Finding Perspective: Haiti Earthquake Aid in Avatar Minutes

Haiti Earthqauke Aid by Nation - In Avatar Minutes

Haiti Earthqauke Aid by Nation - In Avatar Minutes

We’ve heard a lot this week about earthquake aid for Haiti. As is always the case when large numbers are bandied about in the news media, it’s hard to get a feeling of scale. For example, Canada has, at the time of writing, pledged to donate nearly 5.5M dollars to the aid effort. What does this number really mean? Well, considering Canada’s population of 33.3M, the aid works out to about 16 cents per Canadian citizen. 16 cents doesn’t buy you much these days. A sip of coffee, or – say – 3.14 minutes of Avatar; barely enough to get through the credits.

Haiti Earthqauke Aid by Nation - In Avatar Minutes

How many Avatar minutes are governments around the world pledging? Sweden leads the way, with almost 38 minutes per citizen – almost a quarter of the movie. Other Scandinavian countries round out the top 6, along with Luxembourg, Guyana, and Estonia.

Haiti Earthqauke Aid by Nation - In Avatar Minutes

Here are the times for some other countries:

  • Sweden: 38 minutes
  • Luxembourg: 28 minutes
  • Denmark: 26 minutes
  • Guyana: 25 minutes
  • Norway: 20 minutes
  • Estonia: 14 minutes
  • Australia: 8 minutes
  • Finland: 6 minutes
  • United States: 6 minutes
  • Switzerland: 5 minutes
  • New Zealand: 4 minutes
  • Netherlands: 3 minutes
  • United Kingdom: 3 minutes
  • Canada: 3 minutes
  • Spain: 2 minutes
  • Brazil: 2 minutes
  • Germany: 1 minute
  • Japan: 1 minute
  • Morocco: 1 minute
  • Poland: 1 minute
  • Italy: 1 minute


The images in this post are exports from a Processing tool that I built to manage the data and to render the film strips. The application reads data from a Google spreadsheet – the original data was published by the always excellent Guardian Data Blog. If there’s enough interest, I will post the tool and the source later this week.

Sweden: 38 seconds
Luxembourg: 28 seconds
Denmark: 26 seconds
Guyana: 25 seconds
Norway: 20 seconds
Estonia: 14 seconds
Australia: 8 seconds
Finland: 6 seconds
United States: 6 seconds
Switzerland: 5 seconds
New Zealand: 4 seconds
Netherlands: 3 seconds
United Kingdom: 3 seconds
Canada: 3 seconds
Spain: 2 seconds
Brazil: 2 seconds
Germany: 1 seconds
Japan: 1 seconds
Morocco: 1 seconds
Poland: 1 seconds
Italy: 1 seconds

Haiti Earthqauke Aid by Nation - In Avatar Minutes

Haiti Earthqauke Aid by Nation - In Avatar Minutes

41 thoughts on “Finding Perspective: Haiti Earthquake Aid in Avatar Minutes”

  1. Good work! I'm always looking for interesting ways of representing data in a visual and comprehensible way. It should be highlighted that these numbers are based on contributions of governments versus those populations. It would be interesting to include the breakdown of contributions of individuals and private sources from different countries. Remember the goal in all of this is to help the disaster victims not to find out who's donation is biggest. This is, however, a good method of accountability.

    1. Yes – my point here was not to bolster one country over another but instead to put the numbers into perspective. Governments can sometimes benefit from the fact that the average citizen still things a million dollars is a lot of money.

    1. All of the countries includes on the Guardian list add up to about 200 Avatar minutes when their per-capita values are summed. So, yes – about one and a quarter full films.

    1. France wasn't included in the original data set, but has been added since.

      Per capita aid by France is about $0.23, which puts it in line with New Zealand at about 4 minutes of Avatar.

    1. Hi Chris,

      I haven't gained the ability to look into the future yet (though I'm working on it) so this visualization was built from currently available data. I will happily update the project as new numbers become available.

      Details on sources for the numbers can be found in the original Guardian data set linked to in the post.

      -Jer

  2. The concept is good, the format is good and the message is good. Well done. I'm sharing through Facebook: hope you don't mind

  3. THE CANADIAN PRESS

    OTTAWA _

    Government ministers say Canada has committed up to $135 million
    to the relief efforts, and it is ready to deploy more police to help
    stabilize the increasingly volatile situation as soon as it is
    asked.

    Some 2,000 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew, including two
    warships, are deploying to the towns of Jacmel and Leogane, about 40
    kilometres southwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince.

    Leogane is at the epicentre of the Jan. 12 quake and 90 per cent
    of the town has been flattened.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada is
    constantly re-evaluating its role and stands ready to commit more
    police and security forces to Haiti as soon as UN authorities
    “signal that conditions allow this.''

    “Immediate needs are being addressed, such as food, water,
    shelter, infrastructure, port and airport, as well as
    communication,'' Cannon told the government's daily briefing on
    Canadian efforts in Haiti.

    “We need to move beyond reconstruction to build a new Haiti. We
    are loyal neighbours and partners of the Haitian people, and this is
    what we're focused on.''

    Twelve Canadians have been confirmed dead so far; another 699 are
    missing as some estimates of the total killed by the 7.0-magnitude
    quake top 150,000.

    International Co-operation Minister **>Bev Oda<** said Canadians have
    contributed more than $40 million to earthquake assistance and
    Ottawa will match those funds dollar-for-dollar.

    The federal government is also contributing $60 million to UN
    efforts in Haiti, $39 million of it to food security through the
    World Food Program. The WFP expects to provide more than 100 million
    meals to quake victims over the next 30 days.

