Sunday, October 08, 2006

What is our harvest? And what would the world look like if it was a village of 100 people?

A lot of local churches celebrate harvest at this time of year, many over this weekend. Sheaves of wheat, apples galore, flowers in innumerable posies. And beside the local produce sit grapes, oranges, flowers that have been transported in from other parts of the world. The odd tin of fruit is stacked up in wicker baskets. The more adventurous might even include non-food stuffs in their harvest displays.

Random harvest church flowers from most major celebrations throughout the church calendar, there is much tradition and more than a little sentimentality (or schmaltz) surrounding harvest. But leaving cynicism to one side ...

Harvest reminds us that we reap what we sow. If we plant well, and the weather comes, we can expect a good harvest. If we plant badly, we can expect to dig up the ground and take out the weeds before starting again.

Harvest reminds us that many are hungry and thirsty, many are poor, many are sick, many have no roof over their heads, and many are asking how to change their circumstances. If we have food or water, money, medicine, can provide shelter, or if we can share our expertise, then we should. That is our harvest gift. (And as well as looking internationally, we shouldn’t be surprised if we can find ways of sharing our harvest in our own neighbourhoods.)

If the world was a village of 100 people, what would it look like?

There are various versions circulating the web and blogosphere – probably all inaccurate, but probably all still providing sharp reminders of the diversity of the world, and our own relative comfort.

One version that seems to have put a little more care into the statistics is published by the folks at Miniature Earth, and comes in the form of a Flash presentation. If you have a couple of minutes, have a look. (I don’t have a working sound card at the moment, so I can’t vouch for the music that goes with the words and imagery!)

  • The 100 person world village will have 12 Europeans mixing with 61 Asians, 13 Africans, 8 North Americans, 5 South Americans (including Caribbean) and 1 person from Oceania. Downtown Belfast it ain’t.
  • 50 women, and 50 men.
  • 33 Christians, 18 Muslims, 14 Hindus, 6 Buddhists and 13 worshipping other religions. 16 will be non-religious.
  • 43 will live without basic sanitation. 13 will be hungry or malnourished. one 15-49 year old will have HIV/AIDS
  • 6 people in the village will own 59% of the entire wealth of the community.
  • 14 won’t be able to read, and only 7 will have been educated to secondary level.
  • 12 have a computer, and 3 have an internet connection.


John Self said...

The miniaturisation of the Planet is indeed a useful tool for getting a grasp on our position in the world. Another one I'm fond of, which shrinks down time rather than space, is this from Richard Dawkins's Unweaving the Rainbow:

"Fling your arms wide in an expansive gesture to span all of evolution from its origin at your left fingertip to today at your right fingertip. All across your midline to well past your right shoulder, life consists of nothing but bacteria.

"Many–celled, invertebrate life flowers somewhere around your right elbow. The dinosaurs originate in the middle of your right palm, and go extinct around your last finger joint. The whole history of Homo sapiens and our predecessor Homo erectus is contained in the thickness of one nail clipping. As for recorded history; as for the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Jewish patriarchs, the dynasties of Pharaohs, the legions of Rome, the Christian Fathers, the Laws of the Medes and Persians which never change; as for Troy and the Greeks, Helen and Achilles and Agamemnon dead; as for Napoleon and Hitler, the Beatles and Bill Clinton, they and everyone that knew them are blown away in the dust of one light stroke of a nail file."

Of course, the same Dawkins would argue that Miniature Earth stats can't be accurate, as the figures for Christians, Muslims, Jews etc probably includes children, who are "too young to decide their views on the origins of the cosmos, of life and of morals. The very sound of the phrase 'Christian child' or 'Muslim child' should grate like fingernails on a blackboard."

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Anything or anyone - including Dawkins - that can help us to understand the scale and breadth of creation is to be welcomed.

Lies, damned lies and statistics.

Miniature Earth may be more accurate if religious labels are seen through a cultural lens - much like the UK census - rather than a statement of which precisely deity you hope to welcome you when you die.