The world is ever changing. This year, we live on a planet of 7.4 billion people who contribute products and services worth approximately US$80 trillion in nominal terms. However, population and wealth as measured in GDP activity are not distributed equally across the world which remains one of the challenges of our time. The following two cartograms illustrate this by highlighting where people are and where in contrast GDP wealth is made – the unequal distributions in our world today are quite obvious:
Nuclear power contributes only a small share to the global energy production. According to the World Energy Statistics 2015 published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) nuclear power accounts for 4.8% of the total primary energy supply worldwide, far behind oil (31.1%), coal (28.9%), natural gas (21.4%) and even behind biofuels and waste (10.2%).
Of the producers of nuclear power, the United States are by far the largest with 33.2% of the world’s total, followed by France (17.1%) and Russia (7.0%). The United Kingdom’s production accounts for 2.9%. In contrast, France generates the largest share of its domestic electricity generation from nuclear power (74.4%). It is followed by Sweden (43.4%), Ukraine (43.0%) and South Korea (25.8%), while the United Kingdom comes fifth with 19.2%.
April 18th marks the International Day for Monuments and Sites declared by UNESCO in 1983. Most important element in UNESCO’s efforts in preserving the world’s cultural and natural heritage are the currently 1031 World Heritage Sites around the world managed by the World Heritage Centre. The following cartogram shows the global distribution of all sites, as well as splitting these by category in the smaller sized maps below the main map (802 cultural sites, 197 natural sites and 32 described as mixed properties):
Public spending cuts have been an important part of the political debate in Britain in recent years. In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (April 2016, Volume 7, Issue 1) Danny Dorling and I plotted the distribution of funding for the arts and universities in England.
The United Kingdom, and especially England, has become geographically extremely unequal. This inequality is not only seen in growing economic disparities within the population, but also becomes increasing visible across all parts of public life, such as science and education, as well as the arts. A report on arts funding in 2013, highlighted just how concentrated such funding was within London compared to the rest of the country. This represents the continuation of a now long-established trend.
1,321,560 persons have applied for asylum in the European Union in 2015 according to Eurostat. Eurostat defines an asylum applicant as “a person having submitted an application for international protection or having been included in such application as a family member during the reference period”. This is not the number of granted asylum claims, neither does it mean that this is a figure for first-time applicants but includes all claims having been made in that year.
The spatial patterns for these figures are very different than those arriving as refugees on the shores of the Mediterranean (see here for 2015), as are the number of asylum claims in the past year. The following two cartograms put these figures into their spatial context by providing two different ways of interpreting the data. The first map is a cartogram where countries of the European Union are resized according to the total number of asylum applicants in the past year (all countries having more than 50,000 applications are labelled in that map). The second map shows this in relative proportions drawn on a population cartogram. Here the basemap shows the EU countries resized according to their total population, i.e. providing an impression of each country’s population share, and indicates the relative number of asylum seekers measured in asylum applications per 1 million population:
Last November’s theme of the Super Science Saturday at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History was Planet Earth. As part of the activities I contributed a map cube which I created a few years ago.
Cubic globes are not a new idea. They put a nice twist to showing just a simple map, and more importantly, they allow for some activity which get the kids involved just as much as adults. A cube is much less work than creating a spheric version of Earth, and (as said by Carlos Furuti on his online cube globe collection) the cube is an ideal introduction to folding one’s own pseudoglobes.
At last November’s Super Science Saturday I displayed some of my work and offered a ‘Map Cube Activity’ where children (and adults) could cut, fold and glue their own globes. My version of a map cube does not display a normal world map, but a gridded population cartogram (hence the name ‘World Population Cube’). You can create your own cube by using the following template: Continue reading
Poverty and global development are not only on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos. But despite positive trends being observed in the aftermath of the Millennium Development Goals poverty still persists.
As a successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the United Nations announced a set of 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) relating to international development. Still on top of the agenda remains the issue of poverty. Here the new goal is to ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’ by 2030, meaning to ‘eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.90 a day’ and to ‘reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions’.
There are trends in past decades that indicate major improvements in tackling the problem of global poverty. In relative terms, the original MDG goal of halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015 has been met. In developing regions, people in extreme poverty now make up 14 per cent of the population there, while most recent figures and estimates suggest that still over two billion people globally live on less than $2 a day, a measure used to measure ‘moderate’ poverty. This figure is also used as a base for the main cartogram below. The map modifies the size of each country according to the total number of people there who live on up to $2 a day according to the most recent available estimates. In addition, the colour shading uses information from the 2015 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) to highlight the percentage of the population that is multi-dimensionally poor.
