SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Bringing The World To Ketchikan



January 07, 2011
Friday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
The holidays always afford me that rare pleasure, ten or fifteen minutes to read something slightly longer than a text message.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Well, recently National Geographic posited that the world population will top 7 billion later this year (2011). Beyond the fact that the population has more than doubled since I was born (a mere 3 billion folks were around to celebrate my birth in 1959), I was also struck by another factoid in the magazine.

Someone at the magazine went to the trouble of “guestimating” how much space it would take to hold the entire earth’s population in one place if we were all standing together, elevator style (Otis Knows we would more than meet the maximium 2,500 pounds per car!).

Turns out that for everyone to get that 3 square feet of space, it would take something like 750 square miles to hold all 7 billion people (including you and me and George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden).

Kinda surprising how little space is actually required for all those people. I’m gonna have to up my guestimates on the number of folks I’ve been crammed into subway cars with before.

But to bring into a context we all can understand, there would be ten times as many people as could fit – comfortably or not – on Gravina Island. Or even five times as many people that could fit on Annette Island.

But – and you knew where this was going – they would all fit (relatively) comfortably on Revillagigedo, and there would be another 300 miles to stretch their arms out a bit. Heck, if you decided to use all of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough (at 4,700 square miles, give or take). Everyone would have nearly enough space to lie down in (although not to roll over!).

Of course, that got me pondering – natch – what life would be like in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough would be like if we had 7 billion residents.

It would certainly be different.

For one thing, we’d get a lot more federal funding and aid for various things. Last summer when grumbling about the US Census was the rage, we were reminded again and again that every local citizen was worth approximately $14,000 per year to the community in federal funding. And that every citizen who was missed would end up costing the community $140,000 before the next census in 2020.

Wow, at $14,000 a head, 7 billion heads adds up to $98,000,000,000,000. That would be one heck of an “earmark.”

Speaking of which, we could move a couple hundred million folks to Gravina and that would shut up all the “island with fewer than 50 residents” bloviators.

But – as usual – I digress.

Of course, there would be impacts to consider.

I remember in the 1980s when just under a gazillion dollars (back when a US dollar was really worth something) was spent trying to determine the “impact” of all the people who were going to move to town because the molybdenum mine at Quartz Hill.

Of course, they never came. And the real sad part was that we didn’t take all the studies and the EISs and the DEISs and the Preliminary DEISs, and the Draft Preliminary Scoping DEISs and use them to create a causeway to Gravina.

We also put in a fair amount of infrastructure (Bear Valley, Forest Park etc) for the newbies who never came. And housing prices still didn’t go down all that much. Go figure.

Oops, that was two digressions!

Anyway, looking ahead at potential “opportunities” if we were relocate the entire population of the world to the KGB, I suspect that “sanitation” would be a big issue. There just wouldn’t be enough porta potties to deal with it (it would be worse that a Rolling Stones concert).

But I have given this some thought.

If everyone who matters was here – and therefore not elsewhere – wouldn’t it make sense to build a sewage pipeline to somewhere else to dispose of that which we would want to dispose of?

There are a variety of other places we could do that. I’ll let you come up with your own suggestions. I have one good suggestion, but I’m pretty sure that “Sarah Palin Superstar” would not be amused.

Just keep in mind that you can build an awful lot of sewage infrastructure with $98,000,000,000,000.

And then there’s that little problem that Ketchikan has always had of somehow not being in “control” of its own destiny for the last century or so. If all the people in the world were here, we certainly wouldn’t be worrying very much about reapportionment!

We certainly wouldn’t be wagging our fingers at the powers that be in Juneau or Washington DC. On the other hand we also wouldn’t have them to blame either. Wow, that’s a real buzz killer of a thought.

Anyway, I’m sure – by now – you’ve found the real fatal flaw in this modest proposal. Quality of Life.

The primary reason we live here is not the great hunting and fishing or the (relatively) pure water or even the great air that is not stuffed to the gills with floating particulate matter. It is the fact that the other 6,999,986,000 people on earth do not live here.

As much as we talk about economic development and how we want to encourage industry and people to move here and help us “grow” our economy and our community, we really don’t mean it.

How many times have you been trying to join the parade on Tongass Avenue around 5 pm on any given weekday and said aloud  “Dang it, I wish there were more people (and their cars) here?”

How many times have you stood in line at the grocery stores (note the singular “line,” that’s all that’s open when you are in a hurry and stuck behind two or three “boat orders”) and thought, we need to have more people in town who take 5 to 7 minutes to write out their checks?

How many times have you sat at the doctors’ office, waiting to get in and thought “Gee, I wish we had more people here in town so that the doctor would have more patients and could afford to get a nicer boat and therefore feel better about squeezing more folks into his afternoon schedule?”

I could go on, but I need to pace myself. It’s going to be a long year.

And I still have to decide where my three or four square feet of the KGB is going to be.

Somewhere with a nice view of Russia, a little breeze, and a couple of extra feet to stretch out, maybe into Canada.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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