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History and Sources of the "State of the
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
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
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
. 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
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
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:
General information regarding the organization that
Donella Meadows founded, the Sustainability Institute, can
be found at: http://www.sustainer.org
The original version of the STATE OF THE VILLAGE REPORT by
Donella H. Meadows was published in 1990 as "Who lives in
the Global Village?" The initial report was based on a
village of 1000. David Copeland, a surveyor and
environmental activist, revised the report to reflect a
village of 100 and single-handedly distributed 50,000 copies
of a Value Earth poster at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de
Janiero. Dr. Philip Harter of Stanford University was
mistakenly cited as the source of an Internet version of
these facts that circulated to millions worldwide. The
fascinating story of the proliferation of his email is
Research for the first twenty facts for this 2005 update was
done by Donella H. Meadows’ think tank: the
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. ODT, Inc.
of Amherst MA distributes this updated and revised version
with every copy of The Population Map.