Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Paving the planet: did someone say "anthropocene"?

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?"

Growth in global materials use, GDP and population during the 20th centuryFridolin Krausmann, Simone Gingrich, Nina Eisenmenger, Karl-Heinz Erb, Helmut Haberl, Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Ecological Economics Volume 68, Issue 10, 15 August 2009, Pages 2696–2705


  1. Desperate thing is that not only we are not able to reverse the trend, we are not even able to slow down! The question is here again: "Where is the depoupling"?

    Just ask an alcoholic, why he is not able to slow down the drinking. What will he answer?

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  4. Nature knows how to "solve" these problems: Detroit



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)