Anthropocene: human-made materials now weigh as much as all living biomass, say scientists

Jan Zalasiewicz, University of Leicester and Mark Williams, University of Leicester

Our deficiencies have always driven us, even among our distant ancestors, back in the last Ice Age. Having neither the speed and strength to hunt large prey, nor sharp teeth and claws to tear flesh, we improvised spears, flint knives, scrapers. Lacking a thick pelt, we took the fur of other animals. As the ice receded, we devised more means of survival and comfort – stone dwellings, ploughs, wheeled vehicles. All these inventions allowed small oases of civilisation to be wrested from a natural wilderness that seemed endless.

The idea of a natural world that dwarfed humanity and its creations long persisted, even into modern times – only to run, lately, into concerns that climate was changing, and species were dying through our actions. How could that be, with us so small, and nature so large?

Now a new study in Nature by a team of scientists from the Weizman Institute in Israel upends that perspective. Our constructions have now – indeed, spookily, just this year – attained the same mass as that of all living organisms on Earth. The human enterprise is growing fast, too, while nature keeps shrinking. The science-fiction scenario of an engineered planet is already here.

It seems a simple comparison, and yet is fiendishly difficult in practice. But this team has practice in dealing with such impossible challenges. A couple of years ago they worked out the first part of the equation, the mass of all life on Earth – including that of all the fish in the sea, microbes in the soil, trees on land, birds in the air and much more besides. Earth’s biosphere now weighs a little less than 1.2 trillion tonnes (of dry mass, not counting water), trees on land making up most of it. It was something like double that before humans started clearing forests – and it is still diminishing.

Ancient General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park, California. This tree is the largest known living single stem tree on Earth.

Now, the team has delved into the statistics of industrial production and mass flows of all kinds, and reconstructed the growth, from the beginning of the 20th century, of what they call “anthropogenic mass”. This is all the things we build – houses, cars, roads, aeroplanes and myriad other things. The pattern they found was strikingly different. The stuff we build totted up to something like 35 billion tonnes in the year 1900, rising to be roughly double that by the middle of the 20th century. Then, that burst of prosperity after the second world war, termed the Great Acceleration, and our stuff increased several-fold to a little over half a trillion tonnes by the end of the century. In the past 20 years it has doubled again, to be equivalent to, this year, the mass of all living things. In coming years, the living world will be far outweighed – threefold by 2040, they say, if current trends hold.

Most of the weight is in concrete.

What is this stuff that we make? It is now of extraordinary, and exploding, diversity. The number of “technospecies” now far exceeds the estimated 9 million biological species on Earth, and counting them exceeds even the formidable calculating powers of this team. But our stuff can be broken down into ingredients, of which concrete and aggregates take a gargantuan share – about four-fifths. Then come bricks, asphalt and metals. On this scale, plastics are a minor ingredient – and yet their mass is still greater, now, than that of all animals on Earth.

It’s a revealing, meticulous study, and nicely clear about what the measurements include and exclude. They do not include, for instance, the rock and earth bulldozed and landscaped as foundations for our constructions, nor all of the waste rock generated in mining the ingredients: currently, nearly a third of a trillion tonnes of such material is shifted each year. Add in the Earth material that we use and abuse in other ways, in ploughing farmland, and letting sediment pile up behind dams, and humans have cumulatively used and discarded some 30 trillion tonnes of Earth’s various resources.

Whichever way that you cut the cake, the team’s final point in its groundbreaking study hits home, and chimes with that of another recent analysis we both worked on. Since the mid-20th century, the Earth has been set on a new, human-driven trajectory – one that is leaving the stable conditions of the Holocene Epoch, and is entering the uncertain, and rapidly changing, new world of the Anthropocene. The weight of evidence, here, seems unarguable.

Jan Zalasiewicz, Professor of Palaeobiology, University of Leicester and Mark Williams, Professor of Palaeobiology, University of Leicester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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December 9, 2020 6:17 pm

Actually, we’re doing more and more with less and less.

Al Gore similarly noted in 1999 that since 1949, while the economy tripled, the weight of goods produced did not change. link

Buckminster Fuller got to me before Malthus. He talked about ephemeralization. It’s what makes Malthus and his followers wrong.

As long as technology continues to improve, we will continue along the same trajectory and tread lighter and lighter on the planet. The trick is to keep the soi disant environmentalists from borking the economy and stalling technology. In that case, the crash back to neolithic times will be a self fulfilling prophesy.

Izaak Walton
Reply to  commieBob
December 9, 2020 6:54 pm

Malthus is bound to win in the end. Simple arithmetic dictates that exponential growth will always exceed any finite number. The human population and GDP cannot continue to growth exponentially on a finite sized planet.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 7:28 pm

Ummm. Books? You know, where the sum of all human knowledge resided until the 1970s. You are on the wrong side of some famous bets.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Rob_Dawg
December 9, 2020 7:53 pm

Julian Simon “The Ultimate Resource”.

