In the final year of his presidency Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world proposed in 2009 seems far from becoming a reality. Although the countries with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons (Russia and the USA) reducing their inventory, a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) states that China, France, Russia, and the UK “are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so.” The state of the nuclear world therefore has changed very little in recent years, as SIPRI shows: “At the start of 2015, nine states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) — possessed approximately 15 850 nuclear weapons, of which 4300 were deployed with operational forces. Roughly 1800 of these weapons are kept in a state of high operational alert.” The following cartogram shows who the nuclear powers are in the world:
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)
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” has become a popular notion of Christmas ever since Tormé and Wells wrote their Christmas Song, made famous by Nat King Cole‘s recording in 1946. The chestnut has seen a decline in use over the centuries in Europe, having been brand-marked as ‘food for poor people’. But almost all across the continent (likewise in North America) it now also sees a revival in popularity in Winter time, especially around Christmas. Global chestnut production has constantly been rising, growing from almost 650,000 tons in 1993 to over 2 million tons in 2013 according to FAOSTAT figures. And while the chestnuts roasting on an open fire have their origin in the United States, chestnuts consumed there have often traveled a long way. Although growing conditions are ideal, the USA have no significant chestnut industry and account for less than 1% of the global chestnut production. This is different in Europe where commercial chestnut farming takes place in the Mediterranean, which, however, is challenged by the now top chestnut producer China. China now produced almost 85% of the world’s chestnuts.
The following gridded cartogram is a visualisation of the areas in the world where chestnuts are grown. Using data produced by EarthStat the map shows each grid cell resized according to the total amount of chestnuts produced in that area:
Religion as something “eminently social” as described by Durkheim finds its expression in the distribution of the major religious groups in the world. These have distinct geographical patterns to them, showing the regional influences that each of the groups define, as well as the spread of these influences in the course of history which have significantly changed over the past centuries.
Today, the three largest religions as well as the group of the non-religious put together make up 5.8 billion people, accounting for almost 80% of the world’s population. This highlights their importance in understanding some of the world’s social, cultural as well as political realities that define how people live together within countries but also between borders. As much as religion can unite and reconcile, it can equally be the cause of conflict and violence.
Conflict and peace are both elements that are replicated in the diverse religious shapes that emerge in the cartogram series of these four largest religious groups as assembled in the World Religion Database (adjusted to today’s populations).
While preparing a guest lecture at the University of the Aegean on the Greek island of Lesbos I looked for the most recent data about arrivals of refugees via the Mediterranean Sea. UNHCR states that in 2015 almost 900,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea which is higher than the total arrivals counted between 2006 and 2014. 3,500 people are reported dead or missing, which only shows the mere numbers behind the many personal tragedies happening in the Mediterranean. Not only the numbers went up considerably, but also the geographic patterns changed. While Italy used to be the hot spot of arrivals, this has now shifted to Greece where over 750,000 people arrived. Most of these arrivals come from Turkey, making the island of Lebos near the Turkish coast the first destination for the majority of people seeking refuge in the European Union. The following map shows the European countries resized according to the total number of Mediterranean sea arrivals in 2015:
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