History and sources of the "State of the Village Report"
by Carolyn Jones,
adapted by Bob Abramms
The words "If the world were a village of 1000 people" first appeared in print on May 21, 1990 in an article entitled "State of the Village Report" in the newspaper The Valley News and in 12 other newspapers. The article was written by Dartmouth professor, Donella Meadows, in her weekly column entitled "The Global Citizen." Reaching out on a grassroots level to local readers, Donella Meadows presented a very accessible framework for understanding the world as a fabric of physical, economic, or social relationships that determine world development. In the form of a weekly column, this article was her call to action. Having dealt for years with a group of scientists, analysts, systematicians and policy-makers, Donella Meadows now reached out to share her knowledge with humanity. While others saw world development on a fatal collision course with nature, Donella stood adamantly as a force of scientifically reinforced optimism. Donella worked to shift mindsets and to help build the awareness and educate others about what an individual could do to help manage complex environmental, social and economic systems of which we are all a part.
In 1992, Donella Meadows was being interviewed on National Public Radio about her "State of the Village" article and other work. The interview caught the attention of David Copeland, member of Value Earth, an East Coast-based environmental group. He had just recently been asked to produce a poster for the 1992 Earth Summit being held that year in Rio de Janeiro. David had heard the interview while driving home one evening, pulled over to write down everything he could about Donella Meadows with the intent to reproduce these statistics for the Earth Summit poster. David tracked down Donella Meadows through a persistent series of phone calls and received the « yes » he needed. Donella's statistics describing the world as 1000 people were subsequently published and distributed on 50,000 posters during the 1992 Earth Summit. Initially, the poster was only to feature an image of the planet Earth from space. David interrupted the poster production process to include "If the world were a village of 1000 people." With the inclusion of these statistics the poster became a compelling call to action/awareness of all who saw it. Throughout the Earth Summit conference, the information was shared on an international level. Yankee Publishing reproduced Donella's statistics in the Old Farmers Almanac of that same year.
Also in 1992, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) of Madison, Wisconsin, published an educational curriculum, entitled "Unheard Voices: Celebrating Cultures of the Developing World." The curriculum was an expansion of a popular international calendar featuring photos and artwork from various countries served by the Peace Corps accompanied by statistical information on each country. A Biden-Pell grant for developmental education that year allowed the team at RPCV, headed by Nancy Westbrook, to author this educational curriculum intended for wide circulation throughout the educational community. They ensured this by opening the copyright to permit not-for-profit reproduction and distribution of their curriculum free of charge and without permission from the authors. The curriculum lists a statistical outline representing the world as a village, similar to that one found in the article written by Donella Meadows though in Westbrook's version, the number of 1000 people representing the world population was reduced to 100. This is the first copyrighted document we found that did so. After the publication of that curriculum, various web sites reproduced the statistics as they appeared in the curriculum on their web sites and listed "Unheard Voices: Celebrating Cultures of the Developing World" as their source.
By February 2001, electronic versions of the Global Village idea had circulated so widely and sparked enough interest that The Daily Mail, one of Britain's largest newspapers, ran an article about the list of statistics, citing it as "author unknown."
In 2003, these statistics describing the world as a village of 100 people were circulated via e-mail from Stanford University. The statistics were mistakenly attributed to law professor Dr. Phillip Harter. Dr. Harter says that he merely passed what he thought was an interesting item on to friends by email, who in turn, thinking it interesting forwarded it to their friends. Global Village 100 quickly spread around the world with Dr. Philip Harter's name at the bottom of the email. In this way, the Internet version of these facts circulated to millions worldwide.
Subsequent research by David Taub revealed that the inspiration behind the piece was indeed the article by Donella Meadows, "State of the Village Report" published in the early 90s. The story of the proliferation of Dr. Harter's email is recounted at www.members.aol.com/UKpoet/global1.htm.
Over the 15 years since Donella Meadows had published the "State of the Village Report," the statistics have appeared on countless web sites and, like a folksong, have taken on various incarnations. In testimonial to the power of the underlying messages of Donella's statistics these statistics continue to demand attention and response.
ODT's version of the "State of the Village Report" has been updated and revised to 2005 statistics and is the most current version available. Research for the first twenty facts for the updated version was done by Donella H. Meadows' think tank: the Sustainability Institute. The rest came from a variety of sources including David Smith's children's book: If the World Were a Village. The author of some things "to ponder..." is unknown. This conclusion to the piece was also adapted and revised by ODT, with support from Bette Abrams-Esche. ODT distributes their updated version with every copy of their (Population Map. In the same spirit of Donella Meadows' initial work, ODT has made the material available copyright-free, as long as the source is acknowledged in any reproductions.
A film, sound/photo installation, book of photographs and educational curriculum is under development by Carolyn Jones of www.100peoplefoundation.org . The goal of her project is to facilitate communication between cultures and world neighbors so that the concept of a world community and shared responsibility for the planet will expand even beyond what Donella might have thought possible. When technology allows us to immediately communicate with far away cultures and individuals, taking the next step of facilitating face to face introductions with the 100 people that represent our world population, is in Carolyn's word's "An act towards global citizenry and towards progress."
Artist Allysson Lucca explores the concept of 100 people with powerful still images set to music. It can be viewed as a Flash film at http://www.luccaco.com/miniatureearth/index.html.
There has been reference to television development in Korea and Japan using the "world as a village of 100 people" as a production framework, though we have yet to identify a web site for these projects.
Donella Meadows' original "State of the Village Report" may be found at: www.sustainer.org/dhm_archive/index.php/display_article=vn33villageed?display_article=vn338villageed
General information regarding the organization that Donella Meadows founded, the Sustainability Institute, can be found at: http://www.sustainer.org