Every mouth comes with 2 hands and a brain.

Populations are now declining in industrialized countries and soon everywhere:

“Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline” Bricker, Darrell, Ibbitson, John

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 9, 2020 9:30 pm

“Populations are now declining in industrialized countries and soon everywhere”

Nope. Not as long as industrialized countries keep enabling the mindless breeding by inhabitants of non-industrialized countries.

David Guy-Johnson
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 10, 2020 12:20 am

Wally Wrong. Because the number of non industrialised or more properly, technologically advanced countries, is falling rapidly. So shut up with your near racialist comments

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 10, 2020 6:01 am

Wally, it is good to know there is no “mindless breeding” happening in industrial countries and that there are folks like you out there able to determine who is mindlessly doing it.

Mickey Reno
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 10, 2020 7:03 am

If we could only get the Malthusian misanthropes to view CO2 as a precious resource being recycled for the good of all, they’d have to abandon CAGW as one of their pets for taking over (somewhat) free economies and the political liberties of free people. What would Jane Fonda find to upset her stupid brain then, I wonder?

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 8:14 pm

No wonder your a progressive, you can’t understand even simple reality.
First off, the assumption that the growth of the human population will continue to be exponential was obviously false, even in Mathus’s day. Beyond that, even the UN believes the world’s population will peak before 2050. 2030 is more likely.
Secondly, the belief that the growth rate of food supply was limited to a linear growth was also obviously false, even back then. That the assumption was false has become even more obvious every decade since then.

However the human haters will always have to cling to their favorite lies, in order to justify their desire to gain power over others.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 8:17 pm

There is no reason why GDP can’t continue to grow infinitely.

Like most progressives you find yourself stuck in an 19th century mindset in which wealth is restricted to things, usually big things. The reality is that GDP also means better things, not just more things. Perhaps if you could wrap your head around reality and stop clinging to outdated economic nonsense you might be find the courage to actually start loving freedom.

Izaak Walton
Reply to  MarkW
December 9, 2020 9:22 pm

There is always going to be some link between GDP and energy expenditure as well as
resource use. And both energy and resources are finite and hence GDP is as well. I am
not sure what loving freedom has to do with whether or not available resources are
finite or infinite.

John Tillman
Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 9:38 pm

Energy is infinite if the universe be infinite, as are resources. GDP is limitless, even though human population, at least on Earth, should level off in this century around 11 billion. It then might decline. But people ought to keep getting richer.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 10:16 pm

The universe is awash in energy, at least for the next many billion years.
Humans today use only a few hours of that tiny part of solar output the falls on out planet in a year.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 11:00 pm

Yes izzy, Developed countries became developed countries through the use of fossil fuels.

We have heard the “peak” this and “peak” that , so many times before. 😉

Take away that reliability of energy, and countries will quickly sink back into the mire of socialist totalitarianism and thuggery, because then you really do get the “haves” and the “have not”

But in socialism’s case, the “have nots” are a very large proportion of society.

Just the way the marxist/socialist elite want it.

Will will still be a “have not” though Izzy, you just haven’t figured that out yet.

Like all low-end socialists, you will not be happy until you have someone to run your life for you.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 10, 2020 2:49 am

Izaak, where do we send the earths resources?
All resources are still on earth the thing is we just do not know how to reuse them a second time, and do not need to do that yet.
The technology to do that will be there when we need it don’t worry, the circular society will be in the future.
So the resources are infinite we just have to learn how to use them a second time and a third … as long as we do not send everything into space every resource stays on earth to be used again.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 10, 2020 5:50 am

Humans today use only a few hours of that tiny part of solar output the falls on out planet in a year.

One hour, actually.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 9:31 pm

Neo-Malthusian ideas are as dead as eugenics and nearly as destructive. Dr. “Fruit Fly”, David Suzuki was as keen on man-made global warming as he was the fallacies of Malthus. Today he’s a laughingstock. Humans have never before been so well fed with such a wide variety of readily available foods grown on less land than ever before. As the world’s population prospers, birth rates rapidly decline.
If the vast sums and resources wasted on the nonsense of AGW had been directed toward providing low cost energy and potable water to developing countries instead of pointless “renewable energy”; the world’s population would already be declining. The quest to “FIX” this plane’s climate has been the greatest waste of time, wealth and resources in human history.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 10:12 pm

Are you aware that in most countries the birth rate is now less than replacement? That is the trajectory, so far, of every nation that has pulled itself, or been helped, out of primitive living conditions and into some reasonable semblance of general prosperity.

Reply to  AndYhce
December 10, 2020 12:47 am

quite good until 52m when he starts getting into CO2 BS.

