This chapter provides the monetary and institutional background against which the subsequent chapters will be projected. A background is needed because the world to be unfolded is unfamiliar to most geographers. It is unfamiliar in concept and perhaps logic. It is certainly unfamiliar in size. A student surviving on an annual budget of $8,000 or a run-of-the-mill academic making $80,000 a year may have some difﬁculty in grasping the difference between $1bn and $2bn, or still worse, between $1bn and $1tr (bn109; tr1012). To sense the difference it is useful to have a mental picture about the relations between million, billion and trillion. And to be able to be precise, expressions like ‘sand grains on the beach’ are not acceptable.