Back after our summer break, Metric Views is happy to publicize a periodical that might have escaped our readers’ attention in recent years. Ronnie Cohen explains.
The New Internationalist is an independent, non-profit British magazine that certainly lives up to its name. In the edition that I read some time ago, it used metric units exclusively in all its articles. Yes, that’s right. With no imperial conversions.
The articles that appeared in the April 2016 edition of New Internationalist use kilometres for races and distances between places, metric tons (yes, they wrote “metric tons” rather than “tonnes” though they write “tonnes” elsewhere in the magazine) for greenhouse gas emissions, square kilometres and hectares for forests and other land areas, square kilometres for population density, hectares for tree cover and commercial agriculture, cubic metres for timber and litres for water vapour. The only place where an imperial unit appeared was in the Country Profile section. The map in this section had a scale with both miles and kilometres. Apart from that, the magazine is entirely metric.
I presume that this magazine uses metric exclusively because it is aimed at an international audience. Compare the metric usage in this British magazine with most of the non-specialist media, especially the national newspapers. When other British publications use metric units, these units are often given with an imperial conversion in the misplaced belief that their readers do not understand metric units.
The use of common measurement units that readers all over the world can understand (i.e. metric units) is essential to comprehending the statistics used in this edition. The use of unfamiliar alien measurement units would impede readers’ understanding of the serious issues raised in the articles. The April 2016 edition of New Internationalist featured major articles about deforestation (their cover story), land degradation, links between nature and spirituality in Japan, two pages of forest facts, a country profile of Brazil, consumer culture, the right-wing political victory in Poland, a profile of Hillary Rodham Clinton and PISA educational tests. There were many more articles, including some small articles.
It is not my intention to provide an exhaustive list of all the articles that have appeared in a single edition of a magazine but to highlight how much poorer our comprehension would be if the measurement units used in the magazine were unfamiliar and alien. Thanks to the global use of the metric system, now used in every single country in the world, the publishers of this magazine do not need to worry about this possibility, something now taken for granted by us all. How different this situation was before the universal adoption of a single, simple and logical measurement system.