He says “I’m not the best person to tell you how bad climate change will be”.

Well as statistician maybe he should look at some data instead of parroting “the science tells us….” . Maybe he could do some fancy graphics about the difference between failed climate models and what is actually happening.

Maybe he would tell us about polar bear populations too.

Michael Ozanne
Reply to  Greg
December 10, 2020 3:18 am

He’d struggle to do that he’s dead..

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Greg
December 10, 2020 8:52 am

“He’d struggle to do that he’s dead..”

Well then, he’s better qualified than most climate scientists.

Hans Erren
Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 10:34 pm

Also according to Malthus the world would run out of slaves by 1900, he forgot to include efficiency.

Hans Erren
Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 10:36 pm

And New York would be buried in horse dung by 1950

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 11:52 pm

What “exponential” growth? Human population appears to follow a sigmoid curve, which looks exponential for a little bit, then flattens. Birth rates in every post-industrial country have declined as they have become wealthy. It is below replacement in most of those countries, which means their populations will level off and probably decline. Japan and Italy already are experiencing population decline. The only countries growing rapidly are poor, developing countries. It is likely that in the next 30 years global population will flatten and maybe even begin to by 2100. Malthus was a misanthropic math crank who believed more in his models than the real world.

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 10, 2020 3:03 am

Malthus has ALWAYS been proven wrong. And his adherents have ALWAYS said “Ah, but next year…”

And they have ALWAYS been wrong then.

Besides, why are you confining us to this one planet?

Paul of Alexandria
Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 10, 2020 7:12 am

1) Technology has a way of messing with that curve. We keep finding ways of getting more from less, to the point now where the only reasons for famine now are political.
2) Who said that we would stay restricted to this one planet forever?

December 9, 2020 6:25 pm

Human-made materials? Iron, calcium carbonate, resin, oil, coal all come from nature, and at least four of them come from once-living things. I am unaware of any advances in transmutation or development of a useful technique for conjuration.

” In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers’ purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the ‘Naturist’ reveals his hatred for his own race — i.e. his own self-hatred.”

— Robert Heinlein

Reply to  d
December 9, 2020 7:18 pm

So very true!

Paul Buddery
Reply to  d
December 9, 2020 7:30 pm

That’s why I prefer to say that we are living in the Misanthropocene Era.

Reply to  Paul Buddery
December 9, 2020 10:38 pm

Dead on!

Reply to  d
December 9, 2020 8:08 pm

Its incredible where they say “man made materials” as if the material its made of came from thin air.

Reply to  Colin
December 9, 2020 10:19 pm

Are you sure it isn’t like those mythical human skin lamp shades?

Reply to  d
December 9, 2020 8:19 pm

According to the nature worshippers, when a beaver builds a dam, it’s part of nature.
However when man builds a dam, he’s violating nature.

December 9, 2020 6:28 pm

I blame aliens. I’ve seen ’em. They’re everywhere, and this time, they’re wearing blue shirts and eating tofu.

Bryan A
Reply to  Sara
December 9, 2020 8:38 pm

I thought that they were wearing Brown Shirts and calling them Green

Reply to  Sara
December 10, 2020 5:54 am

They have invaded my local newspaper. Saw it this morning. Gaaaaaaaakkkkkk!!!

The only thing I know that that gets rid of pests and cleans surfaces at the same time is Formula 409. I’d better stock up, in case they show up on my doorstep.

December 9, 2020 6:35 pm

It is difficult to believe that they did not manipulate results to arrive at the ‘spookily’ conclusion. We humans are something like 55-60% water. Many plants are something like 95% water. Ignoring water content of biomass would have been critical – without it they would have had many more years to wait.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
December 9, 2020 8:22 pm

I agree. Removing water was clearly an artifice. Did they remove water from the mass of concrete, did they remove the mass of water in plant derived materials processed by people like, for example, wood used in construction? Plants take up water from the soil and they also take up various other chemical substances from the soil. Why is water disregarded – possibly because it is the biggest constituent of most life. The whole exercise was simply meant to create another Hiroshima talking point, not to compile anything of biological interest.

Izaak Walton
Reply to  BCBill
December 9, 2020 9:29 pm

Removing water makes a difference but not much. Plants are about 50% water (trees somewhat less) so including water would double the biomass contribution. And the article states that by 2040 human materials would weigh triple the natural biomass so including water would push the date back about 10 years or so.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 11:03 pm

SO WHAT. !!!

Humans have sculpted the environment to suit their needs.

If you don’t like that FACT, go and live with one of the hidden pygmy tribes or something.

But you won’t will you Izzy.

You NEED the capitalism that provides for all your requirements.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 9, 2020 11:19 pm

Plants are between 90% to 95% water … slightly more than the approx. 70% to 76% for most animals.

