“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).