Resources

Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass

Back to Resource Library

Scientists find that the weight of all human-created mass, including plastics, exceeds all natural living biomass.

Abstract: Humanity has become a dominant force in shaping the face of Earth1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. An emerging question is how the overall material output of human activities compares to the overall natural biomass. Here we quantify the human-made mass, referred to as ‘anthropogenic mass’, and compare it to the overall living biomass on Earth, which currently equals approximately 1.1 teratonnes10,11. We find that Earth is exactly at the crossover point; in the year 2020 (± 6), the anthropogenic mass, which has recently doubled roughly every 20 years, will surpass all global living biomass. On average, for each person on the globe, anthropogenic mass equal to more than his or her bodyweight is produced every week. This quantification of the human enterprise gives a mass-based quantitative and symbolic characterization of the human-induced epoch of the Anthropocene.

Search for additional resources