IF THE WORLD WERE A VILLAGE...

...what would it be like? As the world prepares to celebrate, or ignore, United Nations to Day (on Thursday), Donella Meadows subjects that elusive concept, the global village, the rigours of statistical analysis. If the world really were a village - a comm
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The Independent Culture
The villagers would have considerable difficulty in communicating. 165 people would speak Mandarin, 86 English, 83 Hindi/Urdu, 64 Spanish, 58 Russian, 37 Arabic. That would account for only half the villagers. The other half would speak (in descending order of frequency): Bengali, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, German, French and 200 other languages

In the village of 1,000 there would be: 329 Christians (among them 187 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 31 Orthodox), 178 Moslems, 167 "non-religious", 132 Hindus, 60 Buddhists, 45 atheists, three Jews, and 86 followers of other religions

One third (315) of the 1,000 people in the world village would be children and only 65 would be over the age of 65. Half the children would be immunised against preventable infectious diseases such as polio

Just under half of the married women in the village would have access to modern contraceptives

In the next 12 months, 28 babies would be born in the village, only three of whom would be born to the richest 200 (see below). The babies could expect to live to 65; the privileged three could expect to live 10 years longer, or 13 years longer if they were girls. In the same year, 10 people would die: three for lack of food and one from cancer. Two of the deaths would be of babies born within the year. One person of the 1,000 would be infected with the HIV virus but would probably not have developed Aids yet. This time next year, the population of the village would be 1,018

In this 1,000-person community, 200 people would receive 75 per cent of the income; another 200 would receive only 2 per cent of the income

About one third of the villagers would have access to clean, safe drinking water

Such a village would include:

584 Asians, 124 Africans, 95 East and West Europeans, 84 Latin Americans, 55 inhabitants of what used to be the Soviet Union, 52 North Americans, 6 Australians and New Zealanders

Only 70 of the 1,000 people in the village would own a car (although some of the 70 would own more than one car)

The 1,000 people would include: 5 soldiers, 7 teachers, 1 doctor, and 3 refugees driven from home by war or drought

The village would allocate 83 per cent of its fertiliser to 40 per cent of its cropland - that owned by the richest and best-fed 270 people. Excess fertiliser running off this land would cause pollution in lakes and wells. The remaining 60 per cent of the land, with its 17 per cent of the fertiliser, would produce 28 per cent of the food grains and feed 73 per cent of the people. The average grain yield on that land would be one-third the harvest achieved by the richer villagers

The village would have six acres of land per person, 6,000 acres in all, of which 700 acres would be cropland, 1,400 acres pasture, 1,900 acres woodland, and 2,000 acres desert, tundra, pavement and wasteland. The woodland would be declining rapidly; the wasteland would be increasing

Of the 670 adults in the village, 50 per cent would be illiterate. Most of these would be women, most of them living in the poorer part of the village

The village would have a total budget each year, public and private, of over $3 million - $3,000 per person if it was distributed evenly (which, as we have already seen, it wouldn't be)

From this total budget of $3 million, $181,000 would be spent on weapons and warfare, $159,000 on education, and $132,000 on health care

The village would possess enough explosive power in nuclear weapons to blow itself to smithereens many times over. These weapons would be under the control of just 100 of the people. The other 900 people would be watching them with deep anxiety, wondering if they could learn to get along together; and, if they did, whether they might set off the weapons anyway through inattention or bungling; and, if they ever decided to dismantle the weapons, where in the village they would dispose of the radioactive materials of which the weapons were made

ILLUSTRATIONS BY PETER TILL

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