Saturday, December 25, 2010

61 and dwindling

A combination of NASA-generated high resolution camera work and back-of-the-envelope calculations by Dr. Nalini Nadkarni (Evergreen State College) yields the figure that, on the Earth, trees out number humans (61 trees for every human, to be exact).

She asks a very pertinent question: how many trees have you used up in your lifetime? Have you not met, met, or exceeded your share?
How Many Trees Per Person?

It's a cool question, and easy to calculate. Nadkarni looked up the world's human population as of Dec. 31 and found that on that day, we numbered 6,456,789,877 (again, very more or less). Punching the figures into her calculator, she figured that the world supports 61 trees per person. When we talked — and you can hear our conversation in our "Morning Edition" story — she was thrilled. "Hooray!" she said, "I get more than one tree!"


This got Nadkarni wondering: How much of our 61-tree allotment does an American use in a lifetime? All of it? Some of it? More than 61? She didn't know. So she asked her graduate students to make a list of tree-based products — and they came up with a list so long, it almost never stops.

Here's some of what they found: baseball bats, barrels, books, blocks, benches, crutches, coffee filters, guitars, grocery bags, pencils, pine oil, beds, billboards, buttons, candy wrappers, buttons, chewing gum, cork, crayons, egg cartons, fruit pie filling, kites, linoleum, luggage, paper, pingpong balls, chopsticks (especially the disposable kind), rubber, tambourines, telephone books, tires, toilet paper, turpentine, xylophones and yo-yos (the wooden kind).
Check out some of the other wonderful things being done by Dr. Nadkarni.

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