The Pyramid of Life

We dominate the animal kingdom. We are the apex predator on Earth. We control, eradicate, or nurture others, whether as large as a mammoth or small as bacteria.

The trophic pyramid is an illustrative segregation of Earth’s life into 4 levels. A lower level provides energy and nutrients to the higher level. Level 1, the lowest, includes all the autotrophs or plants. Level 2 has herbivores. Level 3 has carnivores. Level 4, the apex, contains the omnivores that consume almost anything. Most people live at Level 4 of the pyramid.

Assume everyone lives at Level 4. People require 12,500 Joules per day. As a rough metric, the ecological efficiency is 10% meaning that only a tenth from a lower level gets transferred to the higher level. Thus, 3.65e+19 Joules of energy from Level 1 supports the 8.012 billion people alive today. On average, Level 1 life annually stores about 2.3e7 Joules per sq.m. of energy. Thus, overall, we annually consume about 32% of energy that is captured by Level 1 life.

Being at the apex and in full control, we can form a future of our choice. So far, people have co-opted more than half the land surface for agriculture to support this consumption. We and our livestock outweigh all other wildlife 24 fold resulting in another mass extinction event. Our future could include wildlife or it will only include living creatures that directly support and maintain the human population? Which do you want and what will you do to achieve it?