Nearly everything you see in your little world
has the big world inside.
To make a simple pencil, you need not only the raw materials but the inventions of materials, processes and equipment that developed across the globe and through history to get to this optimized pencil that we buy today. The world is here.
You need the people who moved things to factories, that prepared the raw materials for the shaft, the lead, the lacquer, the eraser and the little metal thingy that holds the eraser, each one containing multiple raw materials.
Then, all this has to come together in an actual pencil factory and then be packaged and distributed by machines and people who eventually put it in a place where you can buy it.
Something as simple as a pencil comes to you from the entire world.
The Freakonomics podcast called How Can This Possibly Be True perfectly describes how we are intertwined with the world in ways we rarely think about.
The World is Here
Do you see the big world when you look around you? Here are some ways to think more broadly about your everyday connections to the world.
- What raw materials had to be gathered and from where?
- What processes had to be refined?
- What machines had to be invented?
- What machines and people transported things?
For example, think about these everyday items that come to us from around the world:
- Coffee, tea and cocoa really don’t grow in the U.S. Three of life’s true joys!
- Is the fruit you eat grown in Costa Rica, Honduras or Mexico?
- What are your favorite foods that may have originated in a different culture? Burritos? Pizza?
- Are your clothes made in China or Vietnam? Where was the cotton grown?
- Is your town or your street named after the hometown of an immigrant? The most common place name in the U.S. is Springfield which is originally a British name.
- Word origins are often a surprise. The word ketchup most likely comes from Asia.
- And the people in your life? What heritage do they carry with them?
Now, take 10 seconds to look around you. Look at the label of any product. Do a little research. Then snap a photo and let us know with the hashtag #worldishere.