Home Research Humans have burdened Earth with 30 trillion tons of ‘technosphere’

Humans have burdened Earth with 30 trillion tons of ‘technosphere’


Humans leave a massive footprint of their presence and it’s almost a negative one – be it the atmosphere or the biosphere or even the moon. It turns out that humans have been busy creating a whole new ‘sphere’ of their own dubbed the ‘technosphere’ which has been gaining weight over the years – 30 trillion tons to be precise.

Researchers at University of Leicester led a team of geologists to figure out how much weight we have been putting on our Earth through our activities – specifically structures and material – and they have come up with a number – 30 trillion tons or more than 50 kilos of weight on each square metre of Earth’s surface. Technosphere is a new term and according to the study published in journal The Anthropocene Review, it comprises of all the human-made structures including houses, factories and farms to airplanes, rockets, computer systems, tablets, smartphones and CDs, to the waste in landfills and spoil heaps that have been built to keep humans alive.

Humans have been having a huge impact on the planet through their activities and that’s where the Anthropocene concept has its roots in. It is an epoch that highlights the impact humans have made to the planet and it provides an understanding of how we have greatly changed the planet ever since our species started dominating.

Technosphere has its roots in the biosphere, but over the years it has gained so much of ‘weight’ and development that it has become a phenomenon of its own. Further, it is having a parasitic effect on the biosphere – like all human activities have on our planet.

Professor Mark Williams at the University of Leicester says “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.”

The researchers believe the technosphere is some measure of the extent to which we have reshaped our planet. It’s not just the mass that is staggering, it is the massive amounts of small objects that we have been and are leaving behind – many of which have already been entombed in the strata. Authors of the study say that these material could effectively be preserved into the distant geological future as ‘technofossils’ that will help characterize and date the Anthropocene.

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 research suggests the technosphere is another measure of the extraordinary human-driven changes that are affecting the Earth. While the technosphere is geologically young, it is evolving with furious speed, and it has already left a deep imprint on our planet.