When I was first exposed to statistics regarding the effects we human beings are having on the Earth and its inhabitants, I was flabbergasted. Are 99% of the commercially important fish in the oceans really gone? Is one-third of the 6–12 billion tons of CO2 going into the atmosphere every year actually being produced by U.S. citizens? Are about 30% of the world’s natural resources being used solely by Americans, who make up only 5% of the world population? Are nearly 50,000 species really going extinct every year due almost exclusively to human activities? These statistics are most distressing, but they come from what seem to be reliable sources.
At a tender age, I learned to be suspicious of statistics.There are a variety of procedures that can be and have been used to intentionally lead an unwary reader to a conclusion other than the one actually supported by the data. Statistics can be skewed to support information, which may be aimed at convincing its audience to buy a product, vote for a candidate, or enter into a war with a foreign country.