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July 28, 2017
Q. Which are we — Planet of the Cows, or Planet of Homo sapiens? Stay tuned for a rather weighty discussion.
A. Bear in mind we can estimate both cattle zoomass and human biomass with a fair degree of accuracy, reports Vaclav Smil in IEEE Spectrum magazine. In 2015, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations put the global cattle count at about 1.5 billion head, but that was before necessary adjustments for age and sex distribution, yielding a total live cattle zoomass of some 600 million metric tons. Similar adjustment must be made for humanity's biomass, taking into account the age and body weights of populations. For example, “low-income countries have much higher shares of children than affluent nations (in 2015, about 40 percent in Africa compared to about 15 percent in Europe). At the same time, the rates of overweight and obese people range from negligible (in Africa) to 70 percent of the adult population (United States).” Given a total of 7.4 billion people, the global anthropomass was about 370 million metric tons. So, the numbers say Planet of the Cows it is.
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