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What's Bigger: Yemen Or Virginia? There's An App For That

From left: How the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen stack up against the United States.
From left: How the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen stack up against the United States.

The headlines tell a lot about the crisis in Yemen: internal strife, evacuations of international aid workers, Saudi Arabian airstrikes.

But you may have one very basic question that you can't easily find an answer for: How big is Yemen, anyway?

You can look at maps and check out Wikipedia but wouldn't it be great to just to slap an outline of Yemen on top of a map of the United States to get a sense of its size?

IfItWereMyHome.com lets you do just that.

Andy Lintner, who created the site, says his goal is to help give people a better sense of perspective on global issues.

"We keep hearing about how the world is shrinking, borders are disappearing, and culture is becoming globalized. Despite all that, this is still a huge planet, and someone living on one side of it is going to have a very different life than someone on the other side," the 33-year-old Lintner, a software engineer, writes in an email exchange with Goats and Soda. "How do we make sense of those differences, and use them to help understand the world a little bit better? More importantly, how do we use that understanding as a force for positive change?"

In addition to a visual comparison between Yemen and, say, Virginia (you can easily change the parameters to compare any two places to each other), the site also gives you a quick socioeconomic comparison. (By the way, Yemen is a lot bigger than Virginia, stretching from West Virginia all the way to Massachusetts.)

On average, you'd die 14.73 years earlier if you lived in Yemen instead of the United States. You'd have 2.3 times more babies. You'd earn 95.27 percent less money and be 8.2 times more likely to die before your first birthday. All these stats pop up on the same page as the visual comparison between Yemen and Virginia.

Vintner says the idea for the tool came during the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"My wife had shown me an article in the newspaper that overlaid the spill on top of Manhattan,"he says. "I quickly sat down at my computer to try to overlay the spill on a map centered around our home near Detroit. We were both shocked at the result. I spent the rest of the night building a small web app to allow anyone to perform the same comparison with any given location. It quickly went viral and I heard from hundreds of people that they finally understood the impact the spill was having."

Later that year he did the same thing to show the extent of flooding in Pakistan. He showed that if the floods had happened along the Eastern seaboard of the United States, areas from Vermont all the way to Florida would have been under water. That definitely adds perspective.

And who knew that Norway's west coast is actually longer than the U.S. west coast. And if Norway were my home, Lintner's site points out, I'd have 26.99 percent more free time than the average American!

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.