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Humanity By the Numbers: The Miniature Earth

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | Published on June 23, 2010 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2010/06/23/humanity-by-the-numbers-the-miniature-earth/

Many of us trying to grasp the details of the lives of the nearly 7 billion other humans around the world can feel our brains melting at the attempt. It’s challenging enough for some of us to empathize with and relate to our immediate neighbors and community members, but with 6+ BILLION of them?

That’s why tools like The Miniature Earth are so useful. This little video helps viewers connect with others by distilling and quantifying humanity into numbers and ideas that are easier on our brains — and more likely to inspire us to think critically and compassionately about others.

The video uses Donella Meadows’ “State of the Village Report,” in which she reduced Earth’s human population to 1,000 people, and, keeping the same proportions, calculated statistics such as ethnicities, religions, income distributions, and so on. The information for The Miniature Earth video has been adapted and updated (and a new version is in the works).

Viewers can imagine themselves as one of the 100. Would they be…

  • One of the 9 disabled?
  • The one with HIV/AIDS?
  • One of the 67 non-Christians?
  • One of the 43 without basic sanitation?
  • One of the 6 that own 59% of the entire wealth of the community?
  • One of the 7 educated at a secondary level?
  • One of the 97 without Internet access?
  • One of the 71 living on $2 a day or less?

The images are moving, and the statistics included provide excellent opportunities for discussion, critical thinking, and further exploration, especially for educators wanting to use a variety of subjects (math, geography, language arts, etc.) to help students to delve into human rights and social justice issues. There are also great opportunities to discuss the challenges in trying to divide people into specific categories.

If you’d like a similar concept in book form, check out David J. Smith’s books If the World Were a Village and If America Were a Village.

~Marsha

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