What if the world were a village of just 100?
19 September 2006
If the population of Australia was represented in a village of 100, 64 people would live in a capital city, 80 people would speak English at home, and there would be 2,100 chickens. The nation, it seems, likes its poultry.
Author and educator David J. Smith cited these figures when he spoke at Sydney Ideas, the University's international public lecture series.
"In Australia's village of 100, there would be 69 Christians, 490 sheep, and 17 people over the age of 50," he said.
Smith, who is well-known for his best-selling book If the World Were a Village, explored his "world-in-miniature" idea that breaks down the world, with a population of more than six billion 400 million, into a village of just 100 people.
"Educators use this idea to open young people's eyes to a wider view of the planet," he said.
In Smith's imaginary world village of 100, 22 would speak a Chinese dialect, 20 would earn less than a dollar a day and 50 would often go hungry.
Smith first came up with the idea in 1988 when a year 7 student asked him whether French or Spanish was a more important language. "The student asked me, 'If our class was the world, how many people would speak either language?'," he explained.
Smith began to crunch statistics from government records, and packaged it as a children's book- one that's sold more than 500,000 copies in the US and has been translated into 11 languages.
But the maths involved is not always black and white. There's a lot of rounding-up and rounding-down.
"With six-and-a-half billion people in the world, every 65 million represents one person. When the figure is more than 32.5 million, I round it up. If it's less, I round down," he explained.
In Smith's village, there would be 61 people from Asia, 13 from Africa, 12 from Europe, 8 from Central and South America, 5 from North America, and 1 from Oceania.
"This final figure, however, is not quite accurate. Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, don't quite make half a person, but I'd thought I'd be generous."
The animated version of Smith's book, which was chosen by UNICEF to be shown on the "International Children's Day of Broadcasting" late last year, was screened during his lecture.
Coming up: Tanya Reinhart.
Israeli academic, author (The Road Map to Nowhere- Israel/Palestine since 2003) and outspoken critic of Israel's handling of the Palestinian conflict is the next Sydney Ideas lecturer. Her lecture, "Open air prisons - The Israeli occupation of Palestine", will be given on Monday, 9 October at 6.30pm, at the Seymour Theatre Centre.
Contact: Katrina O'Brien
Phone: 02 9036 7842