The weight of Earth’s technosphere now stands at an enormous 30 trillion tonnes, according to a new study. The Earth’s technosphere includes all the structures constructed by humans to survive on the planet.
Geologists at University of Leicester in the UK, that led an international team, have come up with the first ever estimate of the sheer size of the structure of Earth’s technosphere.
“The technosphere is a major new phenomenon of this planet - and one that is evolving extraordinarily rapidly,” said Professor Mark Williams from University of Leicester.
The Earth’s technosphere comprises of things constructed by humans such as factories, houses, computer systems, smartphones, waste in landfills, spoil heaps among many other materials to be able to survive on the planet.
Bulk of the Earth’s technosphere is is staggering in scale. About 30 trillion tonnes represent a mass of over 50 kilogrammes for every square metre of the Earth’s surface.
“Humans and human organisations form part of it, too - although we are not always as much in control as we think we are, as the technosphere is a system, with its own dynamics and energy flows and humans have to help keep it going to survive,” Zalasiewicz said.
The Anthropocene concept suggests that the Earth has greatly been changed by the humans. Anthropocene concept is a proposed epoch that highlights how humans have made an impact to the planet.
“The technosphere can be said to have budded off the biosphere and arguably is now at least partly parasitic on it. At its current scale the technosphere is a major new phenomenon of this planet - and one that is evolving extraordinarily rapidly,” Williams said.
“Compared with the biosphere, though, it is remarkably poor at recycling its own materials, as our burgeoning landfill sites show. This might be a barrier to its further success - or halt it altogether,” said Williams.
Technosphere is some measure of the extent to which humans have reshaped the Earth, the researchers believe.
“There is more to the technosphere than just its mass,” said Colin Waters from the Leicester’s Department of Geology.
“It has enabled the production of an enormous array of material objects, from simple tools and coins, to ballpoint pens, books and CDs, to the most sophisticated computers and smartphones.
“Many of these, if entombed in strata, can be preserved into the distant geological future as ‘technofossils’ that will help characterise and date the Anthropocene,” said Waters.
If technofossils were to be classified as palaeontologists classify normal fossils - based on their shape, form and texture - the study suggests that the number of individual types of ‘technofossil’ now on the planet likely reaches a billion or more - thus far outnumbering the numbers of biotic species now living.
The study was published in the journal Anthropocene Review.
(With inputs from PTI)