By the Numbers

What does data tell us and what do we infer from such information? The following is a collection of attributed facts and figures. See what these say to you.

3,656: The number of climate-related disasters world-wide between 1980 and 1999. [i]

6,681: The number of climate-related disasters worldwide between 2000 and 2019. [ii]

16,500,000: The amount, in tons, of annual carbon emissions that can be attributed to retail returns (10.6 percent of total retail sales made in 2018 that were returned). [iii]

#2: The rank of SUV’s among contributors to the increase in carbon emissions over the past decade. [iv]

#1: The rank of the power industry among the contributors to the increase in carbon emissions over the last decade. [v]

47: The percentage of the world’s cities with populations over 500,000 that experience periodic water shortages. [vi]

2/3rds: The portion of local U.S. parks that saw an increased in visitors in the spring of 2020. [vii]

2/3rds: The portion of U.S. parks-recreation agencies that had been asked to reduce spending fiscal year 2020. [viii]

4: The percent of dust particles in U.S. parks that are plastic. [ix]

2.6: The factor by which the annual amount of plastic pollution accumulating in bodies of water is expected to increase by 2040. [x]

20: The maximum number of hours by which the irrational behavior of animals has been observed to predict a major earthquake. [xi]

68: The percent by which the population of the average wildlife has declined globally since 1970. [xii]

94: The percent of the population of the average wildlife species has declined in Latin American and the Caribbean. [xiii]

#1: The rank of deforestation among the caused of wildlife decline on land. [xiv]

38: The percentage of American travelers (in 2019) who say they cut back on flying for environmental reasons. [xv]

1/3rd: The portion of Americans who admit to not relying on the news sources they regard as the most trustworthy.

5: The average number of times per week that an American forgot what day it was this spring. [xvi]

59: The percentage of respondent to a recent survey who did not know what day it was when they responded. [xvii]

56: The percentage of Americans who think it’s “too much” to expect the average persons to recognize made-up news and information. [xviii]

34: The percentage of Americans who think it is “too much” to expect the average person to recognize satire. [xix]

86: The percentage by which streaming video in standard rather than high definition reduces its carbon footprint. [xx]

96: The percent by which turning off the camera during a Zoom call reduces its carbon footprint. [xxi]

In a recent national business seminar the following was shared: “what we tend to do in business is we tend to focus on the how and the what questions when we see information. Yet we do not ask the why.” As environmental educators, we are confronted with two of the three (how and what), but seldom the why.

The challenge for us is to address the “why.” Why is that? What can we do to ask that critical question?  In looking at the facts and figures above, review them again asking “the critical question,” why.


[i] United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Geneva, Switzerland.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] UBS, London, England.

[iv] International Energy Agency, Paris, France.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Middlemore Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand.

[vii] National Recreation and Park Association, Asburn, Virginia.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Janice Brahney, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.

[x] Winnie Lau, Pew Charitable Trust, Washington, D.C.

[xi] Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Radolfzell, Germany.

[xii] Amir Jini, University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

[xiii] World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C. and Sydney, Australia.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Virginia.

[xvi] OnePoll, London, England.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Pew Research Center.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Renee Obringer, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

[xxi] Ibid.