Air Spaces: Where the Planes Fly

Cartographic Summit 2016The Future of Mapping was the theme of a Cartographic Summit jointly held by the International Cartographic Association (ICA) and Esri at Esri’s headquarters in Redlands (California). The aim of the event was to examine new directions in mapping in a time at which mapping is evolving at a rapid pace, enabling us to communicate in new ways, analyze important issues, and understand our world. Among the keynote speakers was graphics designer Nigel Holmes whom I had a chance to work with several years ago while making some contributions for Lonely Planet’s travel-infographics book How to land a jumbo jet. Meeting him in person at last reminded me to put online the last of the four cartograms that I made for the book.
The following map is a gridded cartogram visualisation of global flight tracks taken from the OpenFlights database. The map distorts the land area by the number of flights that pass a certain space which leads to these ‘ploughing patterns’ over some areas where are airplanes basically just passing by, such as in the western part of Australia where planes simply fly over on their way to the most populated southeast of the country. The colours in the map relate to the Worldmapper colour scheme (explained here).

Gridded Cartogram Map of Global Flight Paths
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Multiple Dimensions of Poverty

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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.

Mapping World Religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism
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Nuclear Powers

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:

Cartogram of the World's Nuclear Weapons
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Mapping the Anthropocene

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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).

The Human Planet: Gridded Population Cartogram
Gridded population cartogram displaying the topography of the world in relation to the population distribution (click here for larger version)

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Under the spreading chestnut trees

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:

Map of World Chestnut Production
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World Religions

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).

Mapping World Religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism
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