Over the past few years, I’ve run into several articles and email forwards presenting a hypothetical village of 100 as a stand-in for the entire world population. For example, “if the world population were a village of 100 people, 61 people would be Asian, 15 would be malnourished, 20 would be overweight, etc.” Apparently this idea dates back to a 1990 piece by Dartmouth professor Donella Meadows. Snopes cautions that some versions in circulation are inaccurate.
Miniature-Earth.com features this short movie version:
This is a neat trick, as it accomplishes a few impressive explainist feats instantly:
- It makes very big numbers comprehensible.
- It lifts you out of your local/religious/ethnic perspective to consider the composition of human race as a whole.
- It makes you imagine other people in the abstract as actual people that you live with (which they are).
We’re just not wired to imagine 6.7 billion people, but 100 is well within our grasp.
Illustrator/designer/photographer Toby Ng ran with the idea and created a series of village-of-100 posters.
The posters are sharp, but the metaphors within a metaphor are a little mind-bending (“if the human population were a village of 100 people, which comprised slices of a pizza…”). Is it too obvious of me to picture posters showing the hypothetical villagers themselves?