If the world were a village of 1000 population – A Beautiful Analogy

This is an incredible perspective on the state of the world, researched, put together and expressed so meticulously and beautifully by Donella H. Meadows, an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, United States.

I believe the usual million/billion/trillion statistics in these kind of facts actually haze, distance and de-humanize the understanding of the real situations of life for most people and it is a lot more easier to understand the crap we humans are making out of our planet and our existence by shrinking it down to simple digestible numbers. 

This is an eye-opener.

If the world were a village of 1000 people:

584 would be Asians

123 would be Africans

95 would be East and West Europeans

84 Latin Americans

55 Soviets (still including for the moment Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, etc.)

52 North Americans

6 Australians and New Zealanders

The people of the village would have considerable difficulty communicating:

165 people would speak Mandarin

86 would speak English

83 Hindi/Urdu

64 Spanish

58 Russian

37 Arabic

That list accounts for the mother-tongues of only half the villagers. The other half speak (in descending order of frequency) Bengali, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, German, French, and 200 other languages.

In the village there would be:

300 Christians (183 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 33 Orthodox)

175 Moslems

128 Hindus

55 Buddhists

47 Animists

210 all other religions (including atheists)

One-third (330) of the people in the village would be children. Half the children would be immunized against the preventable infectious diseases such as measles and polio.

Sixty of the thousand villagers would be over the age of 65.

Just under half of the married women would have access to and be using modern contraceptives.

Each year 28 babies would be born.

Each year 10 people would die, three of them for lack of food, one from cancer. Two of the deaths would be to babies born within the year.

One person in the village would be infected with the HIV virus; that person would most likely not yet have developed a full-blown case of AIDS.

With the 28 births and 10 deaths, the population of the village in the next year would be 1018.

In this thousand-person community, 200 people would receive three-fourths of the income; another 200 would receive only 2% of the income.

Only 70 people would own an automobile (some of them more than one automobile).

About one-third would not have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Of the 670 adults in the village half would be illiterate.

The village would have 6 acres of land per person, 6000 acres in all of which:

700 acres is cropland

1400 acres pasture

1900 acres woodland

2000 acres desert, tundra, pavement, and other wasteland.

The woodland would be declining rapidly; the wasteland increasing; the other land categories would be roughly stable. The village would allocate 83 percent of its fertilizer to 40 percent of its cropland — that owned by the richest and best-fed 270 people. Excess fertilizer running off this land would cause pollution in lakes and wells. The remaining 60 percent of the land, with its 17 percent of the fertilizer, would produce 28 percent of the food-grain and feed 73 percent of the people. The average grain yield on that land would be one-third the yields gotten by the richer villagers.

If the world were a village of 1000 persons, there would be five soldiers, seven teachers, one doctor. Of the village’s total annual expenditures of just over $3 million per year, $181,000 would go for weapons and warfare, $159,000 for education, $132,000 for health care.

The village would have buried beneath it enough explosive power in nuclear weapons to blow itself to smithereens many times over. These weapons would be under the control of just 100 of the people. The other 900 people would be watching them with deep anxiety, wondering whether the 100 can learn to get along together, and if they do, whether they might set off the weapons anyway through inattention or technical bungling, and if they ever decide to dismantle the weapons, where in the village they will dispose of the dangerous radioactive materials of which the weapons are made.

Copyright Sustainability Institute

This article from The Donella Meadows Archive is available for use in research, teaching, and private study. For other uses, please contact Sustainability Institute, 3 Linden Road, Hartland, VT 05048, (802) 436-1277.

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