Tuesday, 28 November 2006

An area the size of Wales

A FEW years ago, in what now amounts to a previous life, I helped Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, promote the Rainforest Foundation, a charity they established in response to the violation of the rights of the Kayapo Indians in Brazilian Amazonia, and the wanton destruction of the rainforests in which they live.

While making a television commercial with John Hurt to publicise these issues, I noticed that the annual area of Amazonian deforestation was a round 20,000 square kilometres. Being a Welshman, I knew this to be an area the size of Wales and I casually mentioned the fact to John. "My God!", he said, "That big?"

I suddenly realised that if I equated the scale of the problem to an area that people were familiar with, the implications would be quickly grasped and succinctly understood. So, I rewrote the words, John read them with passion, the analogy from the commercial was widely reported in the media and the phrase stuck.

Now, the multi-talented Simon Kelk has developed a wonderful little website containing the 'Wales-o-meter', a set of conversion utilities for lengths, heights, areas, volumes and weights, enabling you to express a feature of interest in terms of something more familiar; in terms of the size of Wales, for instance.

Simon is also the man responsible for the 'Bus-o-matic', a utility that explains in pseudo-scientific terms why you wait ages for a bus and then two turn up at once, and the fabulous 'Cybertoilets', which might be the best thing on the web if Simon were to work with a good graphic designer.

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