The effects of humans on the global environment are perceived to be so significant by some scientists that they argue the onset of industrialisation (in the eighteenth century) has been a major driving force in environmental change on a par with the forces of nature. It is this rapid impact that has led some geologists to unofficially name (but not, as yet, officially recognise) this recent period of the earth’s history (from around 1760-onwards) as the Anthropocene (roughly translating as the era – or epoch – shaped considerably through the actions of humanity).
Gridded population cartogram displaying the topography of the world in relation to the population distribution (click here for larger version)
The British debate about the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union comes at a time in which the economic woes of the continent have not fully overcome yet. In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2015, Volume 6, Issue 3) Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling and I looked at the changing regional economic geography of Europe.
Europe is in an economic crisis – but the crisis is felt in very different ways in different places. Official unemployment rates are high, especially in the south of Europe, but joblessness is very low in places, such as Germany
“There is no planet B”. This slogan has become widely mentioned recently in relation to COP21, the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris. The slogan highlights that the debate about climate change relates to much more than simply a changing climate. The underlying processes have a lot to do with our lifestyles and the related patterns of consumption and waste which cause severe damages to the environment (including the global climate). Carbon emissions are therefore one major trigger of climate change, but are also an effect of our unsustainable ways of life. The ecological footprint shown in the following map is a measure that looks at the impact that humanity has on our planet:
The effects of humans on the global environment are perceived to be so significant by some scientists that they argue humans have become a major driving force in environmental change on a par with the forces of nature. It is this rapid impact that has led some geologists to unofficially name (but not, as yet, officially recognise) this very recent period of the earth’s history as the Anthropocene.
Putting criticism and disputes over the geologic validity of this idea aside, the effects of human population and economic development as part of the processes of globalisation influence the natural environment as much as the natural environment previously determined the existence of human life across the globe. One part of our footprint are the major communication and transport infrastructure links that shape the human planet.
A M7.8 earthquake has occurred in Nepal “as the result of thrust faulting on or near the main frontal thrust between the subducting India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north.” As the USGS summarises, “although a major plate boundary with a history of large-to-great sized earthquakes, large earthquakes on the Himalayan thrust are rare in the documented historical era. Just four events of M6 or larger have occurred within 250 km of the April 25, 2015 earthquake over the past century”.
In a paper for the Journal of Maps published in 2014 I have analysed and visualised data documenting earthquakes that have occurred since 2150 BC. The following map was part of the material supplementing the publication showing the results of the analysis shown on an equal population projection. The gridded cartogram gives every person on the planet an equal amount of space while highlighting the most densely populated spaces in relation to the earthquake risk (calculated via the intensity of earthquakes recorded since 2150 BC). Also shown are the world’s megacities (over 5 million population). The map shows the large populations that make even Nepal (with its almost 28 million people) much more visible than it would be on a conventional map, highlighting why this event turns out to be quite disastrous. The map also shows what the USGS statement above mentions that Nepal is amongst the areas in the region which are far less subject to major earthquakes (as indicated by the yellow to blue shading in the map there – Nepal is the rather large spot squeezed on top between the areas that represent the large populations of India and China):
“Life expectancy equals the average number of years a person born in a given country would live if mortality rates at each age were to remain constant in the future.” (Wikipedia)
Depending on the exact sources, global life expectancy currently lies at approximately 71 years although a global estimate tells very little about the differences between the countries. What applies to every country is the fact that women, on average, live longer than men.
The following map shows the distribution of life expectancies based on national-level data as documented in the 2014 revision of the Human Development Report displayed on a gridded population cartogram in which every human gets an equal amount of space:
The ocean is the last frontier that has not been discovered by cartogram techniques before. As such, it was an inevitable step in my PhD research some years ago to test the creation of a gridded ocean cartogram, a cartogram that is limited to the extent of the world’s oceans (also linking nicely to my past research on coastal ecosystems).
Chlorophyll concentrations in the world’s oceans are important indicators for the presence of algae and other plant-like organisms that carry out photosynthesis. As such, phytoplankton (which contains the chlorophyll) is an essential element of the food chain in the seas as it provides the food for numerous animals. Variations and changes in the chlorophyll levels are also relevant for the study of the ecology of the sea. Changing chlorophyll levels can indicate changing sea temperatures and other conditions in the oceans that cover about 72 percent of the planet’s surface.
Geographic visualization in social sciences – or draw more maps! Continue reading
The debate about the relevance and impact of the super-rich on society has gained greater currency as evidence continues to grow that the widening gap between the poor and the rich has a negative impact on societies as a whole. In otherwise affluent countries where the richest one per cent owns the most, child poverty is common, school attainment is lower and medium household incomes are depressed. Along with reduced average living standards, housing is of poorer quality, and health suffers as anxiety rises.
