Looking at any of the world's biggest cities, we can clearly see how much man-made material exists and is constantly being built on our planet. This number is so large that a new study published in Nature is stating that the amount of human-made stuff has now outweighed the planet's natural biomass.
"The significance is symbolic in the sense that it tells us something about the major role that humanity now plays in shaping the world and the state of the Earth around us," Dr. Ron Milo, who led the research, told BBC News.
"It is a reason for all of us to ponder our role, how much consumption we do and how can we try to get a better balance between the living world and humanity."
The study conducted by a team at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Rehovot, Israel, found that for every person in the world, every week, more than their body weight was being produced in stuff. That's a lot of material!
The scientists further stated that the planet's biomass is estimated to be roughly 1,100,000,000,000 tons or 1.1 teratons and that it is in 2020 that human-made stuff has surpassed it. In their research, the team divided human-made objects into six categories: concrete, aggregates, bricks, asphalt, metals, and other materials such as plastic, wood, paper, and glass.
Waste was purposely left out of their calculations because if it had been included, the year when human-made stuff surpassed biomass would have been as early as 2013. Meanwhile, when calculating biomass, the researchers looked at plants, bacteria, fungi, single-celled archaea, protists, and animals (including humans).
Interestingly enough, plants made up 90% of the biomass despite the current rate of deforestation. The study is a worrisome example of how quickly humans are changing the planet and how desperately something needs to be done to save the natural environment.