- 80 percent of humanity lives on less than $10 a day, 50 percent on less than $2.50 a day. (A Japanese cow gets $7 of subsidies a day.) One billion people -- or one in six -- live in slums, and 1 billion children -- one in two -- live in poverty. Up to 30,000 children die each day due to poverty.
- 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation, 1.1 billion have inadequate access to water and 1.8 million children die each year as a result of diarrhea.
- 963 million people suffer from hunger, 28 percent of children in developing countries are underweight or stunted, 250,000 to 500,000 children lose their sight every year due to vitamin A deficiency.
- The poorest 40 percent of the world's population get 5 percent of global income; the richest 20 percent get 75 percent. The 497 billionaires in the world are worth $3.5 trillion -- more than 7 percent of world gross domestic product.
- Less than 1 percent of the global annual expenditure on weapons could have put every child into school by the year 2000.
- A child is infected by HIV every minute.
- A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.
- A child dies every 15 seconds due to poor sanitation.
- A child dies of hunger every threee to six seconds.
I've jotted them down over the years, not out of any peculiar fascination but because they are too potent to be entirely ignored. Some overlap, most are estimates, all are propaganda. But they tell a truth about what we have made of the world.
I'm not interested in making you feel ashamed about injustice and your own good fortune. Most people can do that well enough on their own.
What interests me are the mechanisms we use to deal with this guilty knowledge. Though I do it every day, I still don't properly understand how we manage to keep on keeping on, living comfortable lives, enjoying indulgence, doing all the ultimately selfish things we do, yet knowing that the greater part of humanity has little and lives on less.
Everybody's disturbed by it, most would like to change the way things are, plenty try. But given the sheer scale of global inequality, we really ought to be rolling about on the ground, banging our heads on the sidewalk and foaming at the mouth.
Perhaps it is our very sense of helplessness that helps us cope with the horror, the conviction that we cannot save the world and that our only recourse is the odd token act to redress the balance -- a little money here, a little money there, a letter of complaint, a petition signed, a stint of voluntary service, a vote, a protest.
And we tell ourselves stories.
I'm not sure it's enough, though.
I wonder what tricks they'll dream up in Davos? Something more potent than stories, I hope. I'm an old dog, but I need new tricks.
London-born Charles Davis is a novelist whose books include "Walk On, Bright Boy," "Walking the Dog" and "Standing at the Crossroads." Read his blog on Red Room.