How much does a city weigh?
So, I started thinking of the planet as a massive transition of material into different states of experience. Life and the exponential growth of humans and our artifacts is a metaphysical process, transforming the very nature of this universe. Sometimes you can just feel that in your cells and neurons.
Biomass is a measurement of the weight of organic materials, closely related to the net productivity of an ecosystem. A sort of really rough measurement of the complexity of an environment. Take all the biomass in 1 square meter of land, burn it, and measure the amount of heat generated. 1 square meter at tropical latitudes receives 8-10k of solar energy every day .. and only 15k net productivity every year.
That relationship between energy and the “complexity”, stability, and viability of an ecosystem isn’t linear. Hawaiian sugar cane fields have net productivity of 25k. Yet it is a monoculture, or at leasts tries very hard to be. They’re very vulnerable to pests, so invoke additional systematic complexities to maintain this productivity .. pesticides and intensive farming and out of control invasions of cane toads.
The biomass of the human population is substantial, but not the greatest. Antarctic Krill accounts for 2-5 the biomass of humans, and all species of both squid and termites exceed human biomass. Great swatches of the surface and subterranean crust is fossilized biomass .. all petroleum and the nearby towering chalk cliffs.
But what about those artifacts? Landfill has created great hills and many a golf course in much less time than calcified exoskeletons of seven sisters. How much does a city weigh? That’s probably a doable calculation.