How much of the stuff in the world is yours? In other words, if you added together the weight of all the objects humanity has created—the bridges and buildings and statues and airplanes and park benches and bulldozers and all the rest of it—and divided it by the world’s population, what would be the total per person? (Keep reading for the answer, or at least for one estimate of it.)
This recent article details the situation in Rincon, Puerto Rico, which lost about 4 miles of its beach a year ago to Hurricane Maria. In addition to the economic hardships caused by the storm—the lack of running water and power, as well as the loss of tourism in a surfing destination that depended on tourist dollars—the article describes other long-term problems facing the town. One is the threat of future storms, which residents are trying to guard against by building rock walls, “treating the water more like an invader than a source of income and natural beauty,” as the article puts it. Another problem is what to do with the tremendous amount of debris Maria left behind—remnants of buildings the storm destroyed and sea walls it toppled—that still litters what remains of the beach.
I read about the conditions in Rincon at about the same time I came across this article about the destruction caused by Hurricane Florence a few weeks ago. It mentions a study (led by Jan Zalasiewicz, the geologist who has proposed making the Anthropocene a formal geologic epoch, similar to the Pleistocene, the Holocene, and so on) that calculated the size and weight of our built environment. The study “estimated the total weight of human infrastructure—buildings, roads, vehicles, intensely cultivated cropland—at thirty trillion tons, roughly three thousand tons for every human being,” the article reports. Presumably the weight isn’t evenly distributed, though; heavily industrialized countries likely have more infrastructure per capita. The article also quotes a Duke University scientist who says that without the benefit of all that infrastructure, the number of humans on the planet “would quickly decline toward its Stone Age base of no more than ten million.”
The thirty trillion tons Zalasiewicz and his colleagues calculated now includes the debris in Rincon, where so much of the carefully built environment is just so much debris to be carted away—if and when local property owners can afford to do so.
StormCon 2019 Call for Speakers is Open
StormCon, the conference exclusively for stormwater and surface-water professionals, is seeking abstracts for presentation at StormCon 2019, which will take place in Atlanta from August 18–22, 2019. The deadline for submitting abstracts is Wednesday, December 5, 2018.
We are accepting abstracts in six conference tracks: Stormwater Infrastructure and Best Management Practices; Green Infrastructure; Stormwater Permit Compliance; Funding, Staffing, and Managing the Stormwater Program; Industrial Stormwater Management; and Research and Testing. For descriptions of the tracks and more information about submitting an abstract, please visit www.StormCon.com.