If The World Were A Village of 1000 People...
Our World Village
In 1990 a professor at Dartmouth College wrote an article that began with the words: "If the world were a village of 1000 people..."
Professor Donella Meadows then proceeded to list statistics about the make-up of the world's population and the distribution of the world's wealth and resources. Meadows probably never imagined this simple article for her column called "The Global Citizen" would one day be widely circulated on the Internet and around the world, updated and even turned into a children's book. But the statistics, when boiled down into simple numbers that anyone could understand, are compelling reading and make it easy for everyone to grasp the inequities in our small world village.
(Image of earth provided by NASA)
According to the 1990 data Meadows used, if the world were a village of 1000 people, here are just a few statistics about how our world would look:
584 would be Asians
123 would be Africans
95 would be East and West Europeans
84 would be Latin Americans
55 would be Soviets
52 would be North Americans
6 would be Australians and New Zealanders
165 would speak Mandarin
86 would speak English
5 would be soldiers
7 would be teachers
1 would be a doctor
300 would be Christians
175 would be Muslims
128 would be Hindus
330 of the people would be children
60 would be over the age of 65
200 people would control three-fourths of the income
200 would receive only 2% of the income
1/3 of the people would not have access to clean drinking water
3 people would die each year from lack of food
50% of adults in the village would be illiterate
These figures and others that Meadows included have been reprinted around the world, updated with more recent data, and whittled down to a village of 100 people. American author David Smith also wrote a children's book using the title "If the World Were a Village" that teaches kids about the world's population.
The concept is simple: we live on one small planet, and share scarce resources that are not always equitably distributed.
For the complete article and more statistics from Profesor Meadow's original article, see the State of the Village Report at the Donella Meadows Archive.
200 people would control 3/4 of the world's wealth
Professor Donella Meadows Biography
More about the woman behind the world village numbers
Donella Meadows was an environmental scientist, teacher and writer. She is best known as the lead author of the influential book Limits to Growth, which made headlines around the world, and as the person who boiled down the world's statistics into an article that began, "If the world were a village..."
During her lifetime, Meadows was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, won the Walter C. Paine Science Education Award and was honored both as a Pew Scholar in Conservation and Environment and as a MacArthur Fellow.
She wrote a weekly column called "The Global Citizen," which appeared in more than 20 newspapers and provided commentary on world events from a systems viewpoint. It was in this column that she wrote the "world village" article.
Helping Children Understand - A book based on the idea articulated by Professor Meadows
There are currently more than six billion people on the planet! This enormous number can be difficult to grasp, especially for a child. But what if we im In a time when parents and educators are looking to help children gain a better understanding of the world's peoples and their ways of life, If the World Were a Village offers a unique and objective resource. By exploring the lives of the 100 villagers, children will discover that life in other nations is often very different from their own. The shrunk-down statistics -- some surprising, some shocking -- and David Smith's tips on building "world-mindedness" will encourage readers to embrace the bigger picture and help them to establish their own place in the global village.agine the whole world as a village of just 100 people?
If America Were a Village - A book about the United States for kids
From School Library Journal: As in If the World Were a Village, Smith and Armstrong help children understand large statistical numbers by collapsing the U.S. population of 300 million down to a village of 100. For example, "82 people in our village speak English as their first language, 10 speak Spanish. 1 speaks Chinese, 1 French and 1 German." Other languages that represent less than one whole person are also mentioned. Topics explored include family make-up, religions, jobs, ages, wealth, items owned, energy and water use, and health. Comparisons are sometimes made with historical data to show change and with worldwide numbers for contrast. Lively, cheerful acrylic paintings depict the diversity of our country in a somewhat idealized manner that suits the all-inclusive tone of the book. While the concept is successful in making huge numbers more comprehensible, statistics are known to be slippery, and attempts to classify people by race and ethnic and cultural groups are not always straightforward. Does the term "Hispanic" identify a distinct group? Some say yes, others no; Smith identifies the village as having 75 white members, 12 black, 4 Asian, 1 Native American, and 8 who consider themselves "members of some other race or of mixed race," noting that he's including Hispanics with whites. While readers may or may not agree with Smith's interpretations of the figures, he lists extensive bibliographic resources and provides suggestions for ways to engage children in considering their country and its place in the larger world. At the very least, the book will provoke discussion; ideally, it will inspire deeper thought and consideration of "what distinguishes America from other countries and Americans from other people."
Limits to Growth - A more in-depth look at the finite resources of our growing global village
Limits to Growth was a book originally published in 1972 that described the consequences of a rapidly growing world population and our finite resource supplies. It was commissioned by the Club of Rome, and its authors were Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III. The book used the World3 model to simulate the consequence of interactions between the Earth's and human systems. The book made headlines around the world for some of its controversial views.
From Publishers Weekly: Updated for the second time since 1992, this book, by a trio of professors and systems analysts, offers a pessimistic view of the natural resources available for the world's population. Using extensive computer models based on population, food production, pollution and other data, the authors demonstrate why the world is in a potentially dangerous "overshoot" situation. Put simply, overshoot means people have been steadily using up more of the Earth's resources without replenishing its supplies. The consequences, according to the authors, may be catastrophic.
And If We Whittled it Down to 100 People in Our Global Village....
Updated and modified with newer data
Professor Meadows published her article in 1990, using data available at that time. David Copeland, a surveyor and environmental activist, revised the report to reflect a village of 100. When whittled down to 100 people, here's how our village would look:
8 Latin Americans
5 Americans and Canadians
1 South Pacific Islander
80 would live in substandard housing
67 would be unable to read
50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation
33 would be without access to a safe water supply
39 would lack access to improved sanitation
24 would not have any electricity (And of the 76 that do have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)
7 people would have access to the Internet
1 would have a college education
1 would have HIV
2 would be near birth and 1 near death
5 would control 32% of the entire world's wealth; all 5 would be US citizens
33 would be receiving and attempting to live on only 3% of the income of "village"
More Books About Our Global Village
These books also offer a glimpse into differences in the way people live around the world. I particularly love the "Material World" books, which have photos showing all the worldly possessions of families from a variety of countries. VERY enlightening! The photography, as well as the accompanying text and statistics, make these books highly readable for older kids to adults.
Your world is as big as you make it. - Georgia Douglas Johnson
Celebrate Peace on Our World Village
Celebrate the holidays with this peace on earth ornament that displays peace in 11 languages with the universal peace symbol.