Global Use of Materials by Mass

Per capita annual use of material is sharply up and is now approaching ten tons globally.Picture 15

This is according to a recent article by Garry Peterson at Resilience Science referring to a 2009 paper by Kraussmann et al. More than anything, I argue that this gross material disruption of the planetary surface (as well as its atmosphere) defines the anthropocene.

The article does not discuss per-area use but it’s trivially easy to back that number out.

It’s a very striking number if you think about it. The land surface area of the world is 148,940,000 km2, so (presuming most of this action is on dry land) on any given square km in any given year, an average of 402 tons of surface material are moved. Or if you prefer, 4 tons per hectare or 1.6 tons per acre per year.


Krausmann, F., Gingrich, S., Eisenmenger, N., Erb, K.-H., Haberl, H. & Fischer-Kowalski, M. 2009. Growth in global materials use, GDP and population during the 20th century. Ecological Economics, 68, 2696–2705.

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