A Weight on the World: Humanity Has Created a Staggering 30 Trillion Tons of Material

This current era of accelerated technological progress has given humanity its finest tools for survival. It’s also given birth to the technosphere, a phenomenon that is rapidly evolving and could actually put a halt to our progress.

In a study published in the Anthropocene Review, an international team led by University of Leicester geologists describes the technosphere as “the summed material output of the contemporary human enterprise.” This includes everything humanity has built to keep it going, from our houses, schools, and landfills down to our smartphones, laptops, and microwaves.

The team studied the phenomenon of the technosphere and concluded that it now weighs a staggering 30 trillion tons with a mass of 50 kilos (110 pounds) for every square meter (10.7 square feet) of the planet’s surface. This rapid growth is an alarming danger to our planet. “The technosphere can be said to have budded off the biosphere and arguably is now at least partly parasitic on it,” study co-author Mark Williams told Phys.org.

 Credits: University of Leicester
In addition to reminding us how significantly we can and have impacted our environment, the researchers’ study is also a testament to how far humanity has come since the beginning of the technological revolution.

We have now covered the planet with our inventions and devices, and according to co-author Colin Waters, “Many of these, if entombed in strata, can be preserved into the distant geological future as ‘technofossils’ that will help characterize and date the Anthropocene,” referring to the proposed era highlighting humanity’s current impact on the planet.

If nothing else, we are leaving behind a huge physical record of modern life for future generations to discover. Humanity has come a long way in a short time, and our technology serves as the evidence of how we got to where we are now.

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