By 2025, just 13 years from now, humans will have modified half of all the land on Earth. We will have turned space that once supported complicated systems of plants, animals, soils, water and microbes into cities or farms. Already, we’ve taken over 43 percent of the land. What’s left is mostly criss-crossed by our roads. By 2060, 70 percent of the earth’s surface could be covered with human development.
According to the group of more than 20 of scientists responsible for these observations, published this week in Nature, these shifts could also be pushing the Earth towards a tipping point — a round of irreversible planet-wide changes. During the last great transformation of the planet, when miles upon miles of ice receded and left the planet in its current interglacial states, about 30 percent of the planet’s surface transitioned from ice-covered wasteland to landscapes more closely resembling the ones we know today. The shifts that we humans are responsible for are more dramatic and are happening faster. ‘