Humans are a massive minority on Earth. Why don’t we act like it?

The endangered Red Panda has a wild population of less than 10,000 mature individuals Image: REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

Most of us, including scientists, are blind to the full scope of the living world. This was illustrated by an informal survey which asked biologists and ecologists from elite universities two questions. In terms of mass, is the living world mostly composed of animals, plants or bacteria? And is there more global biomass on land or in the oceans? The majority of them answered both questions incorrectly.

In an age of unparalleled access to information, this is a glaring gap in our knowledge. We are now equipped to close it. I joined colleagues from the Weizmann Institute in Israel and the California Institute of Technology to estimate the biomass of all kingdoms of life on Earth. The results were published in the journal of the American National Academy of Sciences, and were widely (and more digestibly) covered by the popular press.

It required years of work, collecting and integrating information from hundreds of previous studies. We documented every step in full detail and deposited it as open-source information for anyone to examine and explore. Here are some highlights from what we […]

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Humans are a massive minority on Earth. Why don't we act like it?
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Humans are a massive minority on Earth. Why don't we act like it?
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In terms of mass, is the world mostly composed of animals, plants or bacteria? And is there more biomass on land or in oceans? Even experts were wrong.
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World Economic Forum
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