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article imageWhy the technosphere keeps increasing in size

By Tim Sandle     Dec 7, 2016 in Environment
The space on the Earth is rapidly becoming full of mechanical objects, quite a few of them are now obsolete and classed as junk. The so-called technosphere now weighs some 30 trillion tons.
So extensive are the human-made items stacked around the Earth that the mass equates to over 50 kilos for every square meter of the Earth's surface. It also stands that much of the material is junk – or technofossil ‘species’ (human-made material that has entered the geological strata). The totality of these items, standing at over one billion, now outnumbers biological species. The technosphere includes physical, human-made structures like houses, factories, smartphones, computers and landfills.
The estimate of 30 trillion tons of material has been made by geologists from the University of Leicester. In an interview the lead scientist Professor Zalasiewicz outlines what the technosphere is: “It is all of the structures that humans have constructed to keep them alive, in very large numbers now, on the planet: houses, factories, farms, mines, roads, airports and shipping ports, computer systems, together with its discarded waste.”
The technosphere can be seen as a system that is independent from, but also interacts with, the biosphere. The interaction can be seen as parasitic, in that the technosphere takes from, and potentially harms, the biosphere, and unlike the biosphere, does not have the capacity to recycle. The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be termed as the zone of life on Earth.
The researcher goes on to define the technosphere as its own system with its own dynamic, partly outside of direct human control: “the technosphere is a system, with its own dynamics and energy flows — and humans have to help keep it going to survive."
The idea of the technosphere supports those who believe the Earth has entered into a new epoch, called the Anthropocene. This is said to have arisen based on the significant impact from human civilization upon the planet and its ecosystem, although it has yet to be officially ratified (this will be decided by the International Geological Congress). Those in favor of the new epoch argue that human activity, especially the impact upon biodiversity, has been sufficient to change the Earth. Another area is our technological waste, and hence the description of the 'technosphere.' As well as the facts around the size of the technosphere, it continues to grow and evolve. Future study could well inform about the environmental conditions on Earth, as well as the societal impact in relation to the growing amount of obsolete technology.
The research has been published in the relatively new journal The Anthropocene Review. The associated research paper is headed “Scale and diversity of the physical technosphere: A geological perspective.”
More about technosphere, Technology, Waste, Fossils, Biosphere
 
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