of the natural world.

FPJ Features DeskUpdated: Sunday, December 13, 2020, 11:57 AM IST
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While you are reading this story on your mobile, laptop, or on the newspaper which the vendor could have left at your door this morning, you might have not realised one fact that there’s something utterly common in all three things, that is, phone, laptop and newspaper are all man-made. Except for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat, almost everything is the result of human intelligence and creativity.

Every other day, there’s a new invention or a launch of a new product, and so on, man-made products keeping on piling. Blame it on our ever-changing needs and modern lifestyle.

Due to the rise of man-made things, many of which are not so ‘environment-friendly’, the world is seeing a rise in carbon footprint. And, it should be noted that now man-made materials are likely to outweigh the forms of life on Earth!

According to scientists, humanity’s footprint is heavier than that of the natural world. According to an alarming report by AFP, the weight of roads, buildings and other human manufactured materials are doubling every 20 years.

The authors of the study say, currently it weighs around 1.1 teratonnes, which rounds up to 1.1 trillion tonnes. The rise of population has led to insatiable consumption of natural resources, the weight of living biomass — trees, plants and animals — has halved since the agricultural revolution to stand at just 1 teratonne currently, says the study.

The study also shows that the mass of human-produced objects stood at just three per cent of the weight of biomass at the start of the 20th century. But, things saw a rise post-World War II. The global production, manufacturing has surged to the extent that now humans produce the equivalent of every person on Earth, and that too, every week on average.

According to the study published in Nature, 2020 likely marked the moment when man-made mass tipped higher than biomass. “This study provides a sort of ‘big picture’ snapshot of the planet in 2020,” said co-author Ron Milo of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.

“We hope that once we have these somewhat shocking figures before our eyes, we can as a species take responsibility,” Milo told AFP.

Based on industrial and ecological data, the study estimated that human production accounts for roughly 30 gigatonnes annually. And by 2040, man-made material is likely to weigh as much as three teratonnes.

At the same time, overall biomass is decreasing, mainly because of deforestation and land-use changes making way for intensive agriculture.

Buildings and roads account for most of the man-made mass, and a number of construction trends — including shifting from bricks to concrete in construction in the mid-1950s — contributed to the accelerated weight accumulation, states the report by AFP.

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