Lots of zeroes in a billion

Listening to a radio broadcast on population trends in the U.S., I was amazed at how anybody could possibly understand the amount or meaning of figures the announcer tossed out.

That was a few years ago, as we drove through Indiana en route to a reunion for Bonnie’s side of the family. We hold such a reunion every four years and take turns as “hosts.

You see, the Coppock clan east of the Mississippi generally opts for a site for the three-day event somewhere in the east; we’ve been mainly to the Midwest states but have traveled as far east as Ohio and West Virginia.

We westerners usually select a cool spot in Colorado or Utah. A message on radio caught our attention: the announcer gave the then-current world population estimate at just above seven billion. That’s a seven followed by NINE zeroes.

Many readers will recall when, in 1950, the world barely bulged, with a comfortable population estimate of about 2.5 billion souls.
The following decade, there were about 3 billion, and in 1970, the headcount grew to 3.7 billion.

And eventually, each decade showed an increase of almost a billion. The tallies for 1980, and the ensuing decades were:

1980: 4.45 billion;
1990: 5.27 billion
2000: 6 billion
2010: 6.8 billion

Projections for 2020 are 7.6 billion; 2030: 8.2 billion; 2040: 8.85 billion; and 2050: 9.3 billion.

Where we gonna put all those people?

Trying to make sense of raw numbers is daunting.

For example, just listen to local election results on radio to sample how people simply fling out numbers.

Let’s illustrate this: In a local election, three people are seeking a particular post.

Generally the person giving the results simply SPILLS them out, this way: Martinez now has 768 votes; Lucero has 1,153 votes, and Aragon has 432.

Got that? There will be a quiz on these names and numbers in five minutes.

Rather than drawing inferences, such as explaining who’s ahead, or by how much, announcers usually read the tallies as they appear on the machines, with no thought to explaining what they mean.
As a long-time teacher of journalism at Highlands, I always tried to make the presentation of results palatable. If someone has a 100-vote lead over the next guy, we need to explain that.

But enough of Journalism 101 for now.

I received a booklet quite recently, called “The World As 100 People,” illustrated by Aileen Lord.

Its simple illustrations graphically make sense of cluttered figures.
The book’s 80 pages contain easy-to-follow diagrams, illustrations and charts that make things clear.

“The World As 100 People” starts with the premise that there are only 100 people on the planet.

Then, assuming that 100 people comprise every category, it’s easy to demonstrate which group does what.

Want to know the current global birth rate? That’s easy: Each year two people will be born and one person will die. It’s that simple. And, if 100 represents the total number of people ever born, it’s easy to see that 93 of them have passed away; seven are alive.

In a group of 100, half of them are female, the other half male. And of the total of 100, right-handers outnumber us lefties by 85 to 15.
Of course, we lefties are smarter and better looking than our right-handed counterparts.

How do people rank, ethnically? Well, 61 of the 100 are from Asia and the Middle East, 19 of whom are from China; 18 are from India, and four from the Middle East.

Ten are from Europe, 9 from South America and the Caribbean; and only five are from North America, with four of them from the U.S.

• • •

Republican state officials used the Bible to defend Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, whose fellow party members are urging that he resign.

Several women have come forward to accuse the Alabama politician of improper sexual conduct involving women as young as 14, when the judge was 32.

Some fellow politicians’ justifications are indeed creative: “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler told the Washington Examiner last week.

“Zechariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Zeigler said. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

Placing Republican political loyalty above ethical conduct, several defenders of Moore have equated the accusations as nothing more than a religion-tinged “he said, she said” matter.

Zeigler added, “Zechariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist.”

Interesting how some politicians rope in the deity, as if Moore’s encounters with a girl in her early teens — a full 18 years younger than Moore himself — were innocuous.

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