Beware of lonely numbers

Only about 3000 wild tigers are left in India today.

At an annual rate of about 2400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, India is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

Those facts above are both real, and indicate grave problems that the country faces. But they are lonely numbers. Let us add some perspective to them.

Only 3000 Indian tigers are left in the wild today, but their number has more than doubled since 2006, when they numbered 1411.

India’s annual per-capita carbon-di-oxide consumption stands at 1.8 tonnes per person – about a third of the world’s average number. India has a large carbon footprint, but individual Indians leave carbon footprints that are tiny. In a democratic world, per-capita is what matters most.

Lonely numbers replace hope with cynicism and give us a distorted view of the world. Yet, most journalists jump at including them in their news reports.

Never leave a lonely number all by itself. When you see such a number in a textbook or an article, always think about what other numbers you need to put it in perspective.

Inspiration: Factfulness – Hans Rosling

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