The study of the physical material of the Earth dates back at least to ancient Greece when Theophrastus (372-287 BC) wrote the work Peri Lithon (On Stones). In the Roman period, Pliny the Elder wrote in detail of the many minerals and metals then in practical use, and correctly noted the origin of amber.
Water on Earth moves continually through a cycle of evaporation or transpiration (evapotranspiration), precipitation, and runoff, usually reaching the sea. Over land, evaporation and transpiration contribute to the precipitation over land.
The water cycle (known scientifically as the hydrologic cycle) refers to the continuous exchange of water within the hydrosphere, between the atmosphere, soil water, surface water, groundwater, and plants.
The fossil record of fire first appears with the establishment of a land-based flora in the Middle Ordovician period, 470 million years ago, permitting the accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere as never before, as the new hordes of land plants pumped it out as a waste product. When this concentration rose above 13%, it permitted the possibility of wildfire. Wildfire is first recorded in the Late Silurian fossil record, 420 million years ago, by fossils of charcoalified plants. Apart from a controversial gap in the Late Devonian, charcoal is present ever since. The level of atmospheric oxygen is closely related to the prevalence of charcoal: clearly oxygen is the key factor in the abundance of wildfire. Fire also became more abundant when grasses radiated and became the dominant component of many ecosystems, around 6 to 7 million years ago; this kindling provided tinder which allowed for the more rapid spread of fire. These widespread fires may have initiated a positive feedback process, whereby they produced a warmer, drier climate more conducive to fire.
The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. It compares human demand with planet Earth's ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate the resources a human population consumes and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste. Using this assessment, it is possible to estimate how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity if everybody lived a given lifestyle. For 2006, humanity's total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.4 planet Earths â€“ in other words, humanity uses ecological services 1.4 times as fast as Earth can renew them. Every year, this number is recalculated â€” with a three year lag due to the time it takes for the UN to collect and publish all the underlying statistics.