Monday, October 02, 2006

By the numbers...

I was reading "Plan B 2.0 - Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble" while on the train the other day (it's when I get most of my work and thinking done). I came across the following paragraph:
In 2000, the World Bank published a map showing that a 1-meter rise in sea level would inundate half of Bangladesh's rice land. With a rise in sea level up to 1 meter forecast for this century, tens of millions of Bangladeshis would be forced to migrate. In a country with 142 million people - already one of the most densely populated on earth = this would be a traumatic experience.
I have a really hard time grasping big numbers. I think we all do. Unless you have looked at hundreds of thousands of any one object, its hard to fathom that number. How many of us have ever seen 142 million of anything.

I had read in the book a number of scenarios where millions of people would be forced to migrate for one reason or another. There is also a chart that lists different countries' populations (China: 1,316,000,000, India: 1,103,000,000, USA: 298,000,000) these numbers are equally hard to comprehend.

So I thought it would be interesting to draw maps with little circles representing the populations and/or migrations. (I was picturing this on the huge walls of the current Drawing Center Space). The first thing I wanted to do was draw a lot of circles to begin to grasp the volume. I was able to fill one page of my sketchbook with 2000 circles, which would mean that to represent 2 million people, (2,000,000) I would need 1000 sheets of circles. Then I started thinking, hmm, I can draw about 100 circles per minute. So to draw 2 million circles that would mean 20,000 minutes or 334 hours. That's 14 days of nothing (no sleep, eating or toilet) to draw ONLY 2 million. If I want to represent the almost 300 million of the US, that would take 2084 days, or 6 years! If I was going to do this as a "work project" than to represent just the US, drawing for 8 hours a day would take more than 17 years to draw the circles.

Think about it.

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