The Global Citizen May 31, 1990
Donella H. Meadows
STATE OF THE VILLAGE REPORT
If the world were a village of 1000 people:
584 would be Asians
123 would be Africans
95 would be East and West Europeans
84 Latin Americans
55 Soviets (still including for the moment Lithuanians, Latvians,
52 North Americans
6 Australians and New Zealanders
The people of the village would have considerable difficulty communicating:
165 people would speak Mandarin
86 would speak English
That list accounts for the mother-tongues of only half the villagers.
The other half speak (in descending order of frequency) Bengali,
Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, German, French, and 200 other
In the village there would be:
300 Christians (183 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 33 Orthodox)=
210 all other religions (including atheists)
One-third (330) of the people in the village would be children.
Half the children would be immunized against the preventable infectious
diseases such as measles and polio.
Sixty of the thousand villagers would be over the age of 65.
Just under half of the married women would have access to and be
using modern contraceptives.
Each year 28 babies would be born.
Each year 10 people would die, three of them for lack of food, one
from cancer. Two of the deaths would be to babies born within the
One person in the village would be infected with the HIV virus;
that person would most likely not yet have developed a full-blown
case of AIDS.
With the 28 births and 10 deaths, the population of the village
in the next year would be 1018.
In this thousand-person community, 200 people would receive three-fourths
of the income; another 200 would receive only 2% of the income.
Only 70 people would own an automobile (some of them more than one
About one-third would not have access to clean, safe drinking water.
Of the 670 adults in the village half would be illiterate.
The village would have 6 acres of land per person, 6000 acres in
all of which:
700 acres is cropland
1400 acres pasture
1900 acres woodland
2000 acres desert, tundra, pavement, and other wasteland.
The woodland would be declining rapidly; the wasteland increasing;
the other land categories would be roughly stable. The village would
allocate 83 percent of its fertilizer to 40 percent of its cropland
-- that owned by the richest and best-fed 270 people. Excess fertilizer
running off this land would cause pollution in lakes and wells.
The remaining 60 percent of the land, with its 17 percent of the
fertilizer, would produce 28 percent of the foodgrain and feed 73
percent of the people. The average grain yield on that land would
be one-third the yields gotten by the richer villagers.
If the world were a village of 1000 persons, there would be five
soldiers, seven teachers, one doctor. Of the village's total annual
expenditures of just over $3 million per year, $181,000 would go
for weapons and warfare, $159,000 for education, $132,000 for health
The village would have buried beneath it enough explosive power
in nuclear weapons to blow itself to smithereens many times over.
These weapons would be under the control of just 100 of the people.
The other 900 people would be watching them with deep anxiety, wondering
whether the 100 can learn to get along together, and if they do,
whether they might set off the weapons anyway through inattention
or technical bungling, and if they ever decide to dismantle the
weapons, where in the village they will dispose of the dangerous
radioactive materials of which the weapons are made.
Perhaps the one person who can be thanked for getting
wider attention for the original article is David Copeland of an
organisation called Value Earth, based in New Jersey. David Copeland,
with Donella Meadows' permission, had 50,000 posters made based
on 'The Global Village', for the 1992 Rio de Janiero Earth Summit,
which was attended by people from some 175 countries!