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Big World, Small World 2 20 March 2014

Posted by Dr Moose in Life, Ponderings.
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In a previous post I left open the possibility that I would return to the ruminations sparked off by a recent visit by two guests from the USA. So here I am picking up (something) of that thread, which closed with a brief observation to the effect that I live on a small and rather crowded island, at least in comparison the inhabitants of the US.

Digging around a little using the eclectic mix that is the internet, my 1982 road atlas of the United States (it’s a long story) and Bill Bryon’s rather wonderful book, The Lost Continent, with an added dash of geofiction experience, set me to thinking. (Dangerous, I know). Recalling something from the depths of my memory about relative sizes of the British Isles and the US, I was struck again by the curious mix of an enormous country (or, more correctly, mosaic of states) peppered by so many tiny settlements (by British standards), as well as the more obvious cities. It made me realise afresh just how crowded the United Kingdom is, certainly by comparison with the US.

Consider, the UK has a population density of the order of 255 per sq km (662 per sq mile), the US of 34 (88.6). Therefore a US, populated at UK density would have a population of the order of 2.5 billion while a UK, populated a US density would have a population of some 8.2million. (The real population figures are, US about 320million, UK 64million). To put that further into perspective that would give the US a population approximating that of China and India combined and give the entire UK a population pretty much the same as that of contemporary London (or New York for any transatlantic readers who are still expressing an interest!) Or, put it another way round the current UK population is about the same as California and Texas combined, living in area somewhat smaller than that of Texas.

The numbers are staggering, even allowing for the fact that some of the US could hardly be described as of an amenable climate! It also goes some way to explaining why I find it somewhat difficult to visualise the situation of countries in some of my geofiction environments: what seems crowded to one nationality seems dangerously sparse to another…

I suppose I shall just have to try to find a way to experience it myself. Not that I’m going to hold my breath, although there’s a bit of me starting to consider how on earth any of these ideas might figure into any opportunities a sabbatical might offer. (And that would still have to approved by the one with the casting vote: the Good Lady Wife!) In the mean time, I suppose I’d better go and stand somewhere in the middle of Cumbria to get a feel for the population density of the sixfold larger Indiana, although I suspect the latter to be rather flatter!

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