The mass of human-made materials is equal to all of the Earth's biomass

A new study published this week has found that the mass of all human-produced material, such as concrete, steel, asphalt, and so on, is now equal to the mass of all life on the planet, known as biomass. The study came from the Wiseman Institute of Science, and it notes that humans are currently adding additional buildings, roads, vehicles, and products at a rate that doubles every 20 years. Researchers predict that human-produced materials will reach over two teratonnes (2 million million tons) by 2040.

Once the two terraton level is reached, the mass of human-made material will be double the mass of living things. Researchers on the study say that at the outset of the 20th century, human-produced "anthropogenic mass" equaled about three percent of the total biomass. It means humanity moved from three percent to a mass equal to all living things in just over a century.

The fact that the number of humans on the planet quadrupled in that number of years and that human production has outpaced the population growth helped fuel the need for more stuff. Today, the quantity of anthropogenic mass-produced each week is greater than the body weight of each person on Earth. The upswing in production was most notable starting in the 1950s when building materials like concrete and aggregates were widely available.

There was also an uptick seen after World War II, with larger single-family homes, roads, and multi-story office buildings becoming more common. The availability of concrete and aggregate, in particular, is a significant component of the growth in anthropogenic mass.

One researcher says the study demonstrates how far the global footprint of humanity has expanded. The scientists hope that when humans see these figures are species can behave more responsibly.