    **>Oda<** said $15 million of the UN-designated money will go to UNICEF
    for health, nutrition, protection and water-and-sanitation services
    for women and children.

    The Canadian funds will also go to other health and shelter needs
    through various UN organizations on the ground in Haiti, including
    the International Organization for Migration, the UN Population Fund
    and the World Health Organization.

    Additional contributions, on top of the $5 million initially
    distributed for critical relief supplies such as food, tents and
    blankets, as well as essential services like water, sanitation and
    protection:

    _ $11.5 million to six Canadian non-governmental organizations:
    CARE Canada, Medecins du Monde Canada; Save the Children, Oxfam
    Quebec, World Vision and the Canadian Red Cross Society.

    _ About $1 million for an emergency field hospital, along with 10
    Canadian medical and technical professionals, operated by the
    Norwegian Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross.

    _ $8.5 million to the emergency appeal of the International
    Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for water,
    sanitation and health services to about 300,000 quake victims.

    The government's Haiti earthquake relief fund is matching the
    more than $40 million Canadians have donated to registered
    humanitarian organizations.

    1. Thanks for the exhaustive copy/paste.

      Like I've said before, the point wasn't to bolster any given country for donating more or to chastise any country for donating less. I simply wanted to put the numbers into some kind of perspective.

      As I've also said before, I'll update the figures as the Guardian dataset is changed.

  4. I really like the concept.
    But I have to admit I quite dont understand what do you mean by "minutes of Avatar".
    If I get you well, the amount of aid is used with "per capita" figures, so how do you calculate the price that corresponds to "a capita" for a movie?
    sorry if I bother you, Im just interested.

  5. Hi – Avatar is 162 minutes long. The average ticket price in the US for the movie is $8.50. So, an 'avatar minute' is worth about 5.25 cents.

    I take the country's total aid amount and divide it by population to get a per-capita amount. Then I divide that by 5.25 to get the number of 'avatar minutes'.

    I hope that makes sense.

  6. With $429m sales in usa up to last week (the 11th), usa citizen spent in average more than three times more money on avatar than to haiti earthquate aid. Really interesting perpective!

  7. It's only governemental's aid. It doesn't include private donations and "other donations" that together are more important than all govs donations

  8. Jer,

    As many people mentioned above, the government of Canada is actually giving a FORTUNE to Haiti, on top of the fortunes it has already given over the past decades. And that's on top of:

    - The fortunes that Canadian citizens have personally sent to Haiti in the past days (again, on top of the fortunes they've been sending over the past decades).
    - The enormous (perhaps unequaled) Haitian REFUGEE (i.e. typically unskilled labour) immigration that Canadians have accepted and embraced over the past decades.
    - The fortunes that many of the employed refugees of Haitian origin keep sending back to Haiti from their new Canadian residence.

    All in all (if we count refugee immigration, social programs & equal rights for refugees (not a world standard, btw), etc.) Canada always gives more than others, yet for others it’s never enough. Yes, Canada can give more. To do so, Canada would AGAIN need to BORROW more. Canada has a debt of about $500 billion – did you notice? How much Avatar screen time would that provide (or take away), $500 billion in debt?

    You’re right, Jer, it is about time you find some PERSPECTIVE.

    1. Hi Laurent,

      Thanks for your considered response. As I've said before, this visualization was put together before the Canadian government had announced additional funding. I suspect the same may be the case for other countries on the list. I imagine the data set that I used will be updated with new figured shortly – when that happens, I'll update my figures.

      I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but the point wasn't really to suggest that some countries weren't 'pulling their own weight'. Instead I wanted to put the numbers into some kind of real framework that I could understand.

      Let's ignore the $5.5 million dollar figure for Canada and choose some hugely larger figure for the sake of discussion. Let's estimate high and say the figure ends up being $140M. I am only going to talk about government aid, not individual donations. What does $140M mean? As you've said – and I'll use your effective capitalization for emphasis – this is a FORTUNE.

      It's several thousand times more than I make in a year.

      It's 16,470,588 tickets to Avatar.

      It's about 4% of Canada's annual foreign aid budget.

      It's 8% of what Vancouver is spending on 2 weeks of Olympic games.

      As you can see, the definition of a FORTUNE can change when we put it into different frameworks.

      You know, while I'm here pissing off rampant Canadian nationalists, let's take a closer look at that foreign aid statistic. 3.45B is about 0.24% of Canada's GDP. Compare that to the Danes, who spend 0.83% of their GDP on aid (up this year from 0.82%, despite a record forecast deficit), or to the Swedes who spend about 0.92%.

      Canadians like to believe that we are a shining example of global citizenry, but largely this is an artifact of the pre-Mulroney governments of the 1970s and 1980s. The Center for Glocal Development ranked Canada 11th in their Commitment to Development Index from 2009, behind countries like Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, and Australia ( Reply

  9. I think that this data visualisation was very beautiful. However, I think that some of the features that made it beautiful, perhaps made it more difficult for a number-crunching data analyst to compare and contrast.
    Stephen Few writes recently about beautiful info vis versus data vis, and I think that the two domains can learn from one another. So here's a link to my blog so you can see what i've been doing. I used one of your pictures and referenced you, so I hope that's ok for you.
    http://jenstirrup.blogspot.com/2010/01/data-visua

  10. I was watching Anderson Cooper 360, he is talking about all the money that never made it to Haiti. The country is still in a state of disrepair. Hospitals are being forced to closed. There is no money to re-build. Where is all the money that was pledged????

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