100 Billion Tons of Materials a Year

By Johannes Ernst


Add up all the stuff we, that is humany, take out of the ground, or harvest from nature, for a year. How much is it? Apparently, that amount just hit 100 Billion Tons. (Yes, it’s still rising.)

How much is that? Assuming they are talking about a metric ton (other definitions of ton are not the same but similar):

  • 1 liter of water is 1kg
  • 1 cubic meter of water is 1 ton
  • 1 cubic kilometer of water is 1 billion tons
  • So we are talking about a volume that is 10 km long, 10 km wide, and 1 km high.

That’s what we take from nature every year.

(Yes, some things we take from the ground have higher density than water, like iron ore. Some are less, like oil or wood or many crops. But that won’t change the big picture.)

10 km takes you two hours to walk. Walking around this block of material would take you 8 hours. And it’s 1 km high: about the height of El Capitan.

Raise your hand if you think that’s sustainable.

Link to Guardian article