Saturday, May 12, 2007

Your little World: link to a parable.

So how much of the planet are you actually responsible for? How much of
this whole problem is your fault. In a recent post over at Gristmill Michael
Tobis give us a little parable titled My little world
(and yours, too)
that explains what your share of the planet really is.
"Imagine, as a thought experiment, that everyone on the planet
had the same share of the world's resources. It turns out your share is about
six acres (2.5 hectares) of dry land. ....................... Let's tell
a slightly different story, with a similar asteroid, a per-capita world.
Instead of being one of six billion people on a big planet, let's suppose
you were alone on a comparable asteroid. We'll give you your six-billionth
share of the surface area, your six-billionth share of each of the major
land masses and biomes, your own six billionth scale Africa, your own little
Australia. In other words, you will have exactly the average resource ownership
of everyone else on earth. Your little asteroid has a six billionth of the
earth's total surface area. It is a sphere with a radius of 82 meters, and
with a surface area of about 85,000 square meters. That, depending on how
you prefer to think about it, is almost exactly 21 acres, or 8.5 hectares.
In more urban terms, that is 19 American football fields, or about 12 English
football (professional soccer) fields. Just over 70 percent of your 21 acres
is covered by salt water. If it were to freeze over, you could walk from
any point to any other point at a leisurely pace in under ten minutes. Since
the ocean covers fifteen acres, the land surface covers the remaining six
acres. A vast variety of soils and climates are arrayed about your 6 dry
acres. According to the CIA, the area under cultivation is a bit under 5
percent of the total land area, or a bit over a third of an acre. If you
push matters to less valuable soil, you might be able to grow things on as
much as an acre, but most of your 6 acres are desert or tundra........"

Well, you get the idea. Your fair share of the farmland on the world is
about an acre. Since you are reading this on a computer that means that you,
or some proxy for you, has forcibly booted about a dozen other people off
their little planets in order to provide you with luxury goods. Yes food
in the fridge and clean cotton clothing are luxuries. I highly recommend
that you go over and read the whole story and visit Michael's blog, "Only in it for the Gold."

1 comment:

mmbright said...


I printed the parable out and shared it with my son. It is very dificult for children to reconsile our current realities. Any info on taling to kids about this stuff?