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Mammals: 96% are livestock and humans, 4% are wild animals

Statistics about humans on Earth are shocking

Some of the statistics gathered together and collated by Professor Ron Milo at the Weizmann Inst of Science in Israel and his team are staggering. Humans represent 0.01% of all life on the planet but they have destroyed 83% of wild mammals. They’ve destroyed half of plants while the population of livestock has increased dramatically in order to feed people.

Statistics about humans on Earth are shocking

Statistics about humans on Earth are shocking. Graphic: The Guardian

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Plants represent 82% of all living matter. All other creatures make up 5% of the world’s biomass. Life in the ocean represents just 1% of all biomass. The vast majority of life is on land. 13% of life is bacteria. Farmed poultry makes up 70% of all birds on the planet. 30% of birds are wild. 60% of all mammals are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs. 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.

The destruction of wild habitat, causing the knock-on effect of the destruction of the animals that live in that habitat, has resulted in the sixth mass extinction of life. The other five took place during the Earth’s 4 billion year history. About 50% of the planet’s animals are believed to have been lost in the last 50 years.

Just one-sixth of wild mammals remain. One-fifth of marine mammals remain. I am repeating myself, probably. Since the rise of human civilisation 83% of wild mammals have been lost. 80% of marine mammals have been lost. 50% of plants have been lost and 15% of fish have been lost.

The biomass of plants is 7500 times more than the biomass of humans. The biomass of viruses is three times more than the biomass of humans. The biomass of worms is three times that of humans. The biomass of fish is 12 times more than humans and insect, spider and crustacean biomass is 17 times more than human biomass. Bacteria is 1200 times more biomass than human biomass.

These are some startling statistics. What I take from them is probably biased and too negative for some people. What I do take, though, is that humans represent quite a small section of living creatures on the planet but their impact is massive and it far outweighs the impact of any other creature. There has to be change and there has to be a discussion about procreation. I know that this is completely taboo but humankind can’t go on procreating.

Let’s look at India, for example. There are about 1.4 billion people in India. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed this country to the impossibility of managing 1.4 billion people. The government will have to provide 2.8 billion injections of vaccine into their population in order to vaccinate the entirety of the Indian population. This is because these vaccines require an initial vaccination and a booster. How long is it going to take to organise 2.8 billion injections of a vaccine? They are not going to get there for many, many years. Especially as India is highly disorganised.

It isn’t so much that the human population per se is taking up space, it is the amount of space that food production takes up which is the biggest problem. Apparently it takes about 17 acres per person to feed a person sustainably. I am sure that you will find different figures but in terms of space the problem is growing food and the space required to achieve that. This is why arguably we are running out of space and on that journey to that grisly end, we end up destroying the habitats of millions of species.

Sadly millions of species live in forests and humankind has a great habit of knocking down forests either for timber or just to make way for land to farm livestock. It’s all too greedy for me and I do not think that I am alone on this. There needs to be more control but nobody has seriously figured out how to control human procreation. And how to try and level up the planet so we are all progressing at the same pace and are at the same level of development which will lead to far better cooperation. One of the great problems of human life is that we tend to pull in different directions on a country-by-country basis. We lack harmony.