In this age of growing concern over climate change, population growth, and limited fundamental resources, one obvious solution to the strains on our environment is to recognize the efficiency of short people. Those who are short of stature (defined, for the purposes of the arguments forthwith, as 5’3” or smaller) require less food, emit less pollutants, have a smaller footprint (both literally and figuratively), and in a myriad of ways impart a more manageable impact on the earth than those of taller stature. At the same time, short people contribute to the benefits of society in equal measure as their taller brethren. Short people conduct research, develop scientific and technological breakthroughs, produce creative works, support families, and develop community ties in equal measure to their taller brethren. When these benefits are compared to the lower planetary costs of short people, pound for pound, short people are unequivocally better for the planet.


To get a feel for the truly significant size of this argument, it might be worthwhile to run through some rough numbers. A 5’8” tall human requires on average 2,500 calories a day to stay fit and perform basic functions.[1] A 5’3” tall person requires 20% less, or approximately 2,000 calories/day for the same basic functionality and health. That difference of 500 calories is the equivalent of half a roast chicken, or one Big Mac sandwich. Per day. Per person.


Currently, about 15% of the U.S. adult population is 5’3” or smaller.[2] Assuming the rest of the population is evenly distributed around the average 5’8” threshold, this implies that approximately 269 million people require an extra 500 calories a day above their shorter bretheren (and this is just in the U.S.).[3] The extra demand on caloric consumption alone equates to 134.5 trillion extra calories, per day, to maintain tall people over otherwise productively equivalent short people. In other words, if the entire U.S. population were short instead of tall, we could save the equivalent of 49 trillion chickens from slaughter every year, or such a caloric equivalent in cows, turkeys, or fresh produce. The reduced demands on agricultural output and land use would be substantial. Such a smaller agricultural footprint would also have ecological ripple effects, including reduced water use, reduced usage of pesticides and pollutants, reduced waste and landfill demands, and a myriad of other minimized strains on the planet.


Think how much smaller cars could be made, and still fit short people comfortably (Google? Apple? Have you thought of this when designing your new smart cars?). Impossibly imaginable to a tall person, but airplane seats could actually be made even more compact. King size beds would be a thing of the past. Think of all the steel, wood, cable, copper, and other scarce resources that would no longer have to be used in manufacturing.


Currently our culture idolizes the tall out of a misguided appreciation for what was worthwhile in our distant hunter/gatherer past. Tall people are, by definition, bigger, larger, often stronger, and certainly more imposing. Such traits were important in a bygone era when brawn and strength were required to survive an often harsh, physically violent world. Today, however, such traits are much less valuable. We have machines that can (and do) do most of our grunt work for us. The natural evolution of society leads to the inevitable conclusion that, increasingly, brains are more important than brawn and intellectual strength brings far greater rewards than physical muscle. To be short is, frankly, optimal.


On this first day of April, why don’t we all take a moment and fully recognize the basic net benefit of short people. Do you happen to have a short family member or friend? Perhaps a neighbor down the street? High five them today, and thank them for all they do, every day – the equivalent of a Big Mac a day – for the benefit of the planet and the world we live in.


[1] Estimates based on Calorie Requirements as reported in WebMD.

[2] Data based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

[3] U.S. population estimated at 316.2 million; 85% of that is approximately 269 million people.