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2014, Volume 5, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I looked beyond the economic, social, educational and medical implications, focussing on the geographical lessons to learn when wealth concentrates. Where the richest of the rich live, work and where they keep their assets is even more imbalanced than the wider and growing underlying inequalities between rich and poor. In societies where the rich have less they tend to be more spread out across a country, but when the wealth of those at the top rises greatly there is a tendency to congregate – with London a prime example.
This week I joined the Department of Asian Studies at Palacký University Olomouc (Czech Republic) as a visiting lecturer by invitation of the CHINET project. In my lecture about New Geographies of China I built on the work I have presented earlier this year at the Conference on the Socio-Economic Transition of China at the same place, teaching the students not only how China’s position is in the global context of demographic, social and economic change, but also how we can visualise this in novel ways. The following three maps are an extract from my presentation that gave an overview of this lecture.
The maps show the distribution of the different age groups in the country divided into children (age 0 to 14), working age (age 15 to 64) and elderly (above age 64) as they are counted in the official Chinese Census released by the National Bureau of Statistics. As the most recent Census figures have not been released at the same level of detail, the following three maps show the state of 2000. Here is an animated version of the three maps showing all three groups one after another (the individual maps are displayed below):
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2013, Volume 4, Issue 3) Jan Fichtner of the University of Frankfurt a.M. and I analysed the size of the foreign assets in the world’s largest offshore financial centres. All ‘offshore financial centres’ (OFCs) have one characteristic feature in common; they offer very low tax rates and lax regulations to non-residents with the aim to attract foreign financial assets. OFCs essentially undercut ‘onshore’ jurisdictions at their expense. The main beneficiaries are high-net-worth individuals and large multinational corporations that have the capital and expertise required to utilise OFCs. Beyond its geographical connotation the phenomenon of ‘offshore’ represents a withdrawal of public regulation and control, primarily over finance. Some important OFCs are in fact located ‘onshore’, e.g. Delaware in the USA and the City of London in the UK. However, historically many OFCs have literally developed ‘off-shore’, mostly on small islands.
OFCs as defined by Zoromé (2007) are jurisdictions that provide financial services to non-residents on a scale that is excessive compared to the size and the financing of their domestic economies. The graphic shows combined data on securities (Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey by the IMF) and on deposits/loans (Locational Banking Statistics by the BIS) at the end of 2011. Capturing the two by far most important components of financial centres allows a reasonable approximation of the real size of OFCs while avoiding double counting. The larger the size of the circles on the map, the more foreign financial assets have been attracted to the particular jurisdiction. The vast majority of the almost US$70 trillion foreign financial assets are concentrated in North America, Europe and Japan. Areas with assets below $US50bn are not shown for their relative insignificance in the global context.
“A mappa mundi […] is any medieval European map of the world. […] To modern eyes, mappae mundi can look superficially primitive and inaccurate. However, mappae mundi were never meant to be used as navigational charts and they make no pretence of showing the relative areas of land and water. Rather, mappae mundi were schematic and were meant to illustrate different principles. The simplest mappae mundi were diagrams meant to preserve and illustrate classical learning easily. The zonal maps should be viewed as a kind of teaching aid—easily reproduced and designed to reinforce the idea of the Earth’s sphericity and climate zones” (cited from Wikipedia).
What would a mappa mundi of our times look like? A modern equivalent of such a map would have to focus on those spaces of our planet that we have a less vivid imagination of than the physical shape of the world that in medieval times was a much less familiar view than it is today. The following gridded population cartogram generated over the whole surface of Earth could be such a contemporary depiction of the world. It divides the world into equal spaces of population realigning the map view to show the human planet in a similar way as mappae mundi showed the world centuries ago:
In the year 2000 there were approximately 15 million square km of cropland and 28 million square km of pasture which are represented in the two main maps. These are equal to 12% respectively 22% of the ice-free land surface. This is according to estimates of a study on the geographic distribution of global agricultural lands by Ramankutty et al (published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 2008) who used a methodology of combining agricultural inventory data and satellite-derived land cover data to come to these figures (data can be accessed via Columbia University’s SEDAC). Continue reading
Map projections are a crucial issue for the worldmapper project because the maps (respectively cartograms) are basically some sort of reprojection of the world, although in a different way than the usual projections used in cartography. Rather than trying to solve the conflicts of distortion when drawing a three dimensional surface on to a two dimensional area (be it a screen or a paper map), the worldmapper cartograms distort our image of the world on purpose and show each country in proportion to a specific topic.
Data Skills in Geography is a two year programme at the Royal Geographical Society, supported by funding from the Nuffield Foundation. Continue reading