Human domination of planet Earth has reached a new milestone. Human-made objects such as buildings, roads and machinery have now reached the same mass as all living beings on Earth and will soon outweigh them, given the rapid growth in global construction. A new study by Israeli scientists draws heavily on research from the Institute for Social Ecology, in which Fridolin Krausmann, Karl-Heinz Erb, Helmut Haberl and Dominik Wiedenhofer, among others, were involved.

The study in the journal Nature [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-3010-5] estimates that this year, for the first time, the mass of objects made and built by humans worldwide (buildings, infrastructures, production facilities, machines, etc.) exceeds the mass of all living beings on Earth. The authors of the study, led by Emily Elhacham, draw on research from the Institute of Social Ecology for this finding.

Fridolin Krausmann and colleagues calculate the development of societal material stocks since 1900, according to which the mass of materials accumulated in buildings, infrastructures and machinery currently doubles approximately every 20 years, with massive effects on resource consumption, waste and emissions (https://www.pnas.org/content/114/8/1880). The study further draws on an estimate of the biomass stock in terrestrial ecosystems conducted by a team led by Karl-Heinz Erb at the Institute of Social Ecology [https://www.nature.com/articles/nature25138]. 

 

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Fridolin Krausmann

Karl-Heinz Erb

Helmut Haberl

Dominik Wiedenhofer


10.12.2020