December 9, 2020 6:49 pm

LOL, the mass of everything comes from the ground … just like digging a hole, piling it up and counting that in to.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  Streetcred
December 9, 2020 8:48 pm

I wonder how a tunnel is calculated? Does every tunnel reduce the total mass of human made objects?
Do helium and hydrogen production increase the total weight, or reduce the total? Or do they only count as a negative value when used in ballons?

I would have thought these to be silly questions until I saw that water weight is not counted as part of Earth’s biomass. Talk about silly!

December 9, 2020 7:00 pm

Generally, I like to play with numbers, and this study is interesting in that regard. However, the “man vs. nature” attitude in the description is rather off-putting. In what sense is “nature” decreasing? Do only “living things that are not human” constitute “nature”? If turning stone into cement and soil into bricks (which eventually return to soil) somehow intrudes on “nature”, then does the accretion of limestone and coral in the ocean do the same? If mankind’s stone structures are somehow different from “nature”, then can we say the same about anthills and beaver dams? I’ve always thought that mankind as a whole exists within, and is a part of, nature.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  hiskorr
December 9, 2020 9:11 pm

The late great philosopher-comedian George Carlin opined that Mother Nature has waited for 4.5 billion years for mankind to come along to supply her with plastics.

John Tillman
December 9, 2020 7:18 pm

Bogus on so many bases, hard to chose just one glaring error. But I’ll try.

The figure of only almost nine million species is preposterous. That’s an estimate just for known eukaryotic species. The actual number is probably on the order of ten times more than that.

Then there are all the prokaryotic species, whose mass exceeds that of eukaryotes, even though our cells are larger and many species are multicellular. While prokaryotes outweigh eukaryotes, no one can say by how much, since subterranean biomass is not well constrained, to put it mildly.

Then, how about viruses and other mobile genetic elements? Many scientists don’t consider them alive, but they are biological entities, ie replicants rather than organisms. Viruses are usually much smaller than prokaryotes, but their numbers are staggering. The best mind-boggling estimate is that there are about 100 million times more viruses on Earth than stars in the universe.

Not to mention rogue proteins like prions.

Peddlers of Anthropocene snake oil get ever more without shame.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
December 9, 2020 7:32 pm

This 2018 study agrees with the authors that land plants contain the most biomass. But the paper admits that we don’t have a good handle on deep bacteria. I’d add archaea, since they tend to thrive in deep sea ooze hydrothermal environments not well sampled. The protist (unicellular eukaryotes) guess is also probably low, since so many eukaryotic species remain undiscovered.

Do human crops, including tree farms, count as us or “nature”?

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
December 9, 2020 7:33 pm

The Biomass Distribution on Earth

Mark Luhman
December 9, 2020 7:21 pm

Humans occupy 3% of the earth, we just recently got to the same biomass as ants, and somehow I expected to believe this. A case of Educated idiots. My guess we and what we possess don’t match 50% of the plankton in the sea. Let alone the forest by the way are not declining.

December 9, 2020 7:23 pm

Who funds this drivel? That’s what it is. What a complete waste of time (and money). And, how did they arrive at the mass of creatures in the oceans??? Just askin’.

Dennis G Sandberg
December 9, 2020 7:26 pm

and how much did those pearls of wisdom cost the taxpayers? Especially in light of Mike Jonas’s water content comment.

December 9, 2020 7:30 pm

“Add in the Earth material that we use and abuse”
Another idiot that believes in Gaia. just surprised he didn’t say “rape” instead of abuse.

“Since the mid-20th century, the Earth has been set on a new, human-driven trajectory”
It’s about time! Now, if we could only control the weather and never go back to ice ages, that would be the greatest and most important achievement.

He obviously never took any real science…
“Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed” – Antoine Lavoisier
But that applies for closed systems. The earth looses about 50,000 metric tons of mass every single year to space. However, about 40,000 metric tons of space dust fall on earth. We are still loosing mass.

Reply to  RayB
December 9, 2020 10:25 pm

All estimates. I’ve seen 60,000 tons per year raining down from outside the atmosphere in print.

December 9, 2020 8:04 pm

Where did the “Man made materials” come from? Not thin air

Reply to  Colin
December 9, 2020 8:22 pm

The magic pudding!

Joel O'Bryan
December 9, 2020 8:16 pm

Except for the fact the Anthropocene doesn’t exist…

Charles Higley
December 9, 2020 8:25 pm

When you include that we know that the bacteria living miles down in the rock would make a 10 foot deep layer of goo around the entire planet if on the surface and that the largest biomass in the oceans are probably viruses, it simply demonstrates the arrogance of these people to think we are such a major factor. The comment above about ants is right on target.

Of course, it serves their agenda to pretend that we control/destroy the planet. If not, they would have to go out and get real jobs.

And the observation that we are doing more and more with less and less is also perfect.

