The Human Footprint: 7.6+ Billion People on Earth

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 population increases to 7.6+ people, food production is set to match this increase. Now, there’s 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 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 their 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?

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