Living in our global village

When I reflect on my visit earlier this year to the Gambia, and my trips to other poor countries, I tend to gain some real perspective on my life. I'm left asking what will the future hold for the Gambian children in this picture? I spent some time with them all, and they are certainly as bright and enthusiastic as any kids I have met in my own country. How many of these children will survive to adulthood, how many will enjoy happy lives and achieve their dreams? None for sure will have any of the opportunities I had when I was their age. You see, in the Gambia children are forced to leave school when they reach 11, unless their parents can pay for their secondary education. Most cannot.

I can't help but feel extremely privileged to come from a part of the world where electricity, water and gas are all piped to my home, and where education is free for all children up to the age of 18. Even healthcare is free at the point of delivery to all British citizens (and of course to anyone else who is visiting the UK and gets taken ill) courtesy of the National Health Service. Hell, I even have broadband wifi in my house, and enough to feed and clothe my entire family. If I want fresh, clean water, I have simply to walk a few metres to my kitchen sink. The children in the picture have to walk several kilometres every day to fetch their water from a well in a bucket. Yes, I'm very, very fortunate indeed. I have always been affected by the following scenario, ever since I first heard it several years ago. If you want some perspective on your life, read on....

If we could reduce the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:

Our village would be populated by 60 Asians, 14 Africans, 12 Europeans,
8 Latin Americans, 5 from the USA and Canada, and 1 from the South Pacific....

51 would be male,
49 would be female.
82 would be non-white;
18 would be white.
67 would be non-Christian;
33 would be Christian.
80 would live in substandard housing;
67 would be unable to read.
50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation;
33 would be without access to a safe water supply;
39 would lack access to improved sanitation;
24 would not have any electricity (and of the 76 that do have electricity, most would only use it for light at night).
7 people would have access to the Internet;
1 would have a college education;
1 would have HIV.
2 would be near birth; 1 near death
5 would control 32% of the entire world’s wealth; all 5 would be US citizens
33 would be receiving (and trying to live on) only 3% of the income of “the village”

Information source

This post is a revised version of Our global village, first published on this blog on February 27, 2010.


David Hopkins said…
Thanks Steve, again. These are indeed staggering, and quite shocking, statistics - it makes me (who has not been anywhere near Gambia or other 3rd world poverty) realise how truly lucky I am with the basic amenities I take for granted.

All the best, David
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments David. We are indeed very well off in comparison. We take our students twice each year for one week visits to the Gambia, and stay in African accommodation. It's a real eye opener for all those who travel with us, and it changes their outlooks radically. After my visits to several poor regions, including the townships of South Africa, I certainly have a different perspective on life.
Anonymous said…
Great post. You've just made me realize once again how fortunate I am. It does remind me of Mahatma Gandhi's talisman:

"I will give you a talisman.
Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."

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