“Malsizing” Belgium

Authors sometimes choose Belgium as a comparison even when it is the wrong size by a large margin. Is this a genuine miscalculation? Or laziness?

This example from the London Evening Standard mentions the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in Peru — which the author claims is “an area the size of Belgium”.

The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is 20,800 sq km. Belgium is another 50% larger at 30,500 sq km. In fact there are more than 20 countries the author could have chosen which are a closer match than Belgium. Israel or Slovenia would be the best comparisons. Perhaps the author intended to type Belize (23,000 sq km) but typed Belgium by mistake.



The weight of Belgium is 485 million tonnes ?

A study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre enables us to compute the weight of Belgium. They say …

“water erodes 970 million tonnes of soil every year in the EU.  This would mean a one metre-depth loss of soil from an area corresponding to the size of the city of Berlin, or a one centimetre loss from an area twice the size of Belgium. “

So, if 1 centimetre of soil covering  2 x Belgium weighs 970 million tonnes then the weight of Belgium (the top centimetre only!)  is 485 million tonnes.

Actually the JRC figures don’t quite add up as they imply that Belgium is 50 times the size of Berlin.  Belgium is 30,524 sq km, whereas Berlin is 892 sq km so the ratio is not 50:1 but 34:1. This means that 1 meter of soil over Berlin would in fact cover three times the size of Belgium, not twice the size (assuming 1cm depth of soil).


Belgium’s GDP as a unit of measurement

From City A.M.

First, it’s worth reminding ourselves what 5 per cent GDP growth – let’s call it the “worst case” scenario growth rate – would mean for a country of China’s size. According to the IMF, China’s GDP in 2014 was $10.3 trillion. That means 5 per cent growth in 2015 would add around $520bn to its economy. That’s the equivalent of adding a country the size of Belgium to the global economy in a single year.

A “dead cow” the size of Belgium.

The Vaca Muerta (Dead Cow) shale formation in Argentina is around 30,000 square kilometres. It was discovered in 2011.

In 2012, Bloomberg Business appears to be the first source to compare it with Belgium. Since then, many other journalists appear to have copied Bloomberg’s  comparison.

Petronas to Develop Shale Oil in Vaca Muerta

February 18, 2014 — 4:57 PM GMT

YPF is seeking shale partners to develop Vaca Muerta, an areas the size of Belgium that contains at least 23 billion barrels of oil.

Australian politicians aware of the size of Belgium.

This transcript dates from 2004 and comes from a broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  In fact their constituency is smaller than Belgium, and is closer to the size of Armenia.

Eden Monaro

Broadcast: 24/09/2004

Reporter: Kathleen Hyland

Kathleen Hyland went on the Eden Monaro campaign trail with the Liberals’ Gary Nairn and Kel Watt from the ALP.

GARY NAIRN: I’ve probably driven well over half a million kilometres as a member in the eight a half years.

KATHLEEN HYLAND (REPORTER) : Gary Nairn, the experienced businessman and serving MP since 1996 – this time he’s up against former advisor to Jon Stanhope – and 7th generation local – Kel Watt.

KEL WATT: What I can bring is a passion and understanding, I don’t need a map to get around the electorate.

REPORTER: And in this most marginal of seats, the main contenders know that here more than anywhere, that extra doorknock in Narooma or that extra mile to Moruya could truly count.

GARY NAIRN: Having lived overseas for a few years I realised it was the same size as Belgium which is a comment I’ve often made from before I was elected.

KEL WATT: It’s 31-thousand square kiloemtres so it’s huge – it’s the size of Belgium that’s my favourite statistic about Eden Monaro it’s like 3 or 4 electorates crammed together.


Deforestation in Borneo

The UN is using the “size of Belgium” in a report on orangutan conservation and deforestation in Borneo.

UN News Centre

“Borneo’s deforestation rate has been among the world’s highest for over two decades and 56 per cent of the protected tropical lowland forests – an area roughly the size of Belgium – was lost between 1985 and 2001.”

A German-Spanish Dictionary

I sometimes wonder how much the “size of Belgium” is used in non-English languages.  Here’s a page from a German-Spanish dictionary, about the German phrase “so gross wie” (which means “the size of”).

There is a list of example of the phrase in normal usage, and the very first example is …

“Das ist eine Fläche so groß wie Belgien und die Niederlande zusammengenommen.”

Or in English .. “That is an area the size of Belgium and the Netherlands combined.”.

German-Spanish Dictionary



Penguin conservation area in Argentina

Source: Diario Jornada

With great support of national bodies and NGOs, the Ministry of Tourism and Protected Areas of Chubut with Global Penguin Society (GPS) and CENPAT-CONICET, presented the new accolade given province.

For its part, the biologist Pablo Garcia Borboroglu revealed that “this work came when he approached the governor Buzzi the idea of creating a marine reserve in Punta Tombo. Buzzi encouraged us to go further, to us to work for the label Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. ”  García Borboroglu charted that “this protected area, of 3,1 million hectares, has the size of the province of Missions, or of Belgium“.