Tuesday, November 13, 2012

From ‘50 facts that should change the world’ by Jessica Williams

  • The average Japanese woman can expect to live to be 84. The average Botswanan will reach just 39

    During the Roman empire, life expectancy was just 22 years. By the Middle Ages in England, some 1,500 years later, there was only a little improvement – people could expect to live about 33 years, and not necessarily healthy years either. The threat of famine was ever-present, and medicine was limted to a few brutal surgical techniques. Epidemics of typhoid and leprosy were common, and the Black Death, which swept Europe between 1347 and 1351, killed a quarter of the population.
    The dramatic improvement in human life expectancy didn’t start until the Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the 19th century and spread quickly throughout Europe. Since 1840, the average life expectancy in the longest-lived countries has improved steadily – rising by three months every year ….
  • The US and Britain have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world

    For every 1,000 American women aged between fifteen and nineteen, there were 52.1 births – compared with 2.9 in Korea and 4.6 in Japan. An estimated 22 per cent of American twenty year olds had a child in their teens………….

    Advertisements for the most innocuous products – yogurt, car insurance, multivitamins – bombard viewers with sexual messages, and the TV programmes in between are often even more explicit. To a teenager battling through the tricky seas of adolescence, it must seem that everyone in the world is having sex.
  • China has 44 million missing women

    ……..For every 100 baby girls born in China in 2000, there were 116.6 baby boys……. In South Korea, the sex rations are starting to even out: whereas in 1990 there were 117 boys for every 100 girls, by 1999 that had declined to 110. Younger generations are becoming more economically independent of their families, and so the perceptions of sons as providers and daughters as burdens are slowly being worn away.
  • Eighty-one per cent of the world’s executions in 2002 took place in just three countries: China, Iran and the USA
  • One in five of the world’s people lives on less than $1 a day

    ……Today the world’s richest one per cent receive as much income as the poorest 57 per cent
  • More than 12,000 women are killed each year in Russia as a result of domestic violence

    …..Contrast this with America, where 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner in 2000
  • In 2001, 13.2 million Americans had some form of plastic surgery

    …..commentators point to an increasing emphasis on physical perfection in popular culture. Music videos and the so-called ‘lad mags’ …… constantly display beautiful, scantily clad women. Their bodies may be altered by digital manipulation, but the message is clear: the perfect female body is large-breasted, long-legged, blemishless.

    ……there is a danger that by submitting so readily to the scalpel’s siren call, we are starting to consider our natural state as ugly, and ageing as a disease. Might we one day see a world where we have to fit into an ageless, plasticized definition of attractiveness to be considered successful? Will we lose the ability to choose to grow old gracefully? And what of those who can’t afford to keep up?
  • People in industrialised countries eat between six and seven kilograms of food additives every year.

    ……..Nowadays, less than one per cent of food additives by weight are used to preserve food. Ninety per cent are what’s known as ‘cosmetic’ additives: flavourings, colourings, emulsifiers to make food feel smoother in your mouth, thickeners, sweeteners. …….By disguising bland and low-quality raw materials, substances like these can convince us we’re eating something that’s better than its constituent parts.

    ……cost. While it costs around six pence to sweeten a litre of soft drink with sugar, the biggest-selling non-sugar sweetener, aspartame, costs just two pence.
  • The golfer Tiger Woods is the world’s highest-paid sportsman. He earns $78 million a year – or $148 every second.

    …………..Tiger Woods is paid $55,000 a day to wear Nike caps; a Thai worker is paid an average of $4 a day to make them. Nike may have hired Woods to ‘sum up everything we say about ourselves’, but in doing so, they’ve unwittingly found the perfect illustration of the queasy realities of modern marketing.
  • Seven million American women and 1 million American men suffer from an eating disorder

    ……..This prevalence of eating disorders seems sometimes like the bitterest irony of our culture………Anorexia…. ‘the relentless pursuit of thinness’ ……It would be easy to blame the mass media……… Top fashion models now weigh 25 per cent less than the average American woman.
  • Nearly half of British fifteen year olds have tried illegal drugs and nearly a quarter are regular cigarette smokers.

    ……..Young people feel that they are unique in the world and that no one will every understand them. They may view themselves as special, marked out for greatness, invulnerable. And this may encourage them to take risks, not believing that any harm can come to them. Increasingly, it seems, teens find a source of both rebellion and comfort in drugs and alcohol…..Britain’s teenagers are drinking twice as much as they did a decade ago…….taking drugs or drinking may affect decisions a teenager makes about some other risky activities.They may decide to get in a car driven by someone who’s drunk or high. They may be pressurized into having sex- or, like nearly a quarter of sexually active American teens, into having sex without a condom.
  • There are 67,000 people employed in the lobbying industry in Washington DC – 125 for each elected member of Congress

    ……is it a clear attempt by powerful and wealthy interests to buy influence
  • In Kenya, bribery payments make up a third of the average household budget

    …….When corruption becomes endemic in a society……. Something subtle happens to the way people feel about it. People ….bribes……come to accept them as part of daily life
  • More than 150 countries use torture
  • Every day, one in five of the world’s population – some 800 million people – go hungry

    ……..Nutritionists consider that a healthy diet provides 2,500 calories of energy a day. In the USA, the average person consumes 3,600 calories a day. In Somalia, they get 1,500 ……. Famines may threaten the existence of a democratic government, but where democracy is absent or compromised, the government will often lack the motivation to tackle the problem…..Armed conflict also places a major strain on food security….In times of war, a government will divert resources away from food production in favour of the military effort ….Rwanda in 1995, war displaced three out of four farmers and cut the harvest in half.
    Hunger is also, callously, used as a tool of war. One side may try to starve the other into submission, seizing or destroying food stocks and diverting food aid from the needy to the armed forces. Lands may be mined or water sources polluted…….. Armed violence in Southern and Western Africa and Central America has left generations of young people without any farming skills at all – the only reality they knew was conflict, so the only training they have is in the art of fighting.
    This disappearance of traditional farming techniques is also happening in areas hit hard by the HIV/Aids crisis….. When a country is already weakened by epidemics or war, natural phenomena like droughts or floods become far more difficult to overcome. Corruption, mismanagement and bad government mean that the country may lack funds to import food when its needed – so a food shortage can very quickly turn into a famine.
    Having enough to eat is a basic human right ….. there are huge surpluses of food in the rich West – so much so, in fact, that food is sometimes destroyed in order to keep prices buoyant.
  • Black men born in the US today stand a one in three chance of going to jail.

    ….In June 2002, the number of people behind bars hit 2 million, and the US became home to the world’s largest prison population – overtaking Russia. One in every 37 Americans has spent time in jail – up from one in 53 in 1974………Of those children born in 2001, a white male has a one in seventeen chance of going to prison. For Hispanic males, there’s a one in six chance, and for black men, it’s one in three. When you consider that black people make up 12.9 per cent of the American population, you can start to see the scope of the problem. A sixth of all African-American men are current or former prisnors, compared with one in 38 white men…….In Britain, one per cent of the black adult population is now in prison. African and Caribbean people make up two per cent of Britain’s population, but sixteen per cent of the prison population. In 1998-9, black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people……
    Some criminologists believe that the US could be reaching a ‘tipping point’: when more than one per cent of a population is in prison each year, social networks are paralysed, and crime becomes impossible to keep under control.
  • The world’s oil reserves could be exhausted by 2040
  • Ten languages die out every year.

    Imagine, just for a moment, that you are the last native speaker of English. No one you know speaks your language. You don’t see any point in teaching it to your kids, because no one will ever speak it to them, either. Imagine the loss you would feel. All those untranslatable English language ideas – a stiff upper lip, a stitch in time …. – would disappear. No one would ever sing ‘baa baa black sheep’ ….. All those minute clues about history, culture, collective memory – all gone.
    There are around 6,000 living languages in the world – and at least half of those are under serious threat…….Professor Steve Sutherland of the University of East Anglia calculated that the past 500 years have seen 4.5 per cent of languages die out – compared with 1.3 per cent of birds, and 1.9 per cent of mammals……..Ten major languages are the mother tongue of almost half the world’s population. But the median size for languages in the world is just 6,000 – so half the languages in the world are spoken by that number or fewer……Only a very few – Basque, Greek, Hebrew, Latin among them – have lasted more than 2,000 years……
    the Ethnologue, a database of all the languages spoken in the world, claims that 417 languages are spoken by so few people that they are in the final stages of becoming extinct…..
    Speaking an internationally recognized language is a clear advantage for people who want to make the most of the opportunities contact brings. Eventually,  people may not realize their children are not learning their native tongue…..
    Up until the 1970s, Aborigines in Australia were forbidden to speak in their own tongue – which once numbered more than 400. Now……only about 25 Aboriginal languages are still commonly spoken…..
    Hebrew ceased to be used as a spoken language in about AD 200, but continued to be used by Jews as a ‘sacred tongue’. In the late 19th century, a revival movement headed by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda aimed to re-establish Hebrew as a spoken language to provide a common tongue for Jews. …..Now Hebrew is spoken by more than 5 million people, 81 per cent of Israel’s population
  • More people die each year from suicide than in all the world’s armed conflicts

    ….In the US….there were 1.7 times more suicides than homicides…….In the past 45 years, suicide rates have grown by 60 per cent worldwide….
    Since 1950, suicide rates for English and Welsh men under 45 have doubled. ….. ‘the society in which young people live has changed in such a way that a number of things that may have protected young men against suicide are now less present: for instance, a stable job or secure marriage’….
    Women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more than four times more likely to die……..By 2020, WHO predicts that depression will be the second-largest contributor to the global burden of disease
    The poet and philosopher George Santayana once wrote: ‘That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions, and were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions.’
  • In 2003, the US spent $396 billion on its military. This is 33 times the combined military spending of the seven ‘rogue states’
  • Americans discard 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour
    ……..In the US……almost a third of the waste produced is made of product packaging…… China produces and discards more than 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks every year, and cuts down 25 million trees to do it………..the US recycles about a tenth of household rubbish…..Britain….with eleven per cent……. Swiss households recycle some 56 per cent of their waste
  • Some 120,000 women and girls are trafficked into Western Europe every year

    ……….In the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, one study reported that 80 per cent of women working in brothels had been trafficked from other countries.
  • A kiwi fruit flown from New Zealand to Britain emits five times its own weight in greenhouse gases
    Increasingly, our food is coming from further and further away, and we’re becoming more and more dependent on the fuel it takes to get them to us…..
    Despite the UK’s cool climate being perfectly suited for growing apples, nearly three-quarters of the apples eaten in the UK are imported, and more than 60 per cent of Britain’s apple orchards have been destroyed in the past 30 years…..
    Countries export large amounts of a product while importing a similar amount of the same thing – a bizarre and hugely wasteful practice….the milk trade….In 2001 the UK exported 149,000 tons of fresh milk and imported 110,000 tons. …. While this well-travelled food may look as fresh as the locally grown equivalent, its unlikely to pack the same nutitional punch. Research has shown that the further food travels, the more the vitamin and mineral content deteriorates
  • Children living in poverty are three times more likely to suffer a mental illness than children from wealthy families

    …..Britain….is the world’s fourth largest economy, and yet it has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialised world…… one in every three – live in poverty

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