According to a new study, the volume of buildings, roads and machines has been doubling every 20 years in the last 100, while the plant mass has been reduced by half.
We headed for a ‘asphalt jungle’, According to a study published this week in the journal Nature. Concrete and brick buildings, asphalt roads, steel and plastic machines, and man-made products of all kinds are being produced at a rate that is already outpacing the creation of organic matter by nature, biomass.
According to scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Israel, who have led the work, materials of anthropogenic origin have doubled every 20 years during the last century. The trend will go further, and they predict that this artificial mass will reach two teratons, that is, two billion tons, by the year 2040.
“In the study we show that the Anthropogenic mass now exceeds living biomass. To illustrate this, we show that the mass of buildings and infrastructure in general is now greater than the mass of all the trees and shrubs together”, he explains to SINC Emily Elhacham, first author of the research and a scientist in the department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the Israeli center.
The study, which reflects a snapshot of the current panorama of our planet by calculating the dry and wet weight (excluding water), suggests that the mass created by humans will double within 20 years the living mass, now located at just over a teraton, that is, a billion tons.
A early 20th century, this mass produced by society was equivalent to barely 3% of the total biomass. How did it go from that minor percentage to an equivalent mass in just over a century? Not only has the figure multiplied during these years, but the objects that have been produced far exceeded the growth of the population.
Scientists thus reveal that For each person living in the world produces, on average each week, an amount of anthropogenic mass greater than your own body weight. This increase has been notable especially since the 1950s, after World War II, when construction materials such as concrete and aggregates became increasingly accessible.
“This is a symbolic and massive quantitative characterization of the Anthropocene. Given the empirical evidence on the accumulated mass of human products, we can no longer deny our role central to the natural world. We are an important actor and that entails a shared responsibility”, says Elhacham.
The productive acceleration of the middle of the 20th century it held its course for the next six decades. The materials used for the construction of single-family houses and flats, roads and office buildings now constitute the main source of this artificial mass.
The imbalance between natural and anthropogenic mass has also occurred not only because of the exponential increase in artificial mass, which is currently produced at a rate of 30 gigatons per year, but also because humans have halved the plant biomass from the beginning of agriculture, through changes in land use such as deforestation.
“This shows how far our global footprint has spread. beyond our individual ‘shoe size’. Once we all have these shocking numbers before our eyes, I hope we can, as a species, take responsibility.” Ron Milo, lead author of the paper and a researcher at the Israeli institute.