Wednesday, April 30, 2008

‘Fun facts and foolery’ for fodder


"War is as objectionable as cannibalism and slavery; it is beyond obsolete as a means of improving life."

—Howard Zinn, as quoted by Alice Walker.

The human population of the Earth grows at an approximate rate of 145 people a minute. That is, 145 more people are born than die every minute. If you read this column at a leisurely pace, not pausing to contemplate any of the information in it or examine any thoughts it may inspire, it will take you about five minutes to finish. In that time, the Earth's population of humans will have grown by about 725. Every hour about 8,700 people are added to the Earth's population; every day about 208,000. Between the end of 2007 and the end of April 2008, the Earth's human population increased by about 25 million.

And, of course, the rate of increase increases as the numbers do, every minute, every hour, every day, every month, every year, year after year.

That's a lot of people.

Every minute of every day about $2.3 million is given to the military organizations of the world to prepare for and engage in war. That comes to about $3 billion a day. Another way to think about it is the number $1,095,000,000,000 spent on preparing for and waging war in the world each year. Year after year. Almost half the world's military spending, about 48 percent, is by the United States of America alone. About 43 percent of America's tax dollars are poured into its military, at the expense, of course, of social services, health care, education, environmental protection, transportation, affordable housing and any number of other human needs. Though it doesn't—and, at least in any future that anyone I know can foresee, won't—$3 billion a day could go a long way toward feeding and clothing those 208,000 new people who arrive here each day, as well as providing them with clean water, shelter, medical help, a few soccer balls and books.

That's a lot of money.

It pays for a lot of war, and, in the current instances that come most immediately to mind—Iraq and Afghanistan—it doesn't appear to be improving the lives of either the native peoples or the foreign invaders of those countries. After five years, the mission, whatever it was, in Iraq hasn't been accomplished, but some—whose veracity, in my opinion, deserves more scrutiny than it has received—counsel patience and ask for more time. Any minute now the corner will be turned. There are 1,440 minutes in a day, 525,600 minutes in a year and 2,628,000 minutes in five years.

That's a lot of minutes.

For the same reasons that the veracity of those who counsel patience instead of providing strategy, planning and, most important, accountability needs more scrutiny than it has received, it is impossible to gain an accurate accounting or even approximation of the dead and wounded caused by the American invasion of Iraq. We know that more than 4,000 Americans have been killed and somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 wounded in Iraq. The respected British medical journal The Lancet estimates that more than one million Iraqis have been killed as a result of the American invasion.

That's a lot of blood.

There are people so cynical as to say that the invasion and occupation or Iraq has nothing to do with ideology, democracy or humanitarianism and everything to do with oil.

That's a lot of cynicism.

Those same cynics would say it's a lot of reality.

In 2007, Exxon Mobil set a new world record for a single company's yearly profit at $39.5 billion, breaking its own record of $36.13 billion in 2005.

That's a lot of profit.

Two years ago, Exxon Mobil gave its retiring CEO a severance package worth $400 million.

That's a lot of severance. Actually, that's obscene.

Every minute, approximately 62 acres of the world's forests are logged. Sixty two acres is about the size of 47 football fields. Every day, nearly 90,000 acres of the diminishing forest of the world are cut down. Every year, about 32,587,200 acres of the world's forests are cut down. Chop chop.

That's a lot of trees.

About 30 acres of the surface of the Earth is taken over by desertification each minute. That comes to around 43,000 acres an hour and about 15,768,000 new acres of desert blooming on the Earth's surface each year.

That's a lot of dry, infertile land.

What is the answer to this equation: 30 acres of new desert multiplied by 145 new humans every minute equals what?

And all of these fun facts and foolery are connected and growing tighter every one of those 525,000 minutes of every year.

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