Human-made mass 'now outweighs biomass'

Ofira KoopmansAAP
Scientists say the mass of all human-produced materials is equal to the mass of all flora and fauna.
Camera IconScientists say the mass of all human-produced materials is equal to the mass of all flora and fauna.

For the first time in history, the mass of everything made by humans - including buildings, roads and machines - is set to exceed the mass of all life that grows on earth, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

The research by Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science says that mankind and the earth are at a "tipping point" in 2020, where the mass of all human-produced materials has grown equal to the mass of all flora and fauna such as trees, plants, animals, bacteria and fungi.

The institute, southeast of Tel Aviv, predicts man-made mass to be double that of biomass by 2040.

By that year, the concrete, steel and plastic "jungle" created by humans is predicted to weigh at least two teratons.

"Of course, it is impossible to weigh all the mass on earth, which means the numbers presented are best estimates with a deviation of plus or minus six years," said lead researcher Ron Milo, a plant and environmental sciences professor at the Weizmann Institute.

He said the study is as far as he knows the first to compare human-made mass with biomass.

Its results "demonstrate just how far our global footprint has expanded beyond our 'shoe size,'" Milo said.

"We hope that once we all have these somewhat shocking figures before our eyes, we can, as a species, take responsibility."

By taking responsibility, he told DPA, he means being aware that we humans are dominant players who should think of ways to take better care of our planet's biosphere.

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