This is the way to understand a trillion. Begin by counting 1,2,3…one number each second, and count each second around the clock. In 12 days, you will reach one million. Keep counting. In 32 years, you will reach one billion. Admittedly, this is an impossible task, far beyond our capacities for concentration and focus, not to mention sleep deprivation.
The really hard part, though, is that to reach one trillion would require counting for 32,000 years. It would require organizing the next 1,280 generations to continue the 24 hour counting in 32 year shifts. This would require passing the baton to future generations for more than three times the span of civilization from its roots in Mesopotamia to the present.
Now consider that the world is spending over $1.2 trillion annually on military expenditures, and the United States is spending more than half of this amount on its military and its wars. Or consider this: the United States alone has spent some $7.5 trillion on nuclear weapons and their delivery systems since 1942. To count to $7.5 trillion would require counting for the next 240,000 years, through 9,600 generations. And our militarism has created in the US alone $9 trillion in debt which, along with our militarism and nuclearism, is our legacy to future generations.
David Krieger is the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org).