What 5% of the World’s Global GDP can Accomplish

Random thoughts about global warming, colonialism, ‘Darkest Africa‘, & Others

Today I came across a wonderfully sobering piece by Nate Silver entitled: How To Destroy (Almost) Half the Planet for the Low, Low Price of Just 5% of Global GDP.

This is a tongue-in-cheek blog entry in which  the author presents a grim future scenario for the (Third) World in relation to which countries use up 5% of Global GDP.  Taking the very poorest countries, he is able to wipe out most of the worlds poor countries and still not reach 5% of Global GDP :

© Nate Silver

© Nate Silver

As he says:

A lot of countries contribute almost nothing to global GDP, even though they may have tens or hundreds of millions of people. You could literally wipe them from the globe and the impact on global GDP would be de minimis.

Thinking about this map  brought to mind a passage from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness regarding the West‘s preoccupation with places (maps) that, historically, have not been ‘filled in ‘ – not really discovered or conquered or saved or – at least – traversed:

…At that time (i.e., regarding maps when he was a child) there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, “When I grow up I will go there.” The North Pole was one of these places, I remember. Well, I haven’t been there yet, and shall not try now. The glamour’s off. Other places were scattered about the hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and . . . well, we won’t talk about that. But there was one yet—the biggest, the most blank, so to speak—that I had a hankering after (i.e., Africa)

Now, just by focusing on the poorest countries, we have the ability to re-imagine many of these blank spaces – at least in terms of their combined GDP indicators.

Due to their physical (and psychological) remoteness, these areas have – since earliest times – often been considered with awe, with fear, and oftentimes with revulsion.  And by consequence, as areas that have been peopled with imagined monsters, heathens, and other beings who  were in need of civilizing (or at least controlling).  As the 19th Century African explorer and geographer Speke remarked about darkest Africa:

How the Negro has lived so many ages without advancing, seems marvelous, when all the countries surrounding Africa are so forward in comparison; and judging from the progressive state of the world, one is led to suppose that the African must soon either step out from his darkness, or be superseded by a being superior to himself…”

Speke, The Discovery of the Source of the Nile (Kindle mode)

. . . . . .

Some of the themes I would like to explore in this blog have to do with how the West has (and continues to) imagine Africa and its ‘development’ – and vice-versa;  how the West imagines the future of Africa in the face of global warming, of food security,  and so forth…   Also, issues of  colonizing and controlling, the idea of progress (as a uniquely Western concept), the -monsterization- of Africa since the time of Herodotus – a theme that preoccupied European concepts of Africa well after the medieval period – and continues today in different forms (starving children; ruthless warlords; etc).

Sebastian Münster: 'Cosmographia' about 1559 - page1080 monsters

Sebastian Münster: 'Cosmographia' about 1559 - page1080

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-General, Climate Change, Colonialism, Dark Continent, Environment, European explorers, Explorers & exploration, Food Aid, Heart of Darkness, History-General, John Hanning Speke, Joseph Conrad, Race, Third World and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What 5% of the World’s Global GDP can Accomplish

  1. maria v says:

    we all have a fascination with the unknown, mainly due to fear. it is so much easier to pretend that it did not exist – this concept would suit many, to help them continue their lives without any worries


    • dianabuja says:

      Yes, the edges of the known can be pretty threatening. it is a theme I do want to take up in the future.


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