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How Much "Stuff" Have Humans Built?

Humans have constructed an awe-inspiring amount of "stuff," from towering skyscrapers to sprawling networks of highways. This monumental accumulation, known as the "technosphere," weighs approximately 30 trillion tons! It's a testament to our creativity and impact on Earth. Imagine what secrets this vast human-made shell holds. Ready to uncover the implications of our built world?

Mankind has been busy. In an extensive study that analyzed all of mankind's building efforts, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, have come to the conclusion that, perhaps for the first time in history, the combined weight of all manmade objects is now greater than the weight of all living things.

While most of the created mass comes from infrastructure -- bridges, buildings, roads, and the like -- the researchers took everything from plastic and glass to paper into account. On the other side of the scale was biomass, which is weighted most heavily by plants -- about 90 percent of all living things -- but which also contains everything from people to bacteria and fungi.

The combined weight of mankind's building efforts now exceeds all of the biomass on the planet.
The combined weight of mankind's building efforts now exceeds all of the biomass on the planet.

According to the findings, human production has increased dramatically since the start of the 20th century, when human-produced items equaled only 3 percent of all global biomass. Today, the rate of production has reached the point that enough material is produced on a weekly basis to surpass the body weight of the entire human population.

What we're doing to the world:

  • The human population has grown more in the past 50 years than in the 4 million years previous.

  • Every year, human action destroys an area of the rainforest equal to the size of Great Britain, or 50 million acres.

  • Humans are responsible for producing more than 3.5 million tons of waste every day.

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    • The combined weight of mankind's building efforts now exceeds all of the biomass on the planet.
      The combined weight of mankind's building efforts now exceeds all of the biomass on the planet.