People are devouring the earth: 83% of land, 60% freshwater runoff, 40% of plants, 35% of productivity of oceanic shelf, 98% of land that can grow rice, wheat, corn

Hillary Mayell. October 25, 2002. Human “Footprint” Seen on 83 Percent of Earth’s Land. National Geographic News.

There is little debate in scientific circles about the importance of human influence on ecosystems. According to scientists’ reports:

  1. Humans use 83% of the Earth’s land surface to live on, farm, mine, and fish, leaving just a few areas pristine for wildlife

  2. We use 98% of the land that can be farmed for rice, wheat or corn

  3. We appropriate over 40% of the net primary productivity (the green material) produced on Earth each year

  4. We consume 35% of the productivity of the oceanic shelf

  5. We use 60% of freshwater run-off

The Human Footprint and the Last of the Wild

Human Footprint: Further Reading

The unprecedented escalation in both human population and consumption in the 20th century has resulted in environmental crises never before encountered in the history of humankind and the world.

E. O. Wilson claims it would now take four Earths to meet the consumption demands of the current human population, if every human consumed at the level of the average US inhabitant.

The influence of human beings on the planet has become so pervasive that it is hard to find adults in any country who have not seen the environment around them reduced in natural values during their lifetimes—woodlots converted to agriculture, agricultural lands converted to suburban development, suburban development converted to urban areas. The cumulative effect of these many local changes is the global phenomenon of human influence on nature, a new geological epoch some call the “anthropocene”. Human influence is arguably the most important factor affecting life of all kinds in today’s world.

The few remaining wild areas include the northern forests of Alaska, Canada and Russia; the high plateaus of Tibet and Mongolia; and much of the Amazon River Basin. “The map of the human footprint is a clear-eyed view of our influence on the Earth,” Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist for the WCS, who led the report, said in a statement.

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