I have recently found in my conflict teaching that when I talk about the cost of war in the 20th century and indeed its potential cost in the 21st century, I need a visual image…and so I thought it was time to re-post something I posted last year. I guess it works best if you think spatially and like maps/mapping:
For the record, and context for this blog, it is estimated that war and large scale civil violence killed 150,000,000 people in the 20th century. How do we get our heads around such numbers?
Put this in perspective: the Vietnam War monument in Washington DC in the USA shown above from the air, commemorates the death in war of 58,261 Americans (By comparison, the Vietnamese probably lost 2 million dead). It is 82 yards long. So if my math is correct (please post if it is not) to commemorate the 150,000,000 war dead of the whole world in the 20th century, a similar memorial would have to be 211119 yards or just short of 120 miles long, or stretch all the way from Washington DC to Philadelphia; or say from London in Bristol in the UK.
Of course the world’s population has grown, so if we killed the same proportion of the population in the 21st century, that would be about 600 million or 6 million a year. I guess this would take a World War Two every 8 years? And the wall would be 480 miles long and stretch from Washington up into New Hampshire, or from London to the Scottish Highlands in the UK.
Hopefully we will do far better, but not without rather more effort than so far. Good conflict processes are part of the solution, I hope. Nevertheless the rate of killing seems to have declined in the first decade of the century. Here’s hoping this is a trend. Every one of the 150 million was special to someone. It takes large scale empathy to imagine this from our own dear ones.