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Page added on September 27, 2013

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Paving the planet: did someone say “anthropocene”?

Paving the planet: did someone say “anthropocene”? thumbnail

This graph is taken from an article by Krausmann et al., (see below). It is not unexpected to see that the growth of all mineral commodities has been increasing during the past century. But what’s impressive is the growth of “construction minerals” which stands for sand, rock, cement and the like. Incredibly fast: in terms of mass it is the largest produced mineral commodity over the planet. And even in more recent years, it shows no sign to be abating.

Think about that: 25 billion tons per year corresponds to more than three tons per person. Think of a ten kg cube of rock and cement delivered to you and deposited in front of your door every morning, every day of the year.

What drives this gigantic process? We seem to be engaged with incredible enthusiasm in the task of paving the planet. So far, it seems that we have been able to pave just a few percent of the planet’s surface but, given the beauty of exponential growth, the day when we will have transformed the Earth into a shiny ball of concrete can’t be too far away.

Did anyone say “anthropocene?”

Cassandra’s Legacy

4 Comments on "Paving the planet: did someone say “anthropocene”?"

  1. J-Gav on Fri, 27th Sep 2013 4:58 pm 

    Don’t know that concrete is especially shiny (except maybe after a rain) but point taken. Can you spell ‘Overshoot’? We’re there … but exactly how fast it takes us down the right-hand slope of material prosperity and progress’s dismal future still depends in part on what we do to mitigate in the next decade (2 at the outside). Judging by past performance doesn’t make a body highly optimistic, though it should be said that the painful process has at least already begun in some places. Certainly on the individual level, more people (but not enough) are opting for simpler lifestyles, and some governments have axed or reduced fuel subsidies (Indonesia, Sudan …)

    Mitigating the decline will take much more however, and will probably need to include a carbon tax, more stringent efficiency standards, conservation of all key resources and, not least, a more humble attitude towards the biosphere and nature, which provide the primary resources for most human activities and consumption.

  2. rollin on Fri, 27th Sep 2013 5:40 pm 

    About 35% of the planetary land surface is subject to agriculture and ranching.
    Agriculture alone represents almost 18 million square kilometers of surface that is plowed, fertilized, sprayed with toxic chemicals and then harvested, all to do it all over again. Think all of South America as a giant farm. Ranching is equivalent to the size of Africa.

    The 0.5% to 3% of actual buildings, parking lots and roads covering the land surface is small compared to the lawn surface, medians and edges around many buildings. I wonder how much land area is grass lawns and other forms of non-structures that still represent a destruction of the natural world.
    The US alone has enough lawns to cover New York state and 70 million pounds of pesticides are used on them each year. All those lawns are mowed regulary for large parts of the year.

  3. Norm on Fri, 27th Sep 2013 8:52 pm 

    I always figured that a lot of global warming is due to black roads and parking lots. Cut down a forest an put in black asphalt an what is it? A heater, a big one. The ‘models’ only talk about gasses. Cause it runs on conformity, to get the next research grant.

  4. BillT on Sat, 28th Sep 2013 3:46 am 

    Most of those building materials are going into … buildings. If you liveds in Asia, you would see where it is going. Here in Manila, it is going into literally hundreds of residential condo towers and office buildings. We are going through a building boom, just like the US did 10 yeas ago. I can look out of the window of my condo and see at least 10 towers going up in maybe 5% of Manila’s area. Typical of the whole city.

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