Taken collectively, we humans and our animals are more than twice as heavy as all other vertebrates on the planet combined. In fact, humans alone are 8 times as heavy as all the wild vertebrates on land.

According to Vaclav Smil:

The total biomass of the world’s population increased to roughly 40 megatons of carbon. To put this number into perspective, consider: The biomass of all life is roughly 500 Gigatons of carbon, the biomass of all wild vertebrates on land is roughly 5 megatons, and the biomass of all vertebrates in the ocean is about 50 megatons of carbon. We have eight time the mass of all wild land vertebrates, and about the same biomass as all the fish and whales in the ocean. Domesticated animals have a biomass of roughly 100 megatons of carbon. The biomass of our animals is about 20 times the mass of all wild vertebrates on land, and 50% larger than the mass of all vertebrates in the ocean.

Let’s crunch the numbers:

  • Humans = 40 megatons…
  • Wild land vertebrates = 5 megatons…
  • Ocean vertebrates = 50 megatons…
  • Domestic vertebrates = 100 tons…

Okay, that sums to 195 megatons of vertebrates on planet earth. Alone, we humans are 21 percent of the total; but together with our animals we’re up 72 percent of the total. This also means that domestic animals outweigh all other vertebrates on the planet—all of them combined, that is.

No particular comment except to note that this isn’t just an idle exercise. It’s historically unprecedented and it’s alarming. Humans are quite literally on the verge of stamping out everything else—an unbelievably diverse array of creatures who share our home but who’s continued existence is increasingly fragile.

Big fat tip o’ the hat to Sightline’s hero Denis Hayes who mentioned this factoid at our 15th Anniversary celebration last weekend—and who then provided us the research for this post. Of course, rising obesity rates have basically nothing to do with this phenomenon. So, yes, title of this post is just a joke.