Seven Teachers, Five Soldiers, One Doctor
The world as a village
How would the proportions of the world’s population look like, if the earth were a small village of one thousand people only? Would poverty be erased? Would diseases no longer exist? What would happen to the crime rate? Would there still be religious dispute? How close would we get to peace?
In The Global Citizen, a column published by Donella Meadows weekly from 1985 until her death in 2001, Donella Meadows paints a picture of exactly that scenario. In more than 20 newspapers across the United States she used to describe and criticise the government’s environmental politics. She investigated corporate failure as well as success regarding sustainability and proposed suggestions for a change in ecological behaviour. Donella Meadows, Systems Analyst and eco-activist, released the data State of the Village Report in her column in May 1990. The findings are now 20 years old, however they are still referred to, in order to make us understand how close we are to the destruction of our homes and ourselves.
Why do we need a report in that form? We get a lot of statistics on every possible topic, daily. We hear about them and forget about them. That is because for most of us it might be rather hard to understand the impact of the gap and the correlation between the powerful and the weak, between the rich and the poor, the ill and the healthy, between ethnicities, religions, ages, genders, occupations, and any other categories we put ourselves in. These amounts are stated in statistics, which contain numbers of millions and billions. Such figures however are too big for our average understanding of the world, that is why we dismiss trying to understand the impact of them. There were 33.4 million people living with HIV in 2008, 22.4 million, which is 67% of all HIV infected people were living in Sub-Saharan Africa at this time. Now what does that tell us? With a world population over 6.8 billion does 33.4 million sound alarming? Does it look a lot?
State of the Village Report
Donella Meadows takes all these statistics with their numbers and relates them to a population of not more than 1000 people. The outcome offers a better overview over the world’s population and its resources, than conventional statistics can. There would be 584 Asians, 150 Europeans, 123 Africans, 84 South Americans, 52 North Americans and six people would come from Australia and New Zealand. 165 of all of them would speak Mandarin as their mother tongue and only 86 would speak English. There would be more than 200 other languages represented. The majority of the 1000 people would belong to Christian religions (300). There would be 175 Moslems, 128 Hindus, 55 Buddhists and 47 Animists. Atheists and all other religions would form a group of 210 people. The village would accommodate 330 children. Each year 28 babies would be born with not even half of the sexually active using contraceptives. Two of the newborns would die each year. Only half the children would be vaccinated against illnesses like polio. One person would carry the HIV virus in their body. Additionally eight more people would die, of which three would starve and one wouldn’t be able to fight cancer. The number of inhabitants would raise by 18 in the next year.
Three-fourths of the whole income would go to 200 people in the village. Another 200 would only get two per cent of income. Only 70 people would own one or more cars. There would be seven people working as teachers, five as soldiers and only one as a doctor. Half of the Adults would be illiterate and a third of the whole population would not have the possibility to access drinking water. There would be 6000 acres of land, of which 2000 would be unusable due to natural reasons (e.g. desert) or the population’s destruction (e.g. pavements). This wasteland would be increasing while the 1900 acres of woodland would decline in huge amounts. Only 700 acres would be used as cropland and 14000 for pasture. 83 percent of the fertilizer available would go to only 40 percent of all the cropland, which would be allocated to the 270 wealthiest people. This part of the cropland would produce two-thirds of the agricultural profit, while the remaining 60 percent of acres with only 17 percent available fertilizer would produce only 28 percent of grain with which 73 percent of the population would have to be fed.
100 people would have the power over nuclear weapons. There would be enough bombs to cause multiple explosions of which one would be strong enough to destroy the whole village. It would be more likely that someone would accidently or on purpose blow up one of the weapons, than that the 100 people would decide on disarmament. Even if that was the case, there would be nowhere to dump the nuclear waste. Warfare decisions would cost $181,000, while only $159,000 would be spent on education and even less on health care ($132,000).
These proportions make it more clear how the world is structured, what our priorities are and how bad they really are. This report does not leave us the possibility to keep ignoring complicated statistics and big numbers. It is a wake-up call, an alert. It forces us to open our eyes and makes us understand what’s really happening in the world. The only thing the State of the Village Report leaves up to us, is the way we want to change it.