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. “
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) “
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.
From a piece by the Director of the Forestry Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations …
“Imagine an area the size of Belgium, blanketed by forests and trees which provide food, fuel, medicine, shelter, and incomes for local habitants while conserving soil and water for farms and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
Now, imagine that area stripped entirely of its trees. This is the amount of forest area lost to the world each year.”
Halting Deforestation: From Aspiration to Action
If you would like to help save the rain forests, visit the Size of Wales web site.
Catalonia’s move towards independence from Spain has been making news for several weeks. If the campaign succeeds in creating a new nation, Catalonia (32,108 sq km) will be roughly the size of Belgium (30,528).
The world’s media has already used this comparison widely in their reports. For example RTE, France24, The Straits Times, Times of Israel, Japan Times, to name just a few.
Historically Belgium has survived challenges from Lesotho and Armenia for the title of country closest to the size of Belgium.
According to an article from Thomson Reuters Trust, “Russia’s five largest landowners together now control an area the size of Belgium after expanding rapidly to increase domestic production of foods on banned imports lists, including beef and chicken, according to Moscow-based consultants BEFL.“
In common usage the word “copy” means to replicate something. However in journalism it also refers to the main text of an article. Perhaps we can see the double meaning here…
Back in September this blog mentioned an error by the Washington Times in describing the Semipalatinsk Test Site as a vast region the size of Belgium, even though it is only 60% of Belgium’s size.
Now an item by Public Radio International makes the same curious mistake. “They called this place, a vast testing site the size of Belgium, the Polygon.”
It seems odd that two journalists would independently make the same mistake.
There are some myths about the size of Belgium that keep recurring in various news outlets. One of these concerns the Minkebe National Park in Gabon, which already features in this blog on the Bloopers page.
The authority that manages Minkebe park (Parcs Gabon) gives the area as nearly 8000 square kilometres. That’s about one quarter of Belgium.
However The Atlantic website recently reported on the plight of elephants in the park in “Gabon’s Minkebe National Park—a huge protected area the size of Belgium“.
Why do these errors recur? Do journalists copy from each others’ work instead of getting the accurate date from the original source? Surely not!
A reader of this blog alerted me to a New York Times article about Great Bear Lake in northern Canada.
“At just over 12,000 square miles, the lake is the eighth largest in the world. It is bigger than Belgium and deeper than Lake Superior”
At 12,028 square miles Great Bear Lake is only 2% larger than Belgium so it is one of the most accurate matches for Belgium that I have seen so far.
Most of the “things” that are described as being the size of Belgium are not countries, but there is one country that is almost a perfect match at 99.5% the size of Belgium. That country is Lesotho in southern Africa, and the similarity was noted by an article on Motorsport.com this week.
“The Motul Roof of Africa off-road competition in Lesotho is considered as one of the toughest challenges a motocross rider can face. A three-day endurance race with an international line-up is about to start.
It’s called ‘the mother of hard enduro’ for a reason. The Roof of Africa is being held in Lesotho, a small country with a similar size of Belgium that is surrounded by South Africa.”