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If everyone on the planet were to step on one side of a giant balance scale, and all the bacteria on Earth were to be placed on the other side, we’d shoot violently upward. That’s because all the bacteria on Earth combined are about 1,166 times more massive than all the humans.
Comparisons to other categories of life similarly demonstrate how very, very small we are. As a sweeping new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds, in a census sorting all the life on Earth by weight (measured in gigatons of carbon, the signature element of life on Earth), we make up less than 1 percent of life.
There are an estimated 550 gigatons of carbon of life in the world. A gigaton is equal to a billion metric tons. A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms, or about 2,200 pounds.
We’re talking in huge, huge, mind-boggling terms here.
So, using the new data in PNAS, we tried to visualize the weight of all life on Earth to get a sense of the scale of it all.