What is Belgebra? It is a sub-branch of algebra where one of the variables represents the size of Belgium. I’ve spotted a couple of examples in the news this week.

The first example is fairly simple. It comes from seafoodsource.com on Chinese aquaculture (May 14, 2020)

“It also prioritizes further mitigation of mudflat and earthenware aquaculture, a primary source of production of low-value species, but also the cause of significant environmental damage across a land footprint spanning the size of Belgium and the Netherlands combined.”

A much more complex and bizarre example appeared in The CEO Magazine – May 18, 2020 in a piece about Covid-19 in the state of Western Australia.

“Western Australia has recorded 557 cases of COVID-19, five of which remain active. The state is the size of Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands and the UK combined. The UK alone has had more than 243,000 confirmed cases of infection, Belgium more than 52,000 and the Netherlands almost 44,000.

This “Belgebra” is weird on several levels:

Firstly, it is wildly inaccurate. The seven countries listed add up to 1.03 million sq km. Western Australia covers more than 2.65 million sq km (which by coincidence is almost the same as its population). In fact you could add Germany, Italy and Spain to the equation and still reach only 80% of the size of WA.

Secondly, the inclusion of Monaco is laughable. It is only 2 sq km – the second smallest nation on earth after the Vatican.

Thirdly, if Belgium had not been listed first I would never have spotted this in my search for size of Belgium!

A pocket of fish

From Cosmos Magazine (18 February 2020):

Researchers have found more than 450 species of fish in a pocket of northern South America just half the size of Belgium. By comparison, they say, the Mississippi River Basin is 200 times its size but has only around 200 species.

Scientists from the Field Museum, US, spent a dry season in the Rupununi region of central Guyana looking for fish and were overwhelmed with what they found.

An opportunity missed

In January several news outlets (for example Phys.Org) reported that “In 2019, major fires in Australia, Russia and California burned over 13.5 million hectares of land—an area four times greater than the size of Belgium.”

This was an opportunity to bring out the rarely seen comparison “an area the size of North Korea”. Unfortunately none of these publishers grasped it.

In February in South America the Columbia Reports article had the headline “How to steal land the size of a small country“. It went on to reveal that “Medellin‘s elite and friends of Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe were among the main beneficiaries of the dispossession of more than 3 million hectares of land, an area the size of Belgium.”

Xingu National Park in Brazil

From The Guardian (30 March 2020):

“Coronavirus could wipe us out,” warned Ianucula Kaiabi, an indigenous leader in Brazil’s Xingu national park, a sprawling sanctuary on the southern fringes of the Amazon that is home to about 6,000 people from 16 different tribes.

With Brazil’s death toll hitting 136 on Sunday, Xingu leaders have been sealing off roads into their reserve, which is almost the size of Belgium, and urging local residents to leave only in emergencies.”

ACCURACY: FAIR. Xingu N.P is 10.2 million sq miles. Belgium is 11.8. Rwanda would have been a better comparison.

Australian traditional Lands

The Australian weekly “The Saturday Paper (May 23, 2019)” must be confident that its readers are familiar with the size of Belgium despite it being on the other side of the planet …

” the Ngarrawanji people of the east Kimberley have won a decades-long fight for native title over their traditional lands…

… Native title claims covering an area the size of Belgium will be decided upon this week as the Federal Court moves through the east Kimberley, with Malarngowem and Yurriyangem Taam traditional owners set to hear their determinations today. “

China CO2 Emissions Cost 1 Belgium of Sea Ice

According to an article from the World Economic Forum the sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing, and there is a strong correlation with CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions. For every metric ton of CO2 we add to the atmosphere, we lose another three square meters of sea ice.

The article states that China’s emissions in 2017 were “10.0 Gt CO2 = 30,000 km2 sea ice loss (more than 10 times the size of Hong Kong or approximately the size of Belgium) “

11 times the size of Belgium. How about “the size of Germany”?

Here is a perfect example of the mysterious allure of Belgium as a unit of measurement.

“Today is the start of my listening tour across the Barwon electorate. The gravity of the task ahead is not lost on me. This electorate is the largest in New South Wales, covering more than 40 per cent of the state. It’s eleven times the size of Belgium.”

  • This is a quote by Roy Butler, a politician in Australia, about as far from Belgium as you can get.
  • It is published in a local Australian newspaper(the Nyngan Observer)  whose readers are not likely to be familiar with the size of Belgium.
  • The area in question (the political district of Barwon)  is very nearly the size of Germany, while Belgium is 11 times smaller.

WHY DID HE CHOOSE TO COMPARE IT WITH BELGIUM INSTEAD OF GERMANY?  That is the issue that motivated me to start this web site many years ago.