In Focus: Brexit and the UK General Election

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Political InsightThe introductory words by Prime Minister Theresa May in the Conservative manifesto 2017 outlined the main focus for the government’s General Election campaign: ‘Brexit will define us: our place in the world, our economic security and our future prosperity’. But when it came to Brexit, the campaign itself featured little of political substance from either of the two main parties. The impact of the EU-debate on the (quite unexpected) election outcome is very complex, with the anticipated Conservative gains in Leave-voting Labour seats failing to materialise.
In a contribution for the “In Focus” feature of Political Insight (September 2017, Volume 8, Issue 2) I looked at the outcome of the general election from the perspective of Brexit:

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Species at Risk

Trying to get a picture of where and how many species globally are endangered or even at risk of extinction is a difficult undertaking. For 50 years the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publishes the red list of threatened species. The list is a “comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species and their links to livelihoods”. It contains over 77,000 species of which according to the most recent report more than 22,000 are at risk of extinction. IUCN considers species at risk when they are “critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.
Mapped here is data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species including endangered and vulnerable species. The main cartogram shows countries resized according to all animal and plant species assessed as being at risk of local extinction. The two smaller cartograms highlight that conservation efforts have very different spatial degrees of severity, which also partly reflects the different geographical distribution of species.

Cartogram of Species at Risk
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Trainspotting: Europe’s railway lines

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Passenger transport in Europe is largely dominated by cars. In the past decade, cars kept a consistent share of around 83 per cent of the modal split within the European Union, followed by buses and coaches (around nine per cent in most recent statistics) and trains (between seven and eight per cent). The modal split describes these modes of transport as ‘transport kilometres travelled by all inland passengers’. In the debate about sustainable development, this is an important measure to monitor the environmental and social impacts of the specific modes of transport.
Cars are generating the most emissions and pollution per passenger kilometre and also have significantly higher accident rates. Mass transit and public transport, including buses and coaches as well as trains, are therefore regarded as the more sustainable alternatives and have regained importance in urban and regional planning.
Buses rely on the same transport infrastructure as cars, while trains require railway tracks in order to maintain or improve the existing transport capabilities. Recent trends showing a slow but steady revival of passenger transport by train in Europe therefore have to be seen in the context of its existing transport infrastructure. New railway infrastructure is costly and requires time-consuming planning procedures.
A look at the railway infrastructure in Europe (beyond the EU) shows that across the continent there are approximately 250,000 km of tracks, just slightly lower than the length of tracks in the USA, where train travel plays a subordinate role in passenger transport but serves mostly freight transport.

Cartogram: Statistical map of European Railway Lines
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Unequal Elite: World University Rankings 2016/17

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Education and money undoubtedly go hand in hand. A closer look at the metrics that go into the creation of higher education rankings such as the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings (THE WUR) proofs just the point that without adequate resources and funding global success can hardly be achieved. The following map which was created by analysing data of the 2016/17 World University Ranking data with regards to its spatial distribution of the most successful universities in this ranking. The map is a gridded cartogram which is reshaped to show national wealth, measured by gross domestic product. The land area in each country has been resized to reflect economic output. North America and Western Europe bugle to dominate this world map, while the entire continent of Africa virtually disappears. On this new world map, all the universities in the THE World University Rankings are plotted, with the larger, red dots representing world’s top 50 universities and the smaller circles representing the lower ranks:

Gridded cartogram projection of the THE World University Rankings 2016/17 showing GDP
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The regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe

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Europe is currently suffering a deep political and economic crisis following years of turmoil and austerity measures that have disproportionately and brutally hit the most disadvantaged regions and citizens across most of the continent. At the same time, there has been a revival of nationalisms and divisions in this part of the world that, a decade ago, seemed to be united in diversity and moving towards ever-closer union. Concentrated poverty near to riches and profound spatial inequality have long been persistent features of all European countries, with disparities often being most stark within the most affluent cities and regions, such as London. In other parts of Europe levels of inequality and poverty have been reducing and are often much lower. However, the severe economic crisis and austerity measures have led, in many cases, to an enhancement of existing disparities. The following eight maps show how the regional geography has changed in the light of these developments:

GDP
Analysing the regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe: Mapping GDP
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Country File: Mapping rural-to-urban migration

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Within the next five years rural living will have reached its climax. According to the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects (a biennial publication from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs), rural populations will have reached their absolute high in 2022 with approximately 3.38 billion people. This is only slightly up from the current 3.37 billion people, showing how the number of people not living in cities has flatlined since the turn of the century and comes after a period of continuous growth since the 1950s when only 1.78 billion people lived in the countryside. The current long-term projections see this number going slightly down to 3.2 billion people by 2050.
While the rural population has become a minority globally (at approximately 46 per cent), the majority of those are increasingly concentrated in the poorer parts of the world. Sixty-nine per cent of people in the least developed countries live in rural areas, while this number is at only 20 per cent in higher-income countries.

Cartogram: Map of Global Rural Populations and Rural Population Changes
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