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If The World Were A Village of 1000 People...

Updated on July 9, 2013

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

If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People (CitizenKid)
If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People (CitizenKid)

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

If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States (CitizenKid)
If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States (CitizenKid)

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.

Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

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:

60 Asians

14 Africans

12 Europeans

8 Latin Americans

5 Americans and Canadians

1 South Pacific Islander

51 males

49 females

82 non-white

18 white

67 non-Christians

33 Christians

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

Earth Ornament, Peace In Many Languages, Glass With Natural Earth Continents, 50 Rivers, 2.5 Inches
Earth Ornament, Peace In Many Languages, Glass With Natural Earth Continents, 50 Rivers, 2.5 Inches

Celebrate the holidays with this peace on earth ornament that displays peace in 11 languages with the universal peace symbol.

 

Join the Global Village - Leave some feedback!

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    • bevpbon profile image

      bevpbon 5 years ago

      This is awesome... very nice perspective!

    • profile image

      Thamisgith 5 years ago

      Nice lens. Makes you think differently when you put it like that.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Fascinating lens! I live in the United States. We U.S. citizens often feel like we are the Center of the Universe (blush). Therefore, it's properly humbling to see that North Americans would make up only 52 of the 1000 people in the global village.

    • profile image

      msseiboi 5 years ago

      I like your lens... we are the global village

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I have featured you and your lens in my group lens, Planet Earth: Our Garden of Eden under Culture & Society, Social Issues, Human Rights. I hope you will stop by soon:)

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I have featured you and your lens in my group lens, Planet Earth: Our Garden of Eden under Culture & Society, Social Issues, Human Rights. I hope you will stop by soon:)

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      The key point is we live on a finite planet that is under stress because of waste and excess. Thank you for publishing this important info.

    • mary-humphrey profile image

      mary-humphrey 5 years ago

      wow that's a lot of good information, its sad though good lens

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Excellent information. I wish the sad facts were different.

    • tylerabernethy22 profile image

      tylerabernethy22 5 years ago

      Wow, I wish I could super like this one! 80 out of 100 would live in sub standard housing!?!

      That's awfully depressing.

      Tyler

    • profile image

      HomepageHeroes 6 years ago

      Very thought provoking. I like how you broke down the numbers - somehow they feel more real like this.

    • best-intentions profile image

      best-intentions 7 years ago

      Thanks for writing this lens! When my son was younger, I would try to explain big concepts to him, using his classroom as an example. It really helps bring things into focus for kids, especially to break it down in this way. Thumbs up.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 7 years ago from Upstate, NY

      This is a great way to put the world into perspective.

    • profile image

      GrowWear 7 years ago

      A very thought-provoking lens. Well done!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      I knew when sent by Kim that this would be interesting. It really does offer a lot of food for thought in a simple but compelling way.

    • LisaDH profile image
      Author

      LisaDH 7 years ago

      @kimmanleyort: Thank you for the honor! I'm flattered. :-)

      And for those who are interested, here's the link to Squidoo Lens Review:

      http://blog.growwear.com/

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Kim was right...this lens on a world village of 1000 people is quite remarkable and very interesting.

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 7 years ago

      This lens is featured today on Squidoo Lens Reviews. Stop by and pick up your badge if you would like.

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is so thought provoking, thanks for writing this. I can't believe there are no British people in the 1000 people village - shocking!!!

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 8 years ago

      Very well done. 5* Lensrolled to Donella Meadows lens.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 8 years ago from Western Mass

      have you seen the miniature earth project: https://hubpages.com/education/visual_statistics... ? right up your alley!

    • Sarunas profile image

      Sarunas 8 years ago

      Great lens, dude.

      5* from me :) Keep it up.

    • Sarunas profile image

      Sarunas 8 years ago

      Great lens, dude.

      5* from me :) Keep it up.

    • RolandTumble profile image

      RolandTumble 8 years ago

      Great! 5* & lensrolled to my eco-lens

    • profile image

      tdove 8 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

    • profile image

      jaye3000 8 years ago

      Really cool lens. 5stars!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 8 years ago

      What a great idea for a lens and well executed! 5* to you!

    • julcal profile image

      julcal 8 years ago

      That's great, Lisa ! Thanks *****

      ~ julie

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      What a wonderful way to break down numbers to a manageable amount. I would love to see these numbers in a pie chart form. Another book that you might like is What is Your Language?, a book about a boy meeting children from around the world or How to Make Apple Pie and see the World where the character flies around the world to gather the ingredients to make an apple pie.

    • Tammylove profile image

      Tammylove 8 years ago

      Great Lens! Thanks for joining the I.N.S.I.G.H.T. group!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      Welcome to The Totally Awesome Lenses Group.

      Lizzy

    • LisaDH profile image
      Author

      LisaDH 9 years ago

      [in reply to WritingforYourWealth] Well, you're exactly right - look at the second set of statistics that breaks it down into a village of 100 instead of 1000. 5 people control the wealth.

    • K Linda profile image

      K Linda 9 years ago

      Excellent and revealing lens! I am lensrolling this to my new charity lens. 5*'s too!

    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 9 years ago

      Interesting statistics, though I'd wager it's more like 5 people controlling most of the wealth. Anyhoo, thanks for sharing! ;)

    • profile image

      inkserotica 9 years ago

      Lots of interesting facts here; will have to come back and read some more! 5* :) and thanks for joining Add One Lens Group!

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 9 years ago

      Very interesting statistics when you look at it that way. Thanks for this 5 star lens! Will make an interesting home school subject to study.

    • solarstories lm profile image

      solarstories lm 9 years ago

      Those figures are incredibly eye-opening. What an amazing list. 5 stars and favorite!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      Professor Meadows took a complicated subject and made it understandable. That's the mark of a true teacher.

      Great lens

      Lizzy

    • MiaD LM profile image

      MiaD LM 9 years ago

      what a direct manner of understanding the world that politicians want to keep it complicated and impossible to be understood by our simple minds...thanks for sharing this!

    • profile image

      infosultan 9 years ago

      Lisa,

      I love your exposition. Professor Meadows must have been very a global-oriented and deep-thinking person.

      Keep up the good work. :)

      ~Muhammad

    • annetteghallowe1 profile image

      annetteghallowe1 9 years ago

      Thank you for helping to remind us that the world is a small place and in the end it isn't all about us. We all need to take care of each other. 5* (which would be 10 if I could)

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 9 years ago

      I would say our village needs some cleaning up and much better management.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 9 years ago

      This was very interesting and it really helps, I hope others too, to see our place and how important everyone is.

      5*