Anthropogenic mass heaviest on Earth

Anthropogenic mass heaviest on Earth

The year 2020 will be remembered, not just for corona pandemic casualties in the world, but also for another shocking but expected milestone that earth has reached in this year. Nature, an International multi-disciplinary science journal has published an interesting research paper by a group of scientists on, what weighs the earth most now, in its latest issue dated December 9, 2020. The findings earmark the year 2020 as the beginning of a dangerous phenomenon-- human-made materials are beginning to overweigh living biomass. What constitutes this human-made or anthropogenic mass? They are inanimate objects, namely houses, buildings, ships, roads, plastics, clothing, electronics, glass, metals et al, that are produced on a massive scale to make our life better on this planet. Interestingly, this load of non-living materials which is produced in the name of enhancing human developmental programmes is doubling its weight every 20 years. Currently, their weight is approximately 1.1 trillion tonnes. Emily Elhacham, a member of this research group, feels that this engulfing human footprint is extremely endangering the future of this planet.  

As this report points out, the excessive use of natural resources began with the agrarian revolution and reached its peak with the industrial revolution. This sheer human utilitarian idea of plundering the mother earth has almost wiped out the presence of all fauna and flora and has left it barren, but a heap of anthropogenic mass. Quite significantly, at the beginning of the 20th century, the weight of this human-made mass was only about 3% in comparison with the weight of living biomass. The swift surge in the weight of this stuff can be clearly identified with the 1990’s globalization.  

Ron Milo, a senior scientist who has headed the present study, says that the shocking statistics presented by this report have tremendously increased our responsibility towards the future of the Earth. Again, this study presents that, at the current rate of the surge in production, the anthropogenic mass will add up to approximately 30 gigatonnes annually. This could amount to 3 tera tonnes of weight by 2040. Comparatively, living biomass is disappearing drastically due to deforestation, agricultural activities and industrialization. Additionally, the increasing use of cement instead of brick for the construction of buildings in recent years has also added to the weight of the human-made mass. In a nutshell, the average weight of this mass is increased on weekly basis, which equals the weight of each living human on this planet now. One example of such colossal storage of materials is, the amount of plastic materials stored in the world is twice the weight of life forms, both on land and water. Moreover, anthropogenic waste materials are not included for analysis in this report. If included, they already overweighed the living biomass in 2013 itself.  

So, what does this study mean to us now? Simple. Man has taken over the earth completely now. This means he has to be more responsible and dutybound to save the mother earth from colossal damage. The path he has trodden so far, to his mastery of nature is sodden in cruelty, violence as well as tears and silence of non-humans. As greenery is replaced by non-living mass for sheer human use, the days of this planet are numbered. Like corona pandemic, this natural imbalance too needs to be addressed globally through collective efforts at the earliest. So, man must demonstrate his indomitable willpower to explore ways to make adequate global efforts to address issues like climate change, species extinction, and others. 

To conclude, in addition to seriously working on birth control measures for humans, it is time for the world, not just India to go back Gandhian philosophy of simple living, in order to save this planet from further destruction. For sure, the present corona pandemic related lockdown has paused the world for some time and put us into a self-introspection mode to seriously ponder on our needs to live a meaningful life. As Gandhi said, this earth won’t satisfy man's greed, but only his need, we need to engage in major overhauling to save this planet from excessive manhandling. If not now, then when? 

(The writer is an Assistant Professor of English, Tumkur University)