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The Human Footprint: 7.6+ Billion People on Earth

Atmosphere | Climate Change

Human Footprint Population Growth

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 are 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 pressures. And from 1993 to 2009, population has grown 23%. But the human footprint has increased by just 9%.

READ MORE: Human Timeline: How Long Have Humans Existed?


  1. With the Covid Pandemic, we saw how the environment responded well to the lack of gas pollution!! So this all ties in with keeping our footprint light!

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