June 7, 2018
How big an impact has our species had on the planet? According to this article in the UK’s Guardian, “the world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things,… [y]et since the dawn of civilization, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants.”
Using data from hundreds of previous studies, researchers estimated that the planet’s living creatures contain a total of 550 billion metric tons of carbon. The 7.6 billion people in the world account for only 0.01 percent of this biomass — about the same as termites. Plants make up 82 percent, and bacteria 13 percent. Even viruses, worms and fungi cumulatively outweigh people.
But despite our physical insignificance, humans have a broad footprint: Deforestation, farming, hunting and other human activities have taken an outsize toll on all other kingdoms of life. Domesticated livestock, such as pigs and cattle, now account for 60 percent of the biomass of all mammals on Earth; wild animals make up only four percent. 70 percent of birds on the planet are farmed poultry.
Says lead researcher Ron Milo, from Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, “Our dietary choices have a vast effect on the habitats of animals, plants, and other organisms.”
I’ll have the salad, please.