December 9, 2020 8:29 pm

Some people should not be allowed anywhere near big numbers. They obsess on them and ignore all the equally big numbers that indicate how insignificant 7.6 billion humans are. Anyone who has flown over the vast continents and oceans observing the remarkably minuscule traces of human existence should be humbled by how inconsequential we are. I suspect that people who myopically obsess about human “impact” have lived most of their lives in concrete jungles and have little experience of the natural world that rural humans live in every day.

Reply to  stinkerp
December 9, 2020 9:43 pm


Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  stinkerp
December 9, 2020 9:58 pm

Hear, hear.
For six years I flew Sydney/Darwin or Melbourne/Darwin and return almost every month. My work in minerals had already included air photo and Landsat image interpretation, so I was often looking out aircraft windows. There is a humble feeling after you fly over land for several hours scarce seeing any sign of the Hand of Man. Then, you get articles discussing how mining must be stopped, the “Leave it in the ground” bewilderment that one think that these bleaters have never seen a mine. The modern mine is really a proud tribute to science and engineering, beautiful to behold, like a sculpture. What is not to like? Geoff S

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 9, 2020 10:28 pm

Don’t you know that all that mining is poisoning people and ruining their land? I’ve been told so — stridently!

Chris Hanley
December 9, 2020 8:42 pm

“… Earth’s biosphere now weighs a little less than 1.2 trillion tonnes (of dry mass, not counting water), trees on land making up most of it. It was something like double that before humans started clearing forests – and it is still diminishing …”.
A warmer climate similar to the Holocene Optimum together with double the current atmospheric CO2 concentration will help to heal poor Mother Earth.
Still, the biosphere now is a whole lot healthier than it was 20,000 years ago or will almost inevitably be within the next 20,000 years:
comment image

sky king
December 9, 2020 8:43 pm

“Since the mid-20th century, the Earth has been set on a new, human-driven trajectory – one that is leaving the stable conditions of the Holocene Epoch, and is entering the uncertain, and rapidly changing, new world of the Anthropocene. ”

What sensational senseless eco-gibberish. And this crap gets published in Nature.

Humans aren’t natural? I thought we were products of nature’s evolution. The dinosaurs got their Age. Humans should be denied our Age? Concrete is a problem? Why don’t the authors do their part and move to a cave?

Steve Reddish
December 9, 2020 8:56 pm

I wonder how a tunnel is calculated? Does every tunnel reduce the total mass of human made objects?
Do helium and hydrogen production increase the total weight, or reduce the total? Or do they only count as a negative value when used in ballons?

I would have thought these to be silly questions until I saw that water weight is not counted as part of Earth’s biomass. Talk about silly!

Rick C PE
December 9, 2020 9:09 pm

This exercise in irrelevant comparisons is just silly. Their man-made materials mass is mostly concrete which is just sand, rocks and water reworked to make more usefully configured rock. Same goes for metals – we only refine and reshape them, we don’t create them from thin air or with some sort of Star Trek replicator. Trees, on the other hand, create a huge amount of mass out of thin air, water and sun light. I wonder if the bozos who did this study counted lumber as a man-made material or part of the bio-mass. Won’t bother to check as I really don’t care.

Reply to  Rick C PE
December 9, 2020 11:43 pm

Mud huts & bark walls weren’t counted in the study when covered by thatched roofs, as those are in the SaintGreta protocol.

Alexy Scherbakoff
December 9, 2020 9:15 pm

And their point is?

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
December 10, 2020 5:55 am

Yes, precisely. Why, exactly, are we supposed to panic?

John Tillman
December 9, 2020 9:28 pm

If you count the mass of everything made by humans, then how about everything built by other species, from termite mounds to ooze on the sea floor to coal and oil and the White Cliffs of Dover? How about all the oxygen in the air, released by phytoplankton and plants? The dreaded methane and CO2 from heterotrophic microbes, fungi and animals, their remains and excreta?

Among the latter category, I’d include this drivel.

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  John Tillman
December 9, 2020 10:16 pm

I’m coming up with about 1 quadrillion tonnes of oxygen in the atmosphere, so we have a ways to go to catch up with what the plants have made.

John Tillman
Reply to  Erik Magnuson
December 11, 2020 10:29 am

No kidding. And cyanobacteria and algae.

I’m not sure that we can even hold a candle to the corals as builders.

December 9, 2020 9:36 pm
Reply to  fred250
December 9, 2020 10:31 pm

You have to have a press past to qualify for the lower price.

Rory Forbes
December 9, 2020 9:44 pm

“… Earth’s biosphere now weighs a little less than 1.2 trillion tonnes (of dry mass, not counting water), ”

And why would biomass be calculated as “dry mass”? Without water it could not be considered “BIO”mass. It would be dead minerals. It’s rather a pointless, self serving comparison of no particular use. Mind you these are the same cretins who pretend that CO2 is a pollutant.

