One Less Thing To Worry About

April 14, 2000

The other night I happened to turn on an interview between a prominent journalist whom I’d never heard of and an apiary. Actually the journalist probably wasn’t that prominent–if he was he wouldn’t have been interviewing an apiary. He’s probably wrecked his career because from now on he’ll be known as "that apiary-interviewing guy", except to his friends and family who will continue to call him "Loser". Anyway, the topic of discussion was the dangerous African killer bees that, in the 1950’s, came to South America to escape persecution in their homeland. Because they had no natural predators, the bees flourished and, being ambitious and always on the lookout for better jobs, have been moving progressively northward where, if you believe prominent journalists, they will eventually wipe out the human population of North America.

The killer bees live in hives, are extremely aggressive, and will attack with the slightest provocation. And ever since the 1970’s, they’ve been appearing in bad movies which convinced me and anyone else who didn’t already have enough to worry about that killer bees were, with global thermonuclear war, the greatest threat to human life on the planet. Then the Soviet Union collapsed and I’ve had nothing else to be afraid of but killer bees.

Unfortunately the apiary in his interview revealed that killer bees, being tropical, can’t survive harsh winters, and, due to interbreeding, will eventually pick up the characteristic docility of native bees. The prominent journalist, disappointed that all those people who made fun of him as a child will not die horribly from multiple bee stings, then turned to the camera and assured viewers that we can still worry about radon, cholesterol, nuclear waste, explosive landfills, political destabilization in the Baltic states, Africa, parts of the Middle East, parts of the Midwest, and southern Asia, giant asteroids on collision courses with the Earth, and the remote possibility that giant starfish may one day crawl out of the ocean and kill us all.

Personally I was a lot happier with the bees.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

If the World was a Village

Version #1 (shorter version)

If we could shrink the Earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people with all existing ratios remaining the same, it would look like this:

  • There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere (North and South) and 8 Africans.
  • 51 would be female; 49 would be male.
  • 70 would be non-white; 30 white.
  • 70 would be non-Christian; 30 Christian.
  • 50% of the entire world’s wealth would be in the hands of only 6 people and all 6 would be citizens of the United States.
  • 80 would live in substandard housing.
  • 70 would be unable to read.
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition.
  • 1 would be near death, 1 would be near birth.
  • Only 1 would have a college education.
  • No one would own a computer.

When one considers our world from such an incredibly compressed perspective, the need for both tolerance and understanding becomes glaringly apparent….

Version #2 (longer version)

If the world were a village of 1,000 people, it would include:

  • 584 Asians
  • 124 Africans
  • 95 East and West Europeans
  • 84 Latin Americans
  • 55 Soviets (including, for the moment, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, etc.)
  • 52 North Americans
  • 6 Australians and New Zealanders

The people of the village have considerable difficulty communicating:

  • 165 people speak Mandarin (Chinese)
  • 86 English
  • 83 Hindu/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 this village of 1,000 there are:

  • 329 Christians (187 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 31 Orthodox)
  • 178 Moslems
  • 167 "non-religious"
  • 132 Hindus
  • 60 Buddhists
  • 45 atheists
  • 3 Jews
  • 86 all other religions

One-third (330) of the 1,000 people in the world village are children and only 60 are over the age of 65. Half the children are immunized against preventable infectious diseases such as measles and polio. Just under half of the married women in the village have access to and use modern contraceptives.

The first year, 28 babies are born, That year, 10 people die, 3 of them for lack of food, 1 from cancer; two of the deaths are of babies born within the year. One person of the 1,000 is infected with the HIV virus; that person most likely has not yet developed a full-blown case of AIDS.

With the 28 births and 10 deaths, the population of the village in the second year is 1,018.

In this 1,000-person community, 200 people receive 75% of the income; another 200 receive only 2% of the income.

Only 70 people of the 1,000 own an automobile (although some of the 70 own more than one automobile).

About one-third have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Of the 670 adults in the village, half are illiterate.

The village has six acres of land per person, 6000 acres in all, of which: 

  • 700 acres are cropland
  • 1,400 acres are pasture
  • 1,900 acres are woodland
  • 2,000 acres are desert, tundra, pavement (and other wasteland)

The woodland is declining rapidly; the wasteland is increasing. The other land categories are roughly stable.

The village allocates 83% of its fertilizer to 40% of its cropland — that owned by the richest and best-fed 270 people. Excess fertilizer running off this land causes pollution in lakes and wells. The remaining 60 % of the land, with its 17% of the fertilizer, produces 28% of the food grains and feeds for 73% of the people. The average grain yield on that land is one-third the harvest achieved by the richer villagers.

In the village of 1,000 people, there are:

  • 5 soldiers
  • 7 teachers
  • 1 doctor
  • 3 refugees driven from home by war or drought.

The village has a total budget each year, public and private, of over $3 million — $3,000 per person if it were distributed evenly. Of the total $3 million:

  • $181,000 goes to weapons and warfare
  • $159,000 for education
  • $132,000 for health care

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

Taken from "If the World Were a Village" by Donella H. Meadows. The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog.

For this information and more, see the World Village Website.

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