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Humans are perhaps the most successful species in the history of life on Earth From a few thousand individuals some 200000 years ago we passed 1 billion around 1800 and 6 billion in 1999 Our levels of consumption and the scope of our technologies have grown in parallel with and in some ways outpaced our numbers But our success is showing signs of overreaching itself of threatening the key resources on which we depend Today our impact on the planet has reached a truly massive scale In many fields our ecological footprint outweighs the impact of all other living species combined We have transformed approximately half the land on Earth for our own uses - around 11 percent each for farming and forestry and 26 percent for pasture with at least another 2 to 3 percent for housing industry services and transport The area used for growing crops has increased by almost six times since 1700 mainly at the expense of forest and woodland The oceans make up seven tenths of the planets surface and we use only an estimated 8 percent of their total primary productivity Yet we have fished up to the limits or beyond of two thirds of marine fisheries and altered the ecology of a vast range of marine species During this century we have destroyed perhaps half of all coastal mangrove forests and irrevocably degraded 10 percent of coral reefs By burning fossil fuels in which carbon was locked up hundreds of millions of years ago we have increased the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere by 30 percent over pre-industrial levels We have boosted methane content by 145 percent over natural levels Through mining and processing we are releasing toxic metals into the biosphere that would otherwise have remained safely locked in stone We are producing new synthetic chemicals many of which may have as yet undetermined effects on other organisms We have thinned the ozone layer that
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