It’s impossible to have perspective without having context. Despite all of the sources of information available to us these days, many of us don’t have sufficient context about the world in which we live to appreciate exactly what our city, state, or country constitutes within that world. The following are three facts as well as some secondary information that help provide such context.
1. The human population of earth is roughly 7.0 billion and is growing at 1% annually.
China, at 1.35 billion people, is almost 20% of the world’s population followed closely by India at 1.21 billion people (17%). That means that an unbelievable 37 out of every 100 humans on the planet are either Chinese or Indian. At 313 million people, the United States is the 3rd most populous country in the world with 4.4% of the world’s people. It might surprise most that, as is discussed in an earlier post, the world’s population is expected to peak in the coming few decades and then begin declining. The following Wikipedia table shows the top 10 most populous countries in the world (my birth country of Egypt is 15th at 85 million people, and thus not shown on the list):
2. There are roughly 225 countries in the world.
This is a hard number to assert as it includes territories that are politically-disputed (e.g., Taiwan is controversially party of China) and others that are under the political direction of another country (e.g., Puerto Rico is part of the United States). However, the number is no less than 193, which is the number of current members of the United Nations. It is also likely no more than 243, which is the number of distinct territories in the world. See here for complete lists.
3. There are nearly 400 languages in use today that are spoken natively by at least 1 million people.
According to Ethnologue, there are roughly 1,300 languages with 100,000 speakers or more, 750 with 300,000 or more, some 400 with a million or more, 200 with at least 3 million, 80 with 10 million, and 40 with 30 million. That is nearly unbelievable to me. Here is a breakdown of the top 11 according to Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, Mandarin is first; however, some might be surprised that Spanish has taken over second place above English. Arabic is in fourth place just after English.
The biggest epiphany from the above table for me is this: these top 11 languages are only spoken by a total of 39% of the world’s population; the other 61% speak languages that are not in the top 11!