All human constructions on Earth would weigh 30 trillion tons

The « technosphere » of the Earth (all human constructions) today would weigh 30 billion tons. In any case, this is what the results of research published this Wednesday in the journal « The Anthropocene Review » suggest.

Professors Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams and Colin Waters from the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester, England, have for the first time assessed the size of the physical structure of the Earth’s « technosphere » which represents all human constructions listed on this planet, from houses to factories, from smartphones to CDs, from the smallest tool to garbage dumps… in short, absolutely everything. According to the researchers, the data collected suggests that this « technosphere » would represent approximately 30,000 billion tons, or 50 kilos for each square meter of earth’s surface.

As Bertrand Saint-Sernin, of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, explained a few years ago in a paper,  » the technosphere is made of artifices acceptable by nature. It is not a modern creation and takes a first systematic form in the Neolithic period, when human societies begin to replace gathering and hunting with agriculture and animal husbandry. « . Thus the concept in itself is not new, but it is clear that the system has become major on this planet and that it is evolving extremely rapidly. For these researchers, “measuring” the technosphere will help assess how much we have reshaped the planet.

Unlike the biosphere, which includes all living organisms on this planet, the technosphere is remarkably poor in recycling its own materials. The boom in landfill sites for our waste is the perfect example. Does she have a limit? Human activities leave lasting, even irreversible traces in the strata of the planet to the point of interfering with natural cycles and establishing themselves as a geological era in its own right: the Anthropocene.

The technosphere therefore seems to have budded off the biosphere and could well, if it is not already underway, interfere with its proper functioning. Some are pessimistic, but others suggest on the other hand that the non-recycling of its materials could one day be an obstacle to its continued success, or even stop it completely.

The technosphere is made up of a multitude of objects and many of them will one day fall into the strata, which may be preserved in the distant geological future as “technofossils” that will help characterize and date the Anthropocene. If these technofossils could today be classified in the same way as our fossils, the study suggests that they would already be numbered at a billion or more – thus far surpassing the number of biological species known to date, estimated at several dozen. of millions.


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