Geoff Sherrington
December 9, 2020 10:05 pm

The paper fails mmediately because it excludes the mass of water in the hman products.
It is also questionable because of allocations, for example, much of the weight in a concrete structure is natural sand and natural gravel. If Man had not moved this sand and gravel, Nature would, but so what?
Neat material for a Ripley Believe it or Not cartoon, but as a paper meant to mean something scientific, no way.
Geoff S

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 9, 2020 11:35 pm

“concrete and aggregates take a gargantuan share – about four-fifths”

Concrete is made from rocks: limestone, gravel and sand. Reinforcing steel comes from iron ore rocks. Concrete is formed into things that are solid like rocks, for example, the bases of wind power towers. Converting rocks into rocklike things is more of a redistribution of relatively small, on planetary scale, parts of the natural landscape than some kind of ominous transformation.

Reply to  Ralph Dave Westfall
December 10, 2020 7:12 am

In other words, the mass was always there but in another form. Now we have changed its form we are supposed to worry. Or something.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 10, 2020 3:26 am

Exactly, nature builds with water. Subtract water and its all dust. Biomass of plankton exceeds everything: who knows how much?

Betchya, it’s only talking about terrestrial biomass. Wanna bet?

I want to bet the atmospheric load of bacteria and viral particles outweighs The totality of man’s construction of matter. Don’t leave out the H2O!

December 9, 2020 10:05 pm

“Anthropocene: human-made materials now weigh as much as all living biomass, say scientists”

Okay. So what?

Reply to  JMR
December 9, 2020 11:06 pm

Precisely,… 🙂

Those that don’t wish to partake of the enormous bounty of human endeavors…

….. should go and live in a cave in deepest Africa or somewhere…….. become a neanderthal.

December 9, 2020 10:38 pm

Human-made materials now weigh as much as all living biomass? Right on! Bragging rights!

Reply to  Art
December 10, 2020 12:20 am

I assume termite and beaver created materials greatly exceed the weight of termites and beavers and I assume it is no big deal. Humans have the ability to make much bigger things.

December 9, 2020 11:21 pm

“The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything” – G.K. Chesterton

December 9, 2020 11:33 pm

The big spend is yet to come. $600tr on wind turbines, solar panels and batteries will be a big hit and will need an annual spend of around $40tr to maintain the system of energy production from those low intensity sources.

All human endeavour directed at creating the energy to live and breed so the next generation can do the same thing – breed, learn and build the replacements for the ones that are worn out.

Reply to  RickWill
December 10, 2020 7:43 am

Consider the jellyfiah. Remove the water and they weigh almost nothing. Include the water and they may well be the most massive lifeform on earth.

It seems to be a nonsense to remove the water.

December 9, 2020 11:59 pm
Stephen Skinner
December 10, 2020 12:20 am

“The human enterprise is growing fast, too, while nature keeps shrinking. ” – We are also Nature.

December 10, 2020 12:59 am

I bet that if we ask how the hell they did that calculation, we will find out that it was “models all the way down”.

December 10, 2020 1:34 am

So what? What’s so evil about man compared to other animals that create structures, like termites, shell fish, coral etc.

Chalk comes from animal shells, a lot of limestone does too. Look at the total mass of that.

And if we didnt have houses what would our bat population be? There arent enough caves to support them, they would die out. And there are many examples of how man benefits nature. Look at the urban fox population, much more dense than his country cousin. There is alot more food available.

But no, man is evil. He ate the apple didn he, he got knowledge…

4 Eyes
December 10, 2020 1:57 am

I cannot believe that professors think up this drivel and then think it is worth going in to print over. Haven’t they got anything better to do? The new absolutely useless metric – how many multiples of the biomass we are at? I was enjoying my evening until I read this $hit.

Robert Arvanitis
December 10, 2020 4:53 am

Inapposite metric.
IF you count skyscrapers, THEN you must count termite mounds. And coral reefs. And all the rest.

Bruce Cobb
December 10, 2020 5:28 am

The whole point of this exercise in self-flagellation is Guilt. Indeed, the term “anthropocene” is a construct whose sole purpose is to foster guilt, but it is a guilt meant more for the western world, and rich countries. But there is also a primal guilt, an “original sin” if you will, of simply being human, of mere existence. “There are too many of us” is the idee fixe, and “we’re using too many resources” as well as “destroying the planet”. But Greenie-weenies are exempt apparently from this guilt, or at least partially absolved, allowing them free reign to plaster the planet with bird, bat and insect-destroying monstrosities in the form of wind and solar “farms”. I mean, who can be against farms, right? And of course, we have our nasty, planet-destroying “carbon emissions” front and center as a prime example of how evil we humans are. But that’s a different story.

