Category Archives: Uncategorized

flooding three Belgiums

An article in the Wall Street Journal (Oct 5) and republished in Bangkok Post discussed the creation of biofuel from algae.

Unfortunately large-scale algae production requires enormous amounts of land, water and fertilizer, making it prohibitively expensive. Professor Kevin Flynn, who has researched algae biofuel for years was quoted as saying “Meeting just 10% of Europe’s fuel demand with unmodified algae would require flooding three Belgiums in more than 7 inches of water while using 50% of the fertilizer used for European agriculture”

Thank you to @PeterLuxy on Twitter for spotting this one.

Water surface area lost by Brazil

Spotted in La Prensa Latina, a southern US-based newspaper.

Rio de Janeiro, Aug 23 (EFE).- Brazil, the world’s main water reserve, has lost over three million hectares of its water surface area in 30 years, MapBiomas reported Monday.

From 1991 to 2020, the freshwater area in Brazil decreased from 19.7 million hectares to 16.6 million hectares, representing a 15.7% drop. It is an area equivalent to the size of Belgium.

Editor’s Note

This appears to be a typical case of a Belgium comparison appearing in a newspaper whose readers are unlikely to be familiar with Belgium.

The original report by MapBiomas – a Brazilian ecological initiative – did not mention Belgium. In Spain the agency EFE picked up the report and added the Belgium comparison.

The newspaper in Tennessee ran the EFE story including with the unhelpful (although accurate) Belgium measurement.

Frustrated farmer changes the size of Belgium

According to a BBC report the Belgian farmer moved the stone dating from 1819 that marked the France-Belgium border because it was in the path of his tractor. He relocated it 2.29 metres (7.5 feet) into French territory, thus making Belgium larger and France smaller.

Local authorities will request that the farmer replaces the stone to its original location to avoid the reconvening of a Franco-Belgian border commission that has been dormant since 1930.

The BBC report can be found here.

“Belgebra”

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.