How much stuff will you give and receive this holiday season? Add it to the growing pile — the 30-trillion-tonne pile. That’s how much technology and goods humans have produced, according to a study by an international team led by England’s University of Leicester. It adds up to more than all living matter on the planet, estimated at around four trillion tonnes.
Scientists have dubbed these times the “Anthropocene”, because humans are now the dominant factor influencing Earth’s natural systems, from climate to the carbon and hydrologic cycles. Now they’re labelling our accumulated goods and technologies — including houses, factories, cars, roads, smartphones, computers and landfills — the “technosphere” because it’s as large and significant as the biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. Researchers estimate it represents 50 kilograms for every square metre of Earth’s surface and is 100,000 times greater than the human biomass it supports.