December 10, 2020 5:34 am

Man made materials just rearrange Earths materials. Biomass has and will always be a tiny fraction of all materials of Earth.

December 10, 2020 6:13 am

Feeling so, so guilty that you are all going to die because I built a pool in my backyard…. Probably 220,000lbs of concrete & brick (from mostly dirt sources) and using a di-hydrogen monoxide filler (mostly water)…
That equates to some 20 or so elephants, now somehow deprived of their rightful resources…
But I have to offer my opinion that articles and research such as this waste a far more valuable resource… Time that could have been spent in something actually productive. Both in its creation and reading.

McComber Boy
December 10, 2020 7:17 am

What man made material. I know some who believe they are gods and can order the rest of us around, but to have actual creative power to bring substance into being from nothing? Haven’t seen it. Not likeley to see it. We haven’t even figured out transmutation…and a lot of smart folks tried.


December 10, 2020 7:35 am

I call BS. Most of the mass of a tree is dead. Only the leaves and a very thin layer under the batk is alive.

Most of the mass of a coral reef is dead. Only a very thin layer on the outside is alive.

The white cliffs of dover are dead,but were once alive.

To be fair, one needs to compare the works of humankind to those of other living organisms.

Human activity is dwarfed in comparison. This is easy to prove by comparing CO2 emission from humans to CO2 emossions from other living organisms. This tell you how much energy is being consumed to build things.

So far other life is using about 25 times as much energy as humans each year, which translates into 25 times more mass.

Hoyt Clagwell
December 10, 2020 8:52 am

“Earth’s biosphere now weighs a little less than 1.2 trillion tonnes (of dry mass, not counting water)”
Here we go again, scientists telling us what their science says, if you just disregard the effects of water.

December 10, 2020 11:01 am

All of these comments leave out the obvious one: the mass of living things is increasing, not decreasing. Caused directly by increasing CO2. Estimates are that the total mass of all living things is 30% higher than before 1750 which is considered to be the start of the industrial age. Oh and for the record: Malthusians have been discredited for a century or more and are becoming more discredited every day. Ignore their blather. Or mock them. Its fun!

December 10, 2020 11:46 am

It’s what Machiventa Melchizedek has been telling a group of us for two decades. “Humans have caused our problems with pollution. CO2 is a minor issue. Our real problem is over-population! Our planet can sustain and support 3.5 billion people, maybe 3.5 billion max.” “This will change soon. The decimation of your world will occur between 2020-2030, and slow down after to 2050. Oceans will rise three feet by then. (Guessing volcanic activity under Greenland). Covid-19 is just the precursor to the next severe pandemic to occur soon after.” “With it comes major earthquake and volcanic activity unseen in human history. Your economies will crash, but markets will survive in much lessor form and profits. Only companies who have prepared for a major upheaval will survive. Up to 60% of the pop will die off. Almost all coastlines around the world will be decimated by earthquakes. People migrating inland will be a problem for others. Ash and flooding will shorten growing seasons, causing massive starvation. Be prepared and arm yourselves – people will do anything to survive, including taking everything you have, along with your lives. Your government will not be able to help! There will be no wars, because there will be no Armies to fight them. In the middle of the convergence of events, we will show up and guide all democratic nations. Those nations who are not democratic will be lost.” He’s taught us thousand’s of other things about our future and how to live a spirit-led life. “BigMacSpeaks.Life” Use “Machiventa,” as the teacher and “D Raphael” as the T/R. (all his messages are in it) We are about to destroy our civilization and Christ has called “Correcting Time.” Machiventa Melchizedek is leading “The Teaching Mission.” God has sent another staff from Paradise, which is located in the upper Midwest, US. Melchizedek is our Planetary Manager now. He’s the Melchizedek named in Genesis, The Priest of Salem. Many will laugh, but this is absolutely real! They have interviewed many of us who listen. I’ve received nine visitations from their Chief of Staff, Serena, the most beautiful celestial you can imagine! They have moved us to safer locations in the US. I was moved from a beautiful island NW of Seattle to So Missouri (ugh!, but I’ve made it my will to do God’s Will), August 6th, 2019. It’s the reason why I write this message, so please don’t get upset with me. We will be teachers (personal ministries), before, during and after the decimation, if we survive. Our text book (the book of facts and answers) is The Urantia Book. It’s NOT a religion! It’s free online. I was led to it in 1997 as a Commander in the Army. My Command Sergeant’s Major was with me. Two Rangers, after seeing a guy get killed, talking about what happened to his soul! We laughed, because we were so ignorant. The rest of the story took hours, but if you’d been there, you’d also believe! Because of that day, everyone in my battalion got the book! You’ll love it, especially the science and cosmology. They were restricted in giving out too much future information, but plenty of science is in it. Finished in 1934, it was held for publication until after the wars in 1955. “Read it 7 times,” was the instructions given us. Enjoy it!

