The world population is currently estimated at 7.7 billion people . That’s just a big number to me, but to be fair everything is also pretty big so maybe calculating a person’s ‘fair share’ will give us a neat perspective on the number of people and the amount of stuff there is.
Money: Let’s start simple. Total world wealth was estimated at $263 trillion US dollars in 2014, so that’s about $35,800 per person. This number changes fast though – global wealth has actually doubled since 2000 and the population is growing too. Maybe next year I’ll revisit this idea. It might be fun to track how global population growth compares to global wealth.
To get some perspective, if you consider the value in gold rather than dollars then this $35,800 is almost exactly a golf ball’s worth of gold per person. In fact, gold so dense this golf ball is nearly a kilogram (1.87 lbs). Of course there’s no where near enough gold in the world for this to be a feasible way of divvying up wealth.
Gold: There is about 171,300 tonnes of gold in the world, which could fill a cube 20.7 meters on a side. This is a bit bigger than a house, but barely 23 milligrams per person. Forget your dreams of a golden golf ball. This is a housefly’s weight of gold per person. Do you own any gold jewelry? Because in a fair-share world you barely have enough for gold plating.
Real Estate: Let’s not worry about the fact that land in Manhattan is more valuable than land in rural Kansas. Let’s just divide up earth’s surface area equally. The earth’s land area is about 148,326,000 km2 (57,268,900 square miles). You’ll notice this number is far less than 7 billion, so it turns out the average person only gets about 20,100 m2 (5.0 acres). Does that number still seem like a lot? Well it’s less than 3 soccer fields per person. For an average person, all of your food needs to come from an area smaller than that. All of your waste needs to be processed in an area smaller than that. And then you need to round down to account for all of the unusable deserts and ice sheets, and all of the land we’re trying to preserve for nature. It’s getting crowded down here.
Earth: Fu*k it, go big or go home. If we’re dividing up everything on earth, then let’s just divide up the earth. The earth’s mass is 5.972 × 1024 kg, giving us each about 8.1 × 1018 kg. If we could literally divide the earth up we’d each have a small asteroid about the size of the one that killed the dinosaurs. By mass, these asteroids would be mostly iron and silicate rock, though there’s enough water to cover our asteroid homes up to our ankles. Unfortunately, the atmosphere would be spread so thin that the water would boil off and freeze. So we’d all die. Perhaps it’s best we pool our resources here and not divide up the earth into billions of little asteroid homes.
Solar System: Why stop at the earth? Let’s divide up the entire solar system. It turns out the sun contains 99.9% of the mass of the solar system, and the bulk of the remaining 0.1% is in Jupiter. The earth accounts for barely 0.001% of the mass in the solar system, so while we’d each still have our little potatoes from our earth-share we actually could use the hydrogen from the sun to each make our own small gaseous moons. But again, I don’t see the point. Without the immense pressures at the cores needed for fusion these little balls wouldn’t shine.
Universe: A conservative estimate for the number galaxies in the observable universe is 100 billion (no one’s actually counted all of them; astronomers have just looked at a small part and extrapolated). That’s nearly 41 galaxies per person. Amusingly, there’s about as many stars in a galaxy as there are galaxies in the universe, meaning that each person’s share of stars is in the trillions. With that many stars and galaxies to my name I wouldn’t want waste any time chopping up the earth. With the staggering amount of planets around those stars, one of them would have to be earthlike. I’d want to get busy exploring – our own personal Earths are out there just waiting to be discovered.
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons