Do you know less about the world than a chimpanzee?

How much do you think you know the other 7 billion people you share the earth with? Take the test to find out at: http://forms.gapminder.org/s3/test-2018

If you did badly, don’t worry. Nearly every group of people tested across the world from teachers to noble laureates, and trade union members to journalists did worse than if they’d just picked at random (this is what chimps are assumed to do based on no knowledge; no one’s actually asked them).

If this has piqued your interest and you want to understand the details behind these answers and why the majority of people get them actively wrong then you should read “Factfullness: Ten reason’s we’re wrong about the world - and why things are better than you think”. I can thoroughly recommend it (although make sure you read it rather than listen to the audiobook because the immediate impact of the diagrams and photos gets lost when you can’t see them!)

Although this book isn’t specifically about climate change it is really helpful in understanding where we’re starting from today and where the world is heading in all aspects of life. If we’re going to have the biggest impact on tackling climate change then we first need to understand the world we’re trying trying to save and all of the people on it.

The headline misconception it tries to dispel is the world income gap.

Here is a graph of how most people perceive the world with Europe and America as rich, Africa and Asia as poor, and a gap in between.

However that represents the world in 1978. Today’s graph looks like this with all continents overlapping and the majority of people in the middle.

If you want to see more graphs like this as well as play and interact with them then go to: https://www.gapminder.org/tools/#$chart-type=bubbles

The authors argue that people are far more convinced by something if they are presented with accurate data and clear graphs (whether to prevent climate change, direct funding, or tackle a pandemic). As an engineer I love finding the optimal solution to a problem based on the numbers and making a decision based on these, especially when the answer turns out to be unexpected. However I’m probably in the minority in this respect. And even I was more motivated to do something about climate change after reading Naiomi Klein’s emotive book “This Changes Everything” despite having tried to make a different for the previous 15 years.

What’s your opinion of facts vs stories? Which do you find more persuasive and what drives you to take action against climate change?

To be fair to the authors they also say that numbers alone are not sufficient and they have worked on projects such as Dollar Street, which is a large collection of photos of families and their homes from around the world on all income levels, to add a human level to the numbers they present. Obviously the answer to this question is not one or the other but it’s useful to think about and discuss the balance of the two and how we can be more persuasive in order to reach the greatest number of people.

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