Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Pile of Mammals Smaller Than a Single Canyon Is Dominating the Entire Planet

A Pile of Mammals Smaller Than a Single Canyon Is Dominating the Entire Planet

If you took every human being on Earth and put them in the Grand Canyon, they wouldn't even begin to fill it up. The seven billion-strong lot of us would make a pretty formidable pile, sure, but we'd get nowhere close to an overflow. At least, not according to this 'species portrait' put together by VSauce and recently shared far and wide across the blogland

The visualization proved so popular because it turns our working conception of the size and scope of humanity on its head—we are a vast and multiplying species; we blanket the entire planet with our cities and settlements. Jesus Diaz notes that "Even if you took all of humanity across all the ages—an estimated 106 billionthe piles—about 15 of these—wouldn't cover the Grand Canyon. Not even a significant fraction."

But we are overpopulous, so how can the whole of our kind fit inside a single chasm, sprawling and iconic as that chasm may be? In that light, this makes for a useful context by which to consider how impressive we humans really are, given our relatively diminutive collective physiology: That stack of biomass has exerted unparalleled, and perhaps unprecedented, dominion over the blue marble. (Our only serious competition are the cyanobacteria that single-handedly spurred one of the first great extinctions.) 

We have colonized every major biosphere the globe has to offer. We have built civilizations on most of that globe; we have been relentlessly successful in bending its geography to our will, to extracting its resources, to domesticating and/or eradicating its flora and fauna.

For the rest of the story:

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