Grady Patterson
December 10, 2020 1:11 pm

Wednesday Addams reads the headline and asks … “Are they made from ‘real’ men?”

December 10, 2020 3:31 pm

This is such a stupid concept… calling bridges and other ENVIRONMENT we live “technospecies” and comparing it to animals and plants. A 7-story appartment is not a “technospiecie” but in fact a fancy cave. This is not some mumbo-jumbo, but mostly rocks arranged neatly so they won’t fall apart. “Scientists” my ass. deliberately conflating different concepts to push their propaganda, sorry, “science”.

Also, what about beaver dams and bird nests, mr “scientist”? Do animals create “technospieces” too? This “research” is crazier than the old theologists’ theses about how many angels can coinhabit the point of the needle. This is junk science.

December 10, 2020 6:26 pm

If they were to include all the anthropomorphic BS as part of the biomass, this couldn’t possibly be true.

December 11, 2020 8:34 am

Note to Charles Rotter. The Empire State Building is every bit as natural as a bird nest. The net extra weight to the planet is zero.

Mike Maguire
December 11, 2020 9:45 am

Keep in mind that this is happening, while the planet massively greens up, almost entirely from the benefits of increasing CO2 and also the benefits of the best climate and weather for life on this planet in over 1,000 years.

So what does this tell us?

How can the planet be greening up if we are killing it?

80% of the biomass on the planet is from plants. If the planet is greening up, then clearly the biomass is increasing. The increase in CO2 and benefits from climate change are increasing the biomass of the planet. This is a GOOD thing.

The truth is actually we are doing damage to the planet but none of it is from climate change. In fact, increasing CO2 and climate change was the best gift we ever gave to the planet. We rescued life from near CO2 starvation. CO2 is a beneficial gas, the building block of all life. This is the indisputable authentic science and why the planet is clearly responding by greening up……………telling us that it wants MORE CO2 not less. The optimal level of CO2 for most life is double the current level of 413 ppm. The old climate had less than 300 parts per million. Life would love to have something around 900 ppm. Not my opinion, this is what thousands of growing experiments have shown. All animals eat plants or something that ate plants.

The optimal global temperature is probably a couple of degrees C warmer than this. What happens every Winter/for 6 months in the high/mid latitudes? Plants die or go dormant. Animals migrate/hibernate or stay and face extreme adversity until blessed warmth and food return in the Spring. Cold is still the biggest killer of life on earth.

At the same time, all the other stuff we are doing to the planet is wrecking it.

How ironic. The one good thing that we are doing to help the planet…… it more of the CO2 it needs to flourish and is causing a booming biosphere………….is what we are being told is destroying the planet. And the things that we are actually doing to destroy the planet…………get a free pass, so that all the money and resources and attention/headlines and governmental actions and taxes can totally focus on the non problem……….CO2 from burning fossil fuels.

How can this possibly make any sense? We are being told that up is down and down is up. Why would people trying to save the planet do this to us?

Because they know there is no climate crisis and that’s not what they are trying to save the planet from. Besides a redistribution of wealth and global socialism, one of their objectives is for sustainable development………..and to reduce the over consumption of natural resources(by the rich countries)……but they can’t come out and be honest about it because people in country’s like the US will not cut back on excessive consumption because we are using up too many natural resources………..that would never sell. However, if they are told they are killing the planet from a fake climate crisis……….and changing is needed to save the planet from the climate emergency……..that marketing scheme/ruse will trick them into supporting their (political) agenda.

I explain it more here:

Here is more on some of the REAL problems that humans are causing:

The real environmental crisis’s/insects dying-dead zones-aquifers drying up-plastics in the ocean: April 2019

Gunga Din
December 11, 2020 3:18 pm

“Anthropocene: human-made materials now weigh as much as all living biomass, say scientists”
Isn’t that comparing apples to oranges?
Why not compare the mass of inanimate objects that man has formed (from natural resources) to the mass of inanimate objects “Ma’ Gaia” has formed?
And just how is the mass of what Man has made different that the collective mass of, say, all the beaver dams in the world? All the bird nests in the world? All the termite mounds? All the ant hills? All the etc. etc.

December 14, 2020 1:53 pm

“Human-made materials now weigh as much as all living biomass.”

Even if that is true (which I doubt) – **so what?**
Concrete is nothing more than a human-made *rock*. Think of concrete office-blocks as the human equivalent of anthills. It’s cement, gravel and water – all of which are “natural”.
Think of concrete as having been “metamorphosed” from cement, gravel and water. It ISN’T “added to the environment” – it is merely *transformed* from the things that make it up.

Roads are made of bitumen – that too is natural and can be seen seeping out of the ground in some places.

Panic over.

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