50 Facts to change the world

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There’s nothing quite like a good statistic or strange fact to get people to come round to your point of view.

Roll up Jessica Williams, who has collected a series of seemingly random facts and written a helpful introduction to the issues raised by each of the alarming statistics. Williams’ aim is simple – each of the fifty facts can change the way we think, which is consequential because “when it comes to changing the world, that’s the most important step we can take.” I like this woman, she speaks sense. There is no high-fallutin’ jargon that no one understands and is interesting for ignoramuses and those already interested in healing the world and making it a better place alike.


  1. An average Japanese woman can expect to live to 84; her counterpart in Botswana will die at 39.
  2. Black men born in the US stand a one-in-three chance of going to jail. For white men the odds are one in 17.
  3. One in five of the world’s population - 1.25 billion people - is undernourished.
  4. One third of the world population is in war. In 2002, 30 countries were fighting in 37 armed conflicts - a combined population of 2.29 billion people.
  5. A quarter of the world’s armed conflicts of recent years have involved a struggle for natural resources.
  6. Childeren living in poverty are three times more likely to suffer mental illness than children from wealthy families.
  7. Eighty-one per cent of the world’s executions in 2002 took place in just three countries: China, Iran and the USA.
  8. Supermarkets in the UK know more about their customers than the government does. They use loyalty cards to determine your income and what your interests are.
  9. Same-sex relationships are illegal in more than 70 countries. In nine - including Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia - the penalty is death.
  10. The UK has the second-highest rate of teen pregnancies in the developed world, behind the US. There are 30.8 births for every 1,000 teenagers. Teenage mothers are twice as likely to live in poverty.
  11. There are 44 million child labourers in India, some working 16-hour days.
  12. People in industrialised countries eat between six and seven kilograms of food additives every year. A ham sandwich can contain up to 13 E-numbers.
  13. Every hour, UK households throw away enough rubbish to fill the Royal Albert Hall.
  14. There are 27 million slaves in the world.
  15. In 2003 the defence budget of the USA was roughly 396 billion (thousand million), which is 33 times the total budget of the 7 rogue states - Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria together.
  16. The US owes the United Nations $1bn in unpaid dues. Yet it spends the same amount on its military programme every 23 hours.
  17. Roughly 70% of the world population has never heard a dialing tone.
  18. Every cow in the EEG gets a subsidy of $2,50. Three out of four Africans have less than that to live on.
  19. One of five people have to live from less then $1,00 a day.
  20. In China, as a result of the preference for sons over daughters and the country’s one-child-per-family law, there are 44 million fewer women than men.
  21. Golfer Tiger Woods is the world’s highest-paid sportsman, earning $78 million a year ($148.= per second), including $55,000 a day for wearing Nike caps - which Thai workers get $5.00 a day to make.
  22. Every week an average 88 children are expelled from US schools for carrying a gun.
  23. Landmines kill or maim one person every hour.
  24. Cars kill two people every minute.
  25. There are at least 300,000 prisoners of conscience, often held in appalling conditions, sometimes tortured, simply for peacefully expressing their own beliefs.
  26. Twenty-six million people voted in the 2001 UK General Election. More than 32 million votes were cast in the first series of Pop Idol.
  27. Nearly half of British 15-year-olds have tried illegal drugs and nearly a quarter are regular cigarette smokers.
  28. In Kenya, bribery payments make up a third of the average household budget.
  29. The world’s trade in illegal drugs is estimated to be worth around £225bn - about the same as the world’s pharmaceutical industry.
  30. To fly a kiwi fruit from New Zealand to the UK means five times its weight in greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere.
  31. More than 150 countries are known to use torture.
  32. Americans spend £5.6bn on pornography every year - the same amount their government spends on foreign aid.
  33. The average urban Briton is caught on camera 300 times a day. With 10 per cent of the world’s 30 million CCTV cameras, we are the most watched nation in the world.
  34. In 2001, 13.2 million Americans and 2.5 million Britons had plastic surgery.
  35. Brazil has more Avon ladies than members of its armed forces. Physical beauty is so highly prized that calling someone vain is a compliment.
  36. Eighty-two per cent of the world’s smokers live in developing countries.
  37. The world’s oil reserves could be exhausted by 2040.
  38. Almost 30 million Africans are HIV-positive. By 2050 the disease may have claimed as many as 280 million lives.
  39. Ten languages die out every year.
  40. More people die from suicide than in armed conflicts. In the past 45 years, suicide rates have grown by 60 per cent worldwide.
  41. Seven million American women and one million American men suffer from an eating disorder.
  42. There are 67,000 people employed in the lobbying industry in Washington DC - 125 for each member of Congress.
  43. Since 1977, there have been 80,000 acts of violence or disruption at abortion clinics in North America.
  44. There are 300,000 child soldiers fighting in conflicts around the world.
  45. More people can identify the golden arches of McDonald’s than the Christian cross. The same goes for the Shell oil logo, the Mercedes badge and the Olympic rings.
  46. A third of the world’s obese people live in the developing world. Campaigners blame Western countries for dumping cheap, processed, fatty foods on poorer nations.
  47. More than 12,000 women are killed in Russia every year as a result of domestic violence.
  48. Sixty-one per cent of British teenagers believe aliens have landed on Earth, while 39 per cent have any belief in Christianity.
  49. Two million girls and women are subjected to genital mutilation every year.
  50. Some 120,000 women and girls are trafficked into Western Europe every year. The UN estimates the trade is worth £4bn a year.

See also




  • Ikon, Dutch Broadcast, De andere wereld.