In flesh and blood, 7.6 billion humans inhabit Earth. This number is estimated to increase to 8.3-10.9 billion in 2050.
We erect cities, trim forests, and alter the environment. In fact, 75% of land outside of ice sheets is managed by us.
Because of our massive human footprint, scientists are proposing we have already entered a new epoch called the “Anthropocene”.
Let’s examine the extent of the human footprint on Earth.
How is the landscape changing?
As the population increases to 7.6+ people, food production is set to match this increase. Now, there are over 5 billion hectares designated for agricultural land compared to just 1 billion in 1800. So that means about 40% of land is for feeding the planet.
Forests cover approximately 30% of Earth’s land surface and are important carbon sinks. But as the urban area expands, forest cover is in the decline. According to the World Resource Institute, we have already lost 80% of the world’s natural forests due to our human footprint.
Approximately 15% of land is protected because they’re recognized as areas with ecological value. But currently, extinction rates are 100 to 1000 times above normal. A lot of critical biomes are in desperate need of protection to preserve biodiversity.
What is the global human footprint index?
The emergence of humans has left a profound impact on the planet. We can measure the cumulative impact of human disturbance in nature through the global human footprint index:
The Wildlife Conservation Society has devised the global human footprint index which includes the following classes:
- Built environment
- Population density
- Electric infrastructure
- Cultivated lands
- Pasture lands
- Roads and railways
Currently, 75% of our land surface is experiencing human pressure. And from 1993 to 2009, the population has grown 23%. But the human footprint has increased by just 9%.
The Human Footprint: 7.6+ Billion People on Earth
The Global Human Footprint Index (GHI) is a report that assesses the environmental impact of humans on the planet. It is a compilation of data from different sources, including research and monitoring agencies from around the world, to provide a snapshot of how human activity affects the environment.
The GHI is important because it provides a valuable source of information for policymakers and decision-makers who want to make informed decisions about how to address the